Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding - An Event to Remember

I distinctly remember watching the royal wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles on "The Today Show" with my mother and sister one morning before school. I knew it was a grand event recognized by the whole world, but it had no particular meaning for me personally. Years later, as I viewed the royal wedding between Prince William and Katherine Middleton in the wee hours of the morning, I was struck by the amazing camaraderie and the incredible union that these two young people shared.

Having just celebrated 13 years of marriage to my husband, I hung on to each and every word uttered by the remarkable Bishop of London's Sermon. I felt the warmth and friendship that they exuded towards one another. And, despite the very public viewing from the estimated 2 billion people who were watching, it seemed as if I was participating in a very private event that would forever shape the future of the monarchy.

The overall tone of the event was nothing short of spectacular. Of course, there was the expected pomp and circumstance of ceremony and tradition, but there was also a great deal of ease and accessibility that completely endeared us to Kate and William that we have not witnessed prior to this modern royal couple. In fact, it is these very attributes that directly relate to the essence of manners and etiquette in today's world. Rather than viewing two individuals who appeared stiff, unapproachable and out-of-place, the frequent words used to describe the royal couple today were overwhelmingly natural, relaxed, smiling and confident.

Glitz and glamour were put aside to usher in simplicity and impeccable taste. From the gorgeous English field maple trees which lined the aisle of the Abbey leading to the alter to the symbolic significance of the floral bouquet which contained a mixture of flowers including Lily of the Valley, Sweet William, Hyacinth, Ivy and Myrtle, every detail was carefully and meaningfully applied.

The light shone brightest on Kate Middleton who, dressed in a breathtaking Sarah Burton gown adorned with a gorgeous jeweled crown loaned by the Queen, was a walking embodiment of grace and calm. She had a natural poise and elegance that emanated as she walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey. The happiest man on earth must've been Prince William who was strappingly dashing in his own right and who would have made his mother, the late Princess Diana, extremely proud.

I raise my glass to William and Kate, the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Here, here!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"The Cordial Bride"

When planning a wedding most consult a wide range of experts on everything from the wedding invitations to the bridal gown and floral designs, all of which focus on the spectacular event that is the wedding day. But after the careful planning and preparation that goes into each and every detail of a wedding has been reviewed with precision there is still something of utmost importance that must be paid attention to and that is of being the cordial bride.

Have you ever witnessed a bride behaving in a way that was less than cordial? Maybe she was bossy and controlling or completely stressed out and worried, or what about bride at war with her family or in-laws where you could feel the tension so thick you could cut it with a knife? For most, witnessing one of these bridezillas, makes us pretty uncomfortable.

So let’s define for a moment what the cordial bride is not. Contrary to popular thought, although this is her big day, she is not self-centered, antagonistic, discourteous, brazen or brash. She is not exclusive, private or restricted. She is not cold, withholding or selfish. She is not flashy or boastful.

Now on the other end of the spectrum, let’s explore how the cordial bride should be. She should be friendly, sociable, warm, generous and inclusive. She is inviting, charming, gracious, & poised. She is well-mannered, kind, courteous, genuine and happy. She is classy, elegant and tasteful.

From the moment two people become engaged they embark on a road of endless meetings and exchanges. How the bride-to-be handles herself from that first meeting with her prospective in-laws, through the countless hours and months of wedding planning, and the multitude of parties and showers thrown in her honor, will determine the future and success of her marriage and partnership with her mate as well as her newly expanded family.

The cordial bride thinks of this occasion, not only as a fantastic celebration of the love between she and her significant other, but also the responsibility she has to herself and to the family and friends around her who have helped prepare her for this special day. She does not regard herself as the center of attention on her big day, but seizes the opportunity to replace self-centeredness with graciousness, sincerity and charm. These core values will only enhance the beautiful makeup, hair and style the bride has chosen and will determine her ability to truly shine. Her attitude, her interactions and her behavior are what will always be remembered and reflected upon.

Here are 5 ways to embody the cordial bride and shine on your wedding day.

1. Pay attention to attitude and bridal glow. To truly be beautiful a bride must be poised and relaxed and most of all be happy and look forward to the special day, this shows through by means of the so called bridal glow which comes from within. Allow the day to flow as you had planned & anticipate the unexpected for things will happen, how you react is what will make the difference.

