Tag Archives: Etiquette

El Hostel de Reph

For the past several weeks I’ve been haunted by the realization that I am not able to live up to my own standards.

Not ethically, thank God, but etiquette-ly, which might be worse.

Mike and I recently hosted Sarah and Casey in our home while they were in town for the other other royal wedding.  They booked one night at the hotel across the street, but the rest of the time they stayed on our floor.

I know, the horror.

To be fair, they have stayed with us before, so they know our square footage exactly.  But that doesn’t change the desperate feeling I encounter when I see my guests waking up after a night on an air mattress.

Look, I get that it’s normal to have people stay on one’s floor when there’s no other choice, and it helps out-of-towners save some cash, and it’s not the worst thing in the world.

Unless you write about etiquette on your blog all the time.

We tried to mitigate the situation and do what I would tell anyone else to do: let the guests sleep in our bed.  We even laid down on their air mattress in protest, insisting that they go sleep in our bed.  It turns out doing that is akin to the classic restaurant standoff, “I’m paying the bill,” “No, I’m paying the bill,” until both of you hates the situation enough that the only gracious thing to do is give in.

The chaos of being involved in a family wedding at the time didn’t help either.  We were all sharing one bathroom, and after three days we were out of fresh towels.  Due to the hectic schedule of out-of-towner dinners, the rehearsal dinner, and the wedding itself, I had no time to do a load of laundry.

It was an etiquette-obsessor’s nightmare.

Let me be clear: our guests never once complained.  They were gracious beyond description and even thanked us daily for the hospitality.  I told them hospitality was a loose term in this case, but they insisted.

Long after they’d departed, I was still consumed with thoughts of how I could possibly improve our situation without moving to a three bedroom home.  I continued to be at a loss until we spent the night at the home of two of our good friends.

Their entire home is 540 square feet.  It is a free-standing home, not a condo.  It is completely adorable and should be highlighted in a design magazine for optimizing small spaces.  When they invited us to spend the night, we could not imagine where we would be resting our heads.

We shouldn’t have worried; they invested in an air mattress that blew our minds.  It’s double layered, so when inflated it looks like it has a box spring and a mattress, and it is about two and a half feet high so when getting into or out of the mattress it feels like a normal bed.

The best part — the box spring covers only about two-thirds of the mattress, so the mattress portion rests over a couch.  The result looks like a fold out bed from a couch.  We slept great.

The next morning we were singing the mattress’s praises when they told us they were actually trying to sell it due to their upcoming move into a bigger place.  Would we be interested, they asked?

Sold.

Though this won’t totally alleviate my feelings of hostess failure, I’m convinced the Reph Hostel has just upgraded to bed-and-breakfast.

Now accepting reservations.

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Shower with Care

I am pleased to announce the publication of my second guest post for Clise Etiquette!

The topic this time?  Bridal and baby shower etiquette — true minefields of social awkwardness.

The author of the blog, Arden Clise, is the well-known Seattle authority on business etiquette.  As the founder of Clise Etiquette, Arden works as an etiquette consultant, speaker and business etiquette columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal. 

Many thanks to Arden for so generously allowing me to share her space again.

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A Royal Wonder

It was, to borrow the popular British expression, absolutely brilliant.

I shot awake at 6AM PST, an hour ahead of my alarm, and I literally only had one thought in my head, the way you only have one thought in your head on Christmas morning, “It’s done!  They are married!” 

I know this should be embarrassing to admit, but I got over that admission about a decade ago.

I turned on my DVR and fast-forwarded through Bah-bra and Diane’s two-hour pre-wedding coverage to get to the point of the day — her dress. 

Needless to say, it did not disappoint.

I always wagered that she would use lace, if only because it matches so perfectly with her style and grace.  And, it must be said, she had grace in spades on her wedding day.

If I were an alien visiting Earth on April 29, 2011 and happened to land my spaceship in London, I would never imagine that this lady in white was joining the royal family; I would assume she was leading it.

And as she joined her prince at the front of the abbey, I was only thinking one thing: it’s a shame he couldn’t keep his hat on for the duration of the ceremony.

One of my favorite things about the service was that those leading it managed to use the word “betwixt” not once, but several times.  How utterly English is that?  For the remainder of this post I shall now use that word in place of “between.” 

Though we all know I could write the entirety of this post about HRH The Duchess of Cambridge alone (just writing her new title makes me happy), I’m afraid that if I start down that road it will prove as endless as some of the hymns sung during the service.  So let’s move on to the attire of the attendees, shall we?

First stop: cannot be avoided, must be mentioned and condemned immediately:  Princess Beatrice.

I don’t care that she’s wearing Valentino.  I don’t care that her hat is Philip Treacy.  It is absolutely abhorrent and she should have been escorted out upon arrival.

