Monday, January 30, 2017

Parenting: Graduation Party Quiz

Graduation Party Etiquette Quiz

Interview With an Etiquette Consultant

As an etiquette consultant, I receive countless etiquette questions.  Many of these questions are from anchors from our local television networks.  So, I’m frequently interviewed.  As is typical this time of year, these interviews concern graduation party etiquette. 

My most recent interview was more of a quiz, which made for a lively segment.  Of course, I would have loved to have begun by emphasizing what is most important—people are more important than gifts.  Many times grads – and their parents – place too much focus on gifts and not enough on their guests.  Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I only had time to quiz my favorite anchors. 

It was a very enjoyable segment and I was able to stump both anchors.  Read on to see if you do any better with your answers.

Question number one: For whom may I host a graduation party?

A.     Kindergarten, high school, and middle school graduation
B.     Only for traditional benchmark graduations, like high school and college 
C.     Only for high school grads

I bet you knew the correct answer to that question.  Most of us realize that graduation parties are most appropriate for those benchmark graduations.  Consequently, the answer is “B”.  Bravo to all those who answered correctly!

Question number two: As a parent of a graduate, how may I ask for cash or gift cards?

A.     List gift request on the invitation
B.     We never ask for cash or gift cards
C.     Ask a friend to spread the word about gift preferences

A graduation party isn’t necessarily a gift-giving event.  I realize that may seem a bit harsh, but it’s true.  Often those who aren’t very close to the grad, like neighbors, are invited to these events.  They shouldn’t feel obligated to give a gift.  They are attending, basically, to display their support of the graduate—to congratulate him or her.  Out of a feeling of obligation, close family typically do give gifts.  However, no one is obligated to give anything, besides his or her well wishes.  Thus, the correct answer is “B”. 

Question number three: Do parents have to invite all their child's friends?

A.     No
B.     Yes
C.     Only invite close friends

More than likely, all of the graduate’s friends will have parties as well.  So, there is no need to invite all of his or her friends to the party.  Invite whomever you wish.  The correct answer is “A”. 

Question number four: What should I give the grad—does it have to be cash?

A.     Give gifts that could help the graduate--No, cash isn’t necessary
B.     Cash is the only gift
C.     Give cash, but only in $50 increments

This one should be simple after reading the answer to number two.  However, some people do believe that cash is king, especially when the recipient is a graduate.  This just isn’t true.  A gift, if given should be thoughtful and something you truly think will help him or her.  That may or may not be cash—your choice.  Thus, the correct answer is “A”.

I hope all of you did well on my little quiz!  For those of you graduating, congratulations! 

What are your thoughts?

Relationship Etiquette: Using Coupons on a Date

Using Coupons on Dates?  Good Idea?  No?

With the state of the economy, coupon clipping is becoming a national sport.  It seems a natural evolution due to our need to purchase items we want at the lowest price point possible.   This need is evident by the rapid popularity of coupons-for-everything websites like Groupon.  Since coupon usage seems commonplace, using a coupon to pay for dinner appears a smart move.  However, it just may not be such a great idea when it applies to the date.   

Frankly, using a coupon while on a date is not an etiquette faux pas.  Logically, a coupon or gift certificate is as good as cash.  Nevertheless, as we all know, perception is everything.  Moreover, on a first date, and even the first few dates, both parties are sizing each other up.  Who is this person? What are his/her quirks?  Do I even like his/her appearance?   With all of this evaluating humming in the background, it is best to consider the perception of how everything we do. It may be best to get to know the person a bit more before diving into the coupon book.   

The first date doesn't even have to be dinner anyway--get coffee and play chess.  But, if, if it is dinner and the gentleman wishes to use a coupon, he should take her to a restaurant where he feels she will enjoy the food, not just so he can use the coupon (that would offend most).  He should ask if she has any preferences, allergies, or food restrictions.  Act interested in her!  Imagine that she is a vegan and he takes her to a steak house just because he has a coupon.  If this is the case, it could appear that he just wanted company while he eats his food of choice on the cheap and not as if he was interested in her.   

One suggestion: He could call ahead and ask if he could give it to them as they are seated (discretely) and it would be deducted from the bill without the date being any the wiser.  He'd better make sure it's valid though.  Boy, would that be embarrassing if not. 

In the end, it is all about personal preference and opinion since there is nothing wrong with using coupons.   

Personally, I don't have a problem with them.  After all, if a man is acting the gentleman and paying for the date (which he should), then the woman should act the lady and not notice how the bill is paid.  He could use pennies and it still shouldn't concern her.  For me, if I was the one using the coupon, I would not use it on a first date.  I wouldn't try to conceal it on future dates.  That's just me though. 

Remember that first dates are all about perception and being your best.
  • Make the date special--ask her/his preferences.
  • Perhaps choose an activity designed to get to know your date better instead of dinner.
  • If using a coupon, best not on a first date--usually.
  • Ladies, don't question how her date pays for her meal. 