2. Make a grand entrance. Poise and posture. Stand tall, and stop. Think of projecting a radiant laser beam of light to all corners of the room. Smile and soak up the warmth in the room, watch how people stop speaking and take notice. Then you walk gracefully into the room to greet your friends and invited guests. When you walk - do so with proper posture and elegance and take more time with your walk – on this day you need not rush.

3. Meet and greet your guests. Review smile, demonstrate hand shake, eye contact and name repetition. (A) Receiving your guests in the receiving line. When greeting your guests be sincere with everyone that means, you need to think less about yourself and be more attentive to that person you are shaking hands with at that moment! Direct eye contact with a smile, be gracious and kind. They will remember you for this! (B) Take the time to visit each table and thank your guests for coming. Oftentimes, the bride (and groom) are thinking only of themselves and do not take the time to greet each of those who have attended. At the wedding, the guests will always feel that the bride is truly gracious in her actions of warmth and kindness to all if she greets them personally.

4. Obey customs and traditions.

a. Displays of Affection - Overt displays of affection during the ceremony and reception are not necessary. Nothing more uncomfortable than seeing two people standing at the Alter w/ their tongues down each other’s throats. When love is strong and sound, such displays are unnecessary and kept for private moments.
b. Toasting - When being toasted, Bride does not rise or lift her glass, simply stays seated and smiles and graciously says thank you. The recipient of a toast never drinks to themselves.
c. Dancing - The reception often includes dancing. First dance always belongs to the bride and groom alone. The bride customarily is claimed next by her father. Again, here no dirty dancing, reserve this for the bridal suite after the wedding is completed. Keep it tasteful and fun.
d. Cutting the Cake - Be gentle and sweet. No shoving of cake in your spouse’s face. We don’t want to turn your wedding into a scene from Animal House.

5. Show appreciation and give thanks!

(A) Thank you gifts to bridesmaids and others who helped her such as wedding coordinator, dressmaker, photographer, etc. even to spouse. (B) Thank you notes. Though technically the bride has a year in which to send thank you for gifts, it is best to get those notes off within a month of your wedding, if not before. Be sure to mention the gift itself in your thank you note. Whatever the event, the bride should express her appreciation with a thank you note.

Final thoughts. Remember the golden rule and keep the meaning of the occasion firmly in mind: (1) Always say thank you for favors large and small, (2) Genuinely appreciate the efforts others make on your behalf, (3) Keep requests reasonable, (4) Treat suppliers, vendors and their employees with respect.

Bottom line is to be kind to others and be respectful to everyone for your wedding is a celebration of one thing - and that the love shared between two people and in today’s day in age that is an event.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Manners Monday" - Wedding Gift Protocols

This week's "Manners Monday" has gone royal. With the big event just around the corner, we have been asked by the Los Angeles Times Ministry of Gossip to weigh in on a couple of subjects related to the etiquette's and protocols associated with attending a royal wedding. Most recently, we contributed our two cents on the appropriate amount to gift a royal couple, especially when extensive travel is involved. This got us thinking about wedding gifts in general and all of the little rules one must consider when purchasing and presenting the gift.

The above hilarious clip from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is a prime example of a wedding faux pas. Technically, Larry David was actually correct and the married couple was in the wrong. Read below to find out why and enjoy a few other helpful pointers for wedding gift purchasing that will hold you in the best light.

1. If you receive a wedding invitation, you send a gift. Everyone who receives a wedding invitation should send a gift regardless of whether they will be attending the wedding or not. Gifts are usually sent by mail or delivery service. Do some research to find out where the happy couple will be receiving gifts (e.g., the bride's home, her parent's home, the couple's home or the groom's parents home).

2. Try to keep the time frame close to the wedding date. The best time to send a gift is when the wedding invitation arrives. Most gifts are sent prior to the wedding, however, gifts may arrive afterward as well. Typically, guests send them within three months of the wedding. There is a myth that you only have up to one year to send a wedding gift and this is simply not true. Couples should graciously accept all gifts that are sent after the wedding has occurred with no time limit attached.

