24 Comments

  1. Mary Ellen

    Is it proper to have a large silver-plated candelabra as the centerpiece of the buffet table at an afternoon wedding reception? The ceremony is at 2 p.m., and the reception will be right after at about 2:30. The wedding is fairly formal, but I was always told that candles (particularly large candelabras) were reserved for evening receptions/dinners. Is that still true? Thanks.

    • Elizabeth

      Since we no longer use candles and candleholders functionally, for light, but rather decoratively, I can’t see how this is an etiquette matter at all. Lots of people use the candleabra itself decoratively (without candles in it, lit or not). It might be slightly strange to have lit candles in the middle of the day, but some reception halls can be dark even though it is broad daylight outside, so candles might be perfectly atmospheric depending on the place.

      • Cyra

        Hi Mary Ellen,

        I think one can decorate a buffet table however one wishes. If the candelabra were being placed on a dinner table then I would question whether the guests were able to see one another, but at a buffet table I don’t think it matters one bit!

        • Mary Ellen

          Thanks, Elizabeth and Cyra! This is helpful. We have been going by Emily Post’s etiquette book (16th edition) on page 707 in the weddings section. It says, “Candles or candelabra may be used at an evening or after-dusk reception but should not be on the tables for a morning or early-afternoon reception.” Apparently that has changed. I’d be curious to know what a current Emily Post etiquette book says about this or what someone who works for Emily Post thinks. Thanks for your input!

          • Elizabeth

            The 18th edition only mentions candelabras on tables, specifically with respect to the issue of line of sight. They recommend placing them so that the broad sides are towards the end of the tables so people can see around them. There is no mention of their use during a particular time of day or night. I suspect that this is a rule that had historical origins, but faded because candelabras are now totally decorative. You can imagine a time when candles were used for light, and it being quite wasteful to use candles during the day. It would make sense to have that rule then. But now…not so much.

  2. ken

    Thank you in advance for your responses. Is it improper to send a condolence card to a widow to mark the date of her husbands passing three years after her loss? She is still understandably in mourning, and apprehensive of the looming ‘anniversary.’ If such a gesture is insensitive, what would be a thoughtful gesture in which I could convey my compassion for her loss? It is important to me that I do something other than ignoring this date. Ken

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      A letter to the widow expressing that you were thinking of her and her late husband on their anniversary would be a charming gesture.

    • Jody

      Ken, how nice for you to think of your friend. I don’t think sending a card is insensitive at all; you know her and know what she’d like and not like. What might be just as nice as a card is maybe to take her out to lunch (or for a coffee, or dessert — you get the idea) and just let the conversation flow where it will. Maybe she wants to reminisce about her husband, and you can be a sympathetic ear.

  3. ken musson

    Forgive me if this is a repeat question, and thank you in advance for any response.
    I have a widowed friend who’s husband passed three years ago. Quite apprehensive of the looming date, I would like to send her a card or something proper to mark my feelings about her loss. Any help would be deeply appreciated, I have only a few days before the date passes. Ken

    • Cyra

      Your thought is so incredibly kind. The 2-year anniversary of my father’s passing is coming soon and I always find this time of year difficult. I wouldn’t send an actual “sympathy” card; I would find it strange to receive one at this point. But a card with your own message in it would be quite nice. You could say something about how you remember your friend’s husband (if he was a friend of yours too), or you could simply say something about your thoughts being with her.

    • Karen

      I wouldn’t think that a card would be inappropriate, but I think a phone call would be better. Three years out, I would think that the widow might really appreciate contact in which she could reminisce about her late husband as much or as little as she needed on the day. You are indeed compassionate for keeping her in your thoughts beyond the immediate aftermath of her husband’s passing!

    • Vanna Keiler

      Hi Ken. I will venture to suggest that perhaps after three years’ time, a condolence card may not be necessary. Instead, I would just pick up the phone and let her know you are thinking of her and hope she is okay. If she does not pick up the phone, leave a brief message with the same sentiment. If you have the time and she seems inclined to do this, meeting her for a coffee would be a nice gesture, if it is geographically feasible. Otherwise, simply acknowledging the anniversary loss is a kindness in itself.

  4. Nickie

    I was at a luncheon yesterday where we sat a round table of 10. The Napkin was placed in the coffee cup. Since the informal setting shows the coffee cup on the right, I assumed my napkin was in the coffee cup to the right. Some chose the left – what’s the right answer?

