28 June 2011

Mind Your Manners

My mother and I have been flipping through John Morgan’s Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette & Modern Manners.  

Here are some of our favorite excerpts:

“A bride’s going-away outfit, like her wedding dress, must not disappoint,” (Morgan 68).

“The wedding ring is the most important wedding present,” (68).

“Dress for a wedding is never stipulated on the invitation, but is passed by word of mouth and follows the lead of the bride’s parents.  At traditional church weddings in Britain, it is still expected that men wear a black morning coat (grey is somewhat less acceptable than previously), with striped or checkered grey wool trousers and waistcoat which can be either double- or single-breasted and in plain or patterned cloth,” (67).

“Wing collars have no place at a wedding, and are quite inappropriate,” (67).

“Rules about departure before The Queen are less stringent than at one time, when to stir before the Sovereign left was positively unforgivable.  Nowadays, should there be good and sensible reason for going early, it is acceptable, if not in good manners, to ask the household politely in advance,” (136).

No formal dinner is complete without the passing of the port…it is always passed to the left.  Should you miss the port on its relentless clockwise progression…then it is bad form to ask for the decanter to be returned to you, as is would mean – horror of horrors – that it would need to travel the wrong way.  Instead, pass your empty glass to the left until it catches up with the decanter, where it is filled by the diner currently in possession of it,” (144).

“Written invitation (never refer to them as ‘invites’) remain the form for many social occasions,” (148).

“Of all spoken solecisms, toilet remains the worst crime. Lavatory and loo are the acceptable alternatives.  Second prize goes to lounge, which is always inappropriate. Drawing room or sitting room are preferred. In these rooms you might find comfortable sofas but not comfy couches or settees,” (185).

“Whereas personal cards are an increasing rarity, business cards proliferate like wire hangers in a wardrobe,” (311).

“Some individuals, particularly workaholics, appear to make little distinction between the business lunch and dinner,” (315).


Donna Ball’s Keys to the Castle has become one of my favorite reads.  The author sweeps readers away to the French Loire Valley and lodges him/her in a castle in desperate need of restoration.  Ball’s opulent details keep me coming back.  “Far beyond the crystal chandelier, the domed ceiling was painted a Renaissance blue, its panels edged in gold.  The white marble floor beneath her feet shone like glass,” (Ball 54).

How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World will resound with classy 21st century women everywhere.  With chapter titles like Keep  Your Chin Up and Your Skirt Down, Dress to Impress and Let Him Come Calling, Jordan Christy addresses why no respectable man would bring a desperate, sloppy, stupid girl home to mama. “Through hard work and high standards, we can become class acts that outshine the cheap stars,” (Christy 14).

“One of the fastest ways to gain (or loose) respect is with your image.  Think about it: when Mariah Carey tries to squeeze everything into that double-zero miniskirt from seventh grade, words like classy and admirable don’t usually spring to mind.  But when Jessica Alba dons an elegant, floor-length golden number that successfully covers all controversial body parts at the Academy Awards, she positively commands attention,” (18).

“I love what Eleanor Roosevelt said about lighting one small candle rather than cursing the darkness.  The truth is, it’s easy to sit around and criticize Paris, Britney, and Lindsay all day, but until we get out and make a change ourselves, complaining won’t do us, or anyone else, a bit of good,” (195).


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