On the other end of the fascinator spectrum lies that other British princess, Victoria Beckham.  Now THAT is a perfect topper.

On a sadder princess note, my former favorite mistakenly thought this was an Easter service and got a little carried away with the color peach:

Without question, a real winner of the day was the bride’s sister and bridesmaid, Pippa.  Wasn’t it obvious she was doing all of the work?  And she was doing it in a difficult-to-walk-in, awkward-to-bend-over-in dress.

She had to escort the little royals down the aisle, which could have gone wrong a hundred different ways in front of two billion people.  She had to carry her sister’s train for what seemed like weeks, and looked like she was happy to do so.

Also, did anyone else notice a little flirtation betwixt Harry and Pippa as they walked down the aisle? 

And who could blame him, when he’s used to dating this:

Let’s just say the difference in level of sophistication betwixt the Davys and the Middletons is akin to the difference in hair coverage betwixt William and Harry.

But I digress.

When they arrived at Buckingham Palace and the crowds were given permission to surge toward the front gate, the sight of a sea of humanity filling the entire mall was overwhelming.  It’s no surprise that Catherine was seen saying “Oh wow!” when she stepped onto the balcony.

In true break-the-mold style, the couple kissed two times.  It almost seemed like they were saying “We actually like kissing, because we actually like each other!  This is not just for show!”  Anyway, I bought it.

After all of the fashion analysis fades and the wedding stops making headlines, I think those who watched it will remember it one way: as a happy event.  It was undeniably exciting, and despite the grandeur it managed to feel strangely intimate.  Somehow Will and Kate brought us all along for the ride, and as silly as it sounds, this fan-since-she-was-13 is grateful.

Here’s hoping the love betwixt The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is as strong and long-lasting as the stone pillars of Westminster Abbey.

To read about the wedding from someone who was actually there, check out my friend Maggie’s post.

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A Final, Fashionable Farewell (to Life as a Commoner)

I was running on the treadmill this morning when I caught a news story about Kate and Will’s final public appearance prior to the wedding (and yes, I will refer to them with her name first, because frankly, who is he in comparison?).

The lucky location for their final wave was the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy in Lancashire, where Wills was presenting the Skillforce Prince’s Award to…does it matter?  Kate was there.  And she looked brilliant, as ever.

I am finding that she is in possession of the most occasion-appropriate wardrobe I’ve ever seen.  I never see her in a dress when a suit is more suitable (har har) as was the case today.  And despite being more attractive than most brides, she always dons stellar outfits that somehow manage not to scene-steal (seen here in a 2008 and 2009 wedding).

I must also give her my nod of approval for modesty.  She is a rare woman who can resist the urge to show too much thigh or cleavage, especially when she has such a camera-friendly physique.  This is quite the turnaround from her commoner college days of walking the runway in lingerie for charity (which is what famously prompted Wills’ interest in the first place, so I doubt she regrets it…but still).

The only tragedy about there being 18 days to the wedding is that it is unlikely we will see her again until she re-emerges as certified royalty.  Although, as the news report this morning mentioned, we can always entertain ourselves in the meantime by calling our bookie and placing bets on such things as: what color hat will the queen wear to the wedding?  which designer will Kate choose for her dress?  what are the odds she jilts William (clearly the person placing this bet doesn’t understand the lottery Kate is winning by showing up)?

For other pre-wedding festivities (since I wasn’t invited to the bridal shower), a dear friend reminded me yesterday that on April 18 we can tune in for the Lifetime movie, “William & Kate: Let Love Rule.”  However, I struggle to get onboard with the lady below portraying Kate the Great:

I can’t begin to list all the ways this woman can’t compare to our bride-to-be, but for now let’s let the chunky heels speak for themselves, shall we?

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Don’t Wear Gortex to Dinner in D.C.

I am excited to announce the publication of my first guest piece on an etiquette blog, Clise Etiquette!

The author of the blog, Arden Clise, is the well-known Seattle authority on business etiquette.  As the founder of Clise Etiquette, Arden works as an etiquette consultant, speaker and business etiquette columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal. 

Arden and I share a passion for all matters of decorum, from table manners to thank-you notes, so when she asked me to write about navigating the differences between East Coast and West Coast etiquette, I didn’t hesitate. 

Special thanks to Arden for this privilege.

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It’s Official: I’m Not Marrying Prince William

He’s engaged. 

Prince William asked his girlfriend of eight years, Kate Middleton, to marry him. 

To put my current previous obsession with Wills in perspective, consider this: my friend Amy sent me a text at 4:11AM telling me the news. 

Because news like this cannot wait. 

Because she knows I’ve been waiting for it. 

And because she knows I need to hear it from no one but her.