    • Jody

      Nickie, I’m with you — I think the napkin in the right-hand coffee cup is correct. It’s awkward when people choose different items (right vs. left) as at least one person ends up without and needs to scan the table to see where the “extra” item is. In cases like yours I usually pick up my napkin immediately after being seated and put it in my lap. That often starts the ball rolling so that at least people are all picking up the item at the right (or the left, depending on the situation).

  5. Roxanne

    My fiancé and I are planning a formal Vietnamese engagement ceremony and we chose to send formal invites. Both of my grand-mothers are divorced and currently in the hospital. One suffers from Alzeimer’s and does not recognize me anymore, the other suffers from depression which makes her very confused. They both live in another town and it is highly unlikely their health would allow them to come to our engagement ceremony. I love my grand-mothers very much and would like to make them feel as included as possible despite their health condition. They both currently have an aunt/uncle acting as a their legal guardian.

    Should I send them an invitation directly? Do I send it to their legal guardian and if so, how do I address it? I do not want their legal guardian to feel compelled to bring them and take care of them during the ceremony. Should I simply send them an announcement card and some pictures afterward? I don’t want it to look like I don’t want my grand-mothers to come either.

    I feel this is a more and more common issue and, unfortunately, my Emily Post Etiquette bible does not seem to address the issue. Please help!

  6. Cyra

    Hi Roxanne,

    I would suggest contact your aunt and uncle who are serving as your grandmothers’ guardians and asking them what would be best. They’ll know whether an invitation would be desired or even appreciated, or whether pictures would be best.

    Best wishes!

  7. Mommy

    I’ve just emailed an invite to my child’s class for a group event in July. I offered 3 dates so to be as flexible as possible for the group (we have parents who share custody on the weekends, etc.) A mom replied that she was planning an event for the group at the same time and had not decided on a date yet. I replied that I would like to work with her to work out the dates of the events. She basically replied that she’s not interested and will be mailing invitations regardless. I’m just furious that she would act this way. My event requires travel and advance planning, and everyone has been invited. Should I make changes? I suppose most people will be committed to my event before they even get her invite, but I don’t want to double book our group, it’s just not fair to the kids.

    • Jody

      I think it was very gracious of you to offer to work with the other mother. Since she has replied that she’s not interested, I think you should go ahead with your event as planned and invite those you intended to invite all along. It’s not your fault if there end up being two events at the same time, it’s up to the children’s parents to accept (or not) invitations. The other parent may be waiting to see the firm date for your event before settling on hers.

  8. Groom's Mom

    My son and his fiancé are getting married 500 miles from our hometown. There are many elderly relatives and friends that most likely will not be able to attend the wedding. Is it ever proper to host a pre-wedding celebration in our hometown prior to the actual wedding. The bride and groom both have schedules which make it impossible for us to host a post wedding reception. Thank you.

    • I see at least three possible options:

      1. A couple’s shower: More of a recent phenomenon, but in this situation could be appropriate. However, as the future mother-in-law, you shouldn’t be the one to host it. But a friend of the couple (perhaps a mutual friend of the group of friends who cannot attend the wedding) could. Just make sure if it is announced as a shower, that everyone invited to the shower is invited to the wedding.

      2. A dinner party: Depending on the situation (how close it is to the wedding, the relationships between the various members, etc), it might work to host or arrange a nice dinner party for the couple. My concern here though is that the bride, her parents, or any other interested person not take this as *in any way* overshadowing the actual wedding.

      There are historical/traditional rules about a groom’s family not hosting (read: paying for) a wedding reception. Depending on the scale and numbers, you might have to tread carefully around anything beginning to look like this. This might mean keeping it only to family members, but again it depends on the situation.

      3. On the off chance a significant number of the non-attendees are male, it would be perfectly possible to arrange a bachelor dinner! (If your son is a big partier, he could also have his fun with the younger boys some other time as the bachelor “party”…in this case I wouldn’t have them on the same day.) But a nice dinner with all the men of the family and some friends…that could be really touching and special. But you wouldn’t want the women family/friends to feel left out, so this might best work if the bride is having a shower or similar.

      Either way, congratulations to your son and best wishes to the happy couple!

    • Alicia

      No prewedding events are only for those invited to the wedding. Inviting someone to a shower or prewedding event without extending a wedding invite is a snub. If a post wedding reception is not a possibility then one must limit the invitation to the prewedding event to those who are also invited to the wedding even if unable to attend.

      • I don’t believe the OP was ever talking about an event for people who cannot attend the wedding because they were not invited. She asked about a local event for (presumably, invited) elderly family and friends who would not be able to attend the wedding because of the travel distance.

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