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Modern Manners + Etiquette: Wedding Toasts, Sock Etiquette + More

Thursday, September 20, 2012


A wary bride and groom seek Didi's counsel on how to control the toasts at their upcoming wedding. Photo: Proudmurphy/flickr.

Questions about rules for wedding toasts and teaching manners to pre-schoolers were hot topics this week at Didi Lorillard's NewportManners.com, along with how to handle a disgruntled mother who has been writing anonymous letters of complaint to other parents about their kids. On a lighter note, getting back into a Fall wardrobe with Sock Etiquette.

Dear Didi,
What color socks do I wear with khakis, grey flannels, and a dark blue business suit? Then, what color shoes and belt should I wear? I'm in business school and interviewing for jobs, so I want to get it right.  G.D., Boston

Dear G.D.,
When you wear light brown trousers, such as khakis or tan twills, that go with a blazer or sports jacket, your socks should be tan, brown, or navy blue and the shoes and belt, brown.

When in doubt, socks should match either the color of the shoe or trouser. Never wear tan socks with black shoes. The belt should match the shoes, but a dark brown belt can be worn with black or brown shoes because nobody notices the difference.

With grey flannel trousers, worn either as the trousers of a grey suit or with a blazer or sports jacket, the color sock would depend upon the shoes: you probably don't have grey socks; not many men do. With a grey suit you can wear black shoes, black socks and belt; with grey flannels and a sports jacket or blazer, navy blue socks with dark brown shoes and belt. With a navy blue business suit, you would wear black shoes, socks and belt, or navy blue socks. Not to complicate matters, but navy blue socks are always a standard alternative to tan, brown and grey.

Nevertheless, a black suit requires black belt, shoes and socks. Also, remember the height of the sock should cover the calf so that when crossing your legs, hairy bare flesh is not in evidence.  ~Didi

Dear Didi,
We have a pre-nursery school playgroup and we're looking for ways to start teaching our babies and toddlers manners. Most of us are busy working moms, either part or full time. Can you give us some guidelines, please.  J.G., Brookline, MA

Dear J.G.,
For busy working mothers, you want a short, quick take-away advice to use as good role modeling with babies and toddlers, as well as with their caregivers:

Teaching babies to communicate (without crying) with others is the first step. You should teach them to wave: even before six months of age they can learn to wave hello and good-bye. It's the Queen Elizabeth wave with palm raised going back and forth in window wiper fashion left to right. Teach children to greet and eventually they will learn to say, "Bye-bye mommy," and "Hi, daddy." Once they start knowing names, they can connect the greeting with the name and say, "Hi, Johnny!" 

While they're learning greeting, teach children to say please and thank you by using those words with them. "Emily, please, wait." "Thank you for bringing me my bag, Charlie." We hear parents all the time talking to each other and not using please and thank you. When parents use each other's name, along with 'please' and 'thank you' with each other and with their children, caregivers, friends, and relatives, their children will take their parents' good manners as a model.

Once toddlers start connecting words and phrases, it's time to teach them not to interrupt -- by not interrupting them. Teach them to raise their hand by raising your palm toward them shoulder high to signal stop, because you want to say something to them. They will do the same. Then thank them for being good listeners. ~Didi

Dear Didi,
What are the rules for those making a toast? We've been to weddings where the toast goes on and on, and it's a big bore. At one rehearsal dinner a toast lasted 20 minutes without the godfather mentioning the bride and groom by name, guests started talking and texting ("Gawd awful" and "Boring") amongst themselves and then left the table to go to the bar. The groom felt that was enough and ended the toasting, leaving others (who also had been asked to prepare a toast) speechless. During another wedding reception, the opening toast by the grandfather never mentioned the bride by name. We don't want these kinds of mistakes happening at our wedding in October.   S. & C., Concord, MA

Dear S. & C.,
It works to get the the giddy, silly, raunchy toasts over before the wedding, at the bachelor party, bridal shower, and bachelorette party. Save the elegant, eloquent and dignified toasts for the wedding where only a few chosen loyal fans - who ahead of time (at least two weeks) - are asked by the best man to make a toast to the wedding couple and their parents. Make it clear: the rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception are not roasts.

Four wedding toasts are more than enough. No impromptu toasts. The subject of the toast is anecdotal and focused on the bride and groom, who are referred to by name in every toast. Wedding toasts should be sweet, funny, weepy and no longer than three minutes. With the wedding couple's approval, the best man organizes the toasts, knows their content, and is delegated to use the proverbial hook when a toast creeps toward four minutes. At four minutes, the best man approaches the toaster, lays one hand on the toaster's back, while the other hand reaches out for the microphone.  ~Didi

Dear Didi,
There is a mother in our child's elementary school who is writing anonymous letters to certain other class parents criticizing their parenting skills and child's behavior. We've alerted the principal to the situation, but we're not sure whose responsibility it is to confront this unhappy mother. What if we're wrong (which we don't think we are) about whom to confront? How would you suggest handling this unfortunate dilemma?  Anonymous, Providence

Dear Anonymous,
The fact that the principal has been told about the anonymous letters to certain parents is a big step. Chances are the principal and some of the teachers have dealt with this disgruntled mother before and therefore know who she is and can confront her. If the principal doesn't know how to handle this intolerable situation, you can be sure he/she is seeking advice from another professional.

The big picture here is that a lot of parents know about this unfortunate dilemma and are talking amongst themselves, either in school when they're volunteering, at drop-off or pick-up, at birthday parties, while watching sports events, or by phone, email, or text. But guess what?

With all the talk, parents need to remember that, "Little pitchers have big ears." It just takes one child to overhear a gossiping parent and write one email or text before most of the students know who the mother's child is. Therefore, it's more than likely that the disgruntled mom's child already knows about his mother's anonymous letters and is suffering the consequences of either being black-balled or bullied.

Step back, let the principal do his job and focus on the kids. Gently, find out how much your child knows. Tell your child not to discuss the letters with fellow classmates. Ask the child how she would feel if her mother or father had done such a thing, and have the child pretend to be in the classmate's shoes. Ask the child what she would do if she was the unhappy mother's daughter? My point is, stop the gossiping by discouraging other parents from discussing it, because a situation such as this, more than likely, is totally devastating and humiliating for that mother's child.  ~Didi

Didi Lorillard researches shifting etiquette at NewportManners.com by answering questions on relationship dilemmas, wedding etiquette, dress codes and manners. Or find Didi on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, after reading her earlier GoLocal columns, some of which are listed below.


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