This is a woman who once collected every article written about Princess Diana for an entire year.  They were all kept under her bed, stacks and stacks of magazines and newspaper clippings of every detail of her life and tragic death.  I would go over to her house across the street and we’d pull them all out and stare at hundreds of photos.  We knew her life story, her family dynamics, her best dresses, her worst hairstyles. 

So, you could say it was picture perfect that a Prince William obsessor should get a 4AM text from a Princess Di obsessor.

We were 13 at the time, however, so it might seem silly that we care at age 26.  It might.

But I am not concerned with silliness, because I absolutely love royal weddings, and this one should prove to be more fantastic than the rest.  I cannot wait to see what style of dress she will choose, how decorated his suit will be, how many people will line the streets of London hoping to catch a glimpse.

Kate is already moving up my ladder of style icons.  People may joke about her over-the-top headpieces and formal hats, but I think they’re divine.  If it were even in the vicinity of socially acceptable in the States, I’d be sporting one every chance I got.

Given my propensity for formality and etiquette, I am eager to see the royal wedding process unfold.  I already admire their delayed announcement and press call, so the couple could have some private time to celebrate.  And in an age of reality TV and totally lack of privacy, I respect their decision not to share the details of how he proposed. 

These are the times when I mourn my lack of celebrity.  If I were at least a successful actress or daughter of a President, I might have a chance at an invitation.  As a Seattleite with no claim to fame, I probably won’t need to watch the mail too closely.

Which really is a shame, because I would have rocked a killer headpiece for that event.

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Be My Guest

There are hundreds of books and articles written about the art of hospitality; much less is said about the behavior of guests — especially for an overnight stay. 

Haven’t we all spent the night in someone else’s house and thought, “I really hope this doesn’t utterly destroy our friendship” ?  And haven’t we all hosted someone in our home overnight and thought, “This could be fantastic or a total nightmare” ?

What is the etiquette for those being served?  How can you make yourself a pleasant guest?  What are the cringe-inducing actions that can make your host regret inviting you?  Read on.

It Starts at the Door

Never show up empty-handed to stay overnight.  The host is not only (presumably) making you multiple meals, but she is also doing your laundry after you’ve gone.   The best you can do is show gratitude before any of this has even begun.  A few ideas:

  • Wine — always a solid choice, and if you’re not sure on their preference, bring a red and a white, just to be sure.
  • A decorative candle — one can never have too many candles, and they’re quick and easy for the host to light and display.  Avoid scented ones, as scents are personal, and if a meal is being served you don’t want the smell of the candle to interfere.
  • An unusual kitchen accessory — chances are if your host is having you in her home, she knows her way around the kitchen.  That’s why a killer gadget can hit the spot, such as a stainless steel olive oil can.

A Helping Hand — To a Point

It’s wonderful when guests offer to help set the table or crack the crab, but it’s less appealing when a guest insists on working in the kitchen with the host.  Don’t forget that one of the pleasures of hosting is knowing that your guests are comfortable and happy — if you appear distressed at not helping, you are robbing your host of this privilege.  Sometimes, if you can tell a host is in her element and things are going smoothly, it’s better to simply express your excitement about the coming meal.

Clean Up

This is probably the best chance for you to earn your keep.  Jumping in and helping with the dishes is almost always appreciated, especially when you do so without asking (“can I help with the dishes?” almost always comes across as a I-asked-just-to-confirm-I-don’t-have-to statement).  Of course, if your host is mortified at the thought of you cleaning up, don’t make a bother of yourself by entering into an “I insist, no, I insist” argument for twenty minutes.

The Next Morning

If you are staying multiple nights, make the bed in the morning.  On your final morning, strip your sheets and grab any used bathroom towels and put them in the laundry room.  It’s a harmless chore that spares the host from having to go room-to-room gathering linens.

Going the Extra Mile

When arranged in advance, it can work really well for you to prepare one meal for your hosts.  Let’s say you arrive at 4PM and are staying until noon the following day.  A great idea would be to offer to prepare breakfast as a thank you to your hosts.  By asking a couple of days ahead, you are showing that you’re eager not to be a burden, and you’re being considerate of their shopping preparations (they won’t buy eggs if they know you’re bringing them).  Though it might be tricky getting around your hosts’ unfamiliar kitchen, making eggs and bacon shouldn’t involve too many tools.

If you’re not comfortable with preparing a full meal, offering to make a dessert or a special cocktail for everyone is just as thoughtful. 

The Essential Follow-Up

If someone has had you in their home for 24 hours, a thank you text or email is not going to suffice.  Find a card or stationary and write a thank you note by hand.   When you’ve been in someone’s home for dinner, usually you can return the favor; with overnights, it’s less obvious if you’ll be able to host them in your home for the same purpose.  Therefore, a sincerely written card is most appreciated –“thank you” flowers, even more so.

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