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Modern Manners + Etiquette: Valentine’s Day Etiquette

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


Valentine's Day can challenge the hearts and minds of beloveds of every stripe. What's your Valentine's Day etiquette IQ? Didi Lorillard is here to help.

What is Valentine Etiquette when you're dating? Do I have to tell my girlfriend my credit score? What does the Valentine's Party dress code 'Jeans & Bow Ties' mean? Whose wedding is this anyway when the MOB hijacks the guest list? All hot and curious questions at Didi Lorillard's Modern Manners this week before Valentine's Day.

Romancing Around the Credit Score

Dear Didi,

My girlfriend of three months asked me about my credit score. I was shocked and didn't know what to say so I lied. I said I didn't know. I know it's not good. Now I have to get back to her. She was surprised I didn't know it and hinted she was curious about my creditworthiness. What do you think? W.G., Brooklyn, NY

Dear W.G.,

What a blow! The good news is that she is serious about sharing your future. If you feel the same, give yourself until Valentine's Day to figure out what to say. No longer. You can't really blame her for wanting to know. Studies show credit scores are predictive of risk when applying for insurance and a mortgage. They can also effect employment screenings, which have increased from 19% in 1996 to 42% in 2006. All Americans are entitled to one free credit report a year, so get your report at Annualcredireport.com where you'll pay a ten dollar fee for your actual score. Scores range from 300-850 and 623 is the median. If your score is lower than the median, figure out how to improve it at the nonprofit Web site DebtReliefCenter.org before telling your girlfriend your plan for improving your credit going forward. Sweeten your answer with a romantic evening. Now that you've relieved the tension, it's time to ask, "What's your credit score, babe?" ~Didi

Valentine's Party Dress Code

Dear Didi,

We've been invited to a Valentine's Day party at 6:00 pm and the invitation says the dress code is 'Jeans & Bow Ties.' What exactly does that mean for me and my boyfriend? V.L., Boston

Dear V.L.,

When the invitation has the dress code 'Jeans & Bow Ties,' your boyfriend wears blue or black jeans with a tie and jacket. If he actually wears a bow tie, all the better. It means dressing down a notch from 'Cocktail Attire' and 'Suits & Dresses.' He has the option of wearing jeans as long as they are not torn, tattered, or bleached, with a jacket or sweater. A straight tie is fine. A woman would wear a knee-length cocktail dress or a beautiful blouse, tunic or sweater with a skirt or slacks. ~Didi

Valentine Etiquette

Dear Didi,

I need some Valentine Etiquette. How do I know what she wants for Valentine's Day? How do I know what to give her and what not to give her? Last year it wasn't a big deal, we went to a popular Italian restaurant. It seemed enough because we had just started dating. E.S., Providence

Dear E.S.,

Taking your Valentine to a restaurant that is a cut above where you usually go to eat, is always a treat because she doesn't have to cook. Whether it is some place new—or a restaurant for special occasions. You can keep that tradition, or simply cook her a great meal or make a picnic of gourmet treats with some bubbly.

Whatever you do, don't give her a box of chocolates or she'll accuse you of sabotaging her diet. Another cliche gift women we've surveyed don't like is a necklace with a heart dangling from it.

If you're going to give her anything after the delicious dinner with her favorite appletini or chardonnay, do it the day before by sending her a fabulous vase of flowers to her office or workplace. Showing not only your Valentine but her coworkers as well that she's very special. If your girlfriend has a good sense of humor, sign the card from, "Your secrete admirer." ~Didi

Mother-of-the-Bride from Hell

Dear Didi,

I am the mother of the bride, and she has asked me to give her away. Her father is out of the picture. My younger sister and I do not associate with my brother and older sister, and will never do so. My daughter hardly knows my brother and older sister. She has not seen them since she was a child and she is 37 now and yet she wants to invite them to the wedding. I asked her not to do this as it would be extremely hurtful and uncomfortable to have them there. She insists on inviting them—and tells me I am overreacting. At the formal reception she's seating my siblings and their spouses at the groom's family's table. My younger sister and I will be seated at a table with three single young women we do not know. I requested that my son be seated with us, she refused, as she wants him to sit with the groom's. I am devastated and feel marginalized. I will be quite humiliated. What do you think? Name Withheld

Dear Mother-of-the-Bride,

I think that your daughter's wedding should be all about the bride and groom. Often weddings are a great way to bring estranged family members back into the fold. Unless your siblings would be a threat to the other guests or steal the wedding presents, it is sweet of your daughter to want to make her family whole for a day. Children want a normal happy family. No matter how old they are, they want normalcy. This is your daughter's chance to have a normal wedding surrounded by her family.

What I really want to say is this. By fighting over this issue, you are creating bad memories. Weddings are supposed to create good memories. You are a role model for your daughter. How you behave and conduct yourself will be her model. So be careful because you don't want to be the one blamed for creating unpleasant memories of your daughter's wedding. This wedding is all about the bride and groom. It is not about your relationship with your siblings.

The good news is this. It is more than likely that your siblings will not attend your daughter's wedding after so many years of estrangement. They would probably find it too awkward knowing you wouldn't want them there.

My best advice is for you to make one simple compromise with your daughter. You are allowed to choose who sits at your table and she is allowed to invite your brother and older sister. Believe me, your family will be proud of you if you carry this off with dignity. Make the memories of your daughter's wedding happy ones. ~Didi


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