3. What is the suggested amount to spend? Unfortunately, there is no exact formula to use to calculate the appropriate amount to spend on a gift. There has been discussion that it should equal the price per person at the reception and, again this is a fabrication. The suggested amount is completely up to the gift-giver's discretion and should reflect the affection that they have for the couple or the relationship that is connecting them to the couple. Once these factors are taken into consideration, then the gift giver's individual financial capabilities become the marker.

4. Should you buy off the registry? Yes, it is always most appreciated! Most couples will register for gifts, especially if it is their first marriage. The point of registering is to help provide the happy couple with items that they truly love and will use. Typically they will register at 3 or 4 stores providing plenty of options for their guests at a variety of price ranges. If the wedding couple has taken the time to register, then guests should show their respect by purchasing gifts at these outlets.

5. What are good gift choices? The answer is whatever the wedding couple's heart desires. The first thing to keep in mind is that the gift should reflect the couple's sentiments and values. Some newlyweds request Eco-friendly items only, others may prefer a donation made to their favorite charity in lieu of gifts and a few discourage gifts altogether in favor of funds towards a fabulous honeymoon (although we are not fond of this choice as it seems a bit self-serving.) The bottom line is that as guests, it is up to us to honor the wedding couple's wishes without question or judgment.

Have any crazy stories to share regarding wedding gift purchasing or gift-giving? Has a wedding couple ever snubbed your gift? Have you ever received a wedding gift re-gift? We'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Manners Monday" - Fear of Missing Out a/k/a FOMO

Worried that your friends are having the time of their life without you?
Jennifer Brandt and I wanted to explore this new syndrome identified as FOMO or the fear of missing out and how technology has upped the ante in the game.

Back in the day, you had to hear it through the grapevine. All those fantastic tidbits of information about friends and family had basically one source, word of mouth. Now there's a whole host of tools to make us feel inferior and simultaneously rub it in our faces! It's like we have to walk around with blinders on to avoid every awe inspiring detail.

So how does one get through each day without wanting to hide under a rock? Here are some helpful etiquette tips to keep everyone in check and spare the hurt feelings.

1. Don’t rub it in.
If something wonderful happens that you want to share, at least have the decency and sensitivity to announce it in a slightly self-deprecating manner. This might help to make the bitter and jealousy pill (another person might be feeling) easier to swallow.

2. Keep it short and sweet.
Do not write a dissertation. A few simple brief sentences about what is going on will suffice. No one needs to hear every last piece of minutia. Save your most intimate details for those face-to-face conversations with your nearest and dearest.

3. Word to the wise.
On the flipside, if you are constantly consumed with what everyone else is doing, you can’t possibly enjoy your life. Do yourself a favor. Shut off your phones, computers and any other technological devices that connect you to the world and reconnect with the most important person there is, YOU!

4. Create a new destiny.
Rather than letting FOMO control you, your time would be much better spent creating a new and exciting future that makes you happy and that you can control. Make a conscious choice to become interesting, find a passion, start a new hobby, travel, get cultured, the list is limitless.

5. Give someone a fighting chance.
The incessant checking of email, texts, Facebook updates and tweets is enough to drive anyone crazy. These tools only serve to validate the FOMO hysteria. Don’t be a slave to them. Instead be present to your relationships and give those you interact with in person your undivided attention. Trust me, they will thank you for it.

Do you suffer from FOMO? Do you think technology has made matters worse? Share with us your thoughts. We'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Manners Monday" - Standing in Line

While Jennifer Brandt and I prepare to shoot our next "Manners Monday" installment, this week I thought I'd post a fun clip from one of my favorite shows that consistently deals with life's every day annoyances. If you've taken any of my manners classes, you'd know that I am constantly citing "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" for the relentless inappropriate behavior that is magnified in each episode. This segment entitled, "Sample Abuser" is one of my favorites because it deals with one of the top 5 everyday annoyances which is the act of standing in line. Larry David is beside himself because he is forced to stand in line while a woman in front of him samples more than her fair share of yogurt flavors before placing her order.

Being the New Yorker that I am, I could totally relate. I must admit that standing in line like cattle is not one of my favorite things and I usually do everything in my power to avoid it. I think the thing that drives me the most crazy is the fact that the attendant behind the counter, whether it be at a pharmacy, the post office or the yogurt shop, is usually oblivious to the number of people waiting in line. They always seem to be moving in slow motion as if they are stuck in some alternate universe. I personally think that so much anxiety could be eliminated if the attendant would just acknowledge the people in line and make mention of how quickly they intend to help everyone, but this rarely, if ever, happens.

In an effort to keep calm in these situations, here are a few manners tips I find helpful, as well as several etiquette rules for standing in line and not offending others.

1. Bring reading materials. I do not go anywhere without something to read. I keep magazines, newspapers and books in my car in the event I am forced to wait around for any reason. I use it as a good excuse to catch up news and current events.

2. Assume the worst. Give yourself plenty of time and be prepared to stand patiently in line for 20 to 30 minutes. You never know? If you are prepared to stand in line for a while, the universe may reward you by presenting you with no line at all.

3. Take a breath and count to ten. No one enjoys it, but complaining, pushing and crowding in line does not make waiting any easier. It only makes everyone else in line feel uncomfortable too!

4. Get to the point. When you finally get to the front of the line, do not engage in a lengthy discussion as this is often burdensome to the attendant and inconsiderate of those waiting behind you. Get what you came for and get out.

5. Standing in Line 101. (A) It is never okay to cut the line. A person who tries to work their way ahead of the others is particularly offensive. (B) If you are holding a place for someone else, explain this to the people behind you, but never hold places for a group as it is unfair to others who are waiting. (C) If someone is holding a place for you, it is courteous to thank the people behind when you arrive. (D) It is a simple courtesy to let a stranger go ahead of you, such as in line at the grocery store, if a person has only a few items to purchase.

Have other great tips for survival while standing in lines? Know any crazy standing in line stories? Please share with us. We'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Manners Monday" - Life's Embarrassing Moments

This week's "Manners Monday" recalls the old Saturday Night Live sketches with Gilda Radner playing the character, Roseanne Roseannadanna. Each week, while discussing a current social issue she would inevitably digress and launch into a lengthy antecdote featuring a celebrity who suffered from some really embarrassing moment. Now Jennifer Brandt and I aren't featuring celebrities, but we are taking a light-hearted look at what you can do if you witness someone at the mercy of a truly embarrassing moment or if you yourself are caught in an unfortunate incident. Here are a few helpful tips to employ in these types of situations.

1.Tell them about it. Whether it’s a piece of spinach in the teeth or a toilet seat cover hanging from their pants, people deserve to know. The last thing anyone wants is to discover a shortcoming when they thought they were being fabulous.

2. It’s all in the delivery. Expressing yourself in the right way is the key. The point is to be discreet and employ the utmost sensitivity when telling the other person about their embarrassing moment.

3. Laughter is the best medicine. If you are the one experiencing an embarrassing moment, rather than be defensive, find the humor in the situation and move on.

4. Be secure with yourself. Refrain from constantly checking in with others to receive validation. It can become bothersome to repeatedly ask if you have food in your teeth or bad breath or other similar offenses.

5. It happens to everyone. The most important thing to remember is that embarrassing moments happen to everyone so always be kind and think about what you would do if the shoe were on the other foot.

Finally, here's one of my favorite classic Roseanne Roseannadanna stories.

She was talking about eating a hamburger in a restaurant and how she felt something hard in it. And she spit it out and it was white and looked like a toenail. She said, "I thought I was gonna die. I mean, what was a toenail doing in my hamburger?" Then she went to the restroom and on the way to the restroom she saw Princess Lee Radziwill who she described as the "classy lady that no one knows where she's the princess of." But what the Princess didn't know was she had a tiny piece of toilet paper hanging off her shoe, and she was walking around and the toilet paper wouldn't fall off. "I thought I was gonna be sick. So I says to her, 'Hey Princess Lee—what are ya tryin' to do, make me sick?' " So Jane Curtin asked her what this had to do with anything. Roseanne said, "Well it just goes to show you, it's always something, you either got a toenail in your hamburger or toilet paper clinging to your shoe." 

Got any off the charts embarrassing moments to share? Let us know what happened and how you recovered. We'd love to hear from you!!