Ted from Facebook:  

"I wouldn't use it on a first date; I think it would look a little tacky. But after I've dated someone for a while - someone who hopefully shares my frugal sensibilities - I would feel comfortable using one." 

David from Facebook: 

My husband I did, lol, and we still go to the same restaurant 20 years later! 

XiXi Zhai from G+: 

"It really depends on which date, which setting, and how comfortable and familiar you're with the person. Hopefully the guy would pay on the first date :P unless I had a coupon to offer hahha" 

These two coworkers bantered back and forth about the issue 


"Would I as a guy taking a girl out use a coupon, or are coupons in general ok for dates? Here's kinda what I think. Unless you're in the 1%, everyone is living a lot leaner now. I don't think it's an issue of using them on dates. I mean isn't that why sites like Groupon are doing so well. I think that if I was on a date and pulled out a groupon or something like that and she had an issue or thought it was tacky, that's really on her and I would wonder if it's something that I would pursue further. Everyone is on budgets nowadays and if that's a way for people to get out and have fun together and also be out spending money in the economy, I think they're a good thing." 


"Well my point of view is that I think it's fine unless you're on the first few dates. I think if I were with someone for the first time and they pulled out a coupon for my dinner I might think they were cheap or even that they didn't want to spend much because I am not worth it. Also, I know women like to know a guy can take care of her and has his finances in order, so if on a first or second date he's pulling out coupons it may show that he's a broke ass that doesn't know how to manage money and just wants {XXX}! Now if there was a whole day of stuff you were doing with someone then a coupon for dinner or lunch would be fine."  


"Ok, this is especially touchy. If we went out and it was to somewhere I had talked about and wanted to go to and you found it on groupon that would be acceptable. BUT if this was your time to shine on our first date out oh hell no coupons. I think it really shows how classy and gentleman like a guy is in the way he takes care of a girl on a first date. Now if you went by the restaurant in advance and gave them the coupon when you made reservations that's different and shows you put a lot of effort into planning and trying to make the night an exceptional one.  

The thing with knowing you is that I know you go out a lot so if you were to take me out and then use a coupon I'd probably be pissed." 

Lynn from Facebook: 

"I think if you're going out with friends or even later down the road it's acceptable.  My uncle and aunt plan their dinners around their coupon book.  But if you are trying to build something with someone new you want to put your best foot forward and not look cheap or broke or someone with a quirk that may not be desirable to certain people."

Friday, December 16, 2016

RSVP Etiquette; EventBrite Services

RSVP Nightmares

You’ve planned the perfect party for 35 people—all close friends.  They can always count on, as they are at your side when you need them.  So of course, you are sure they will attend even though your mailbox is void of any RSVPs.  Nevertheless, with 10 pounds of shrimp on ice and four pounds of cheese—not even counting various other appetizers—you begin to worry, especially on the day of the event.
Karen and her unexpected guests.
Alternately, here’s a real story that was recently shared with me.  Karen planned, what she considered, a formal holiday cocktail party.  She included in her invitations that this would be a semiformal affair, which to most people, means cocktail dresses and suits—or at least sport coats and slacks for men.  She also hired caterers.  Understandably, she needed guests to reply to her invitations promptly and accurately. 
To her surprise, over half of her guests didn’t reply and most arrived with an uninvited guest of their own.  As a good host, she planned for a few “extras” but didn’t expect an invasion.   Adding to her dismay, many of her guests arrived in jeans and treated her party as if it was a kegger. 
Unfortunately, this what many of us have experienced.  Honestly, it doesn’t have to be such a drama.  If only our guests would respond to our invitations as it was written.  Perhaps it is too troublesome to call or return a little response card.  Heck, these days it’s often as simple as texting, emailing or responding via a webpage.   What could be simpler or more well-mannered as informing a host if one is attending or not?  It’s pretty simple people.  And, if a guest doesn’t want to dress as requested or attend solo, that guest has a choice to respond to the invitation in the negative.  Simple.  So please, this holiday season and beyond, RSVP and be the GOOD GUEST!   
Some assistance please?
There are a few online web services who offer event planning assistance that can help us avoid this type of stress.  One in particular, Eventbrite, has created a graphic to help us navigate our duties as guests.   Check it out.  The event planning service is especially helpful as well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Holiday Tipping--Today Show & KCRA Interviews

Holiday Tipping 

All tipping is optional and subjective, yet in certain parts of the United States, tipping is almost mandatory. Take New York for example.  Not tipping a building super might lead to slow response times just when you need that leak fixed now.  Here on the West Coast, we are a bit more relaxed.  What follows is merely a guideline.   

Note: Before tipping to those working for an agency or organization, however, check their gift giving policy.  And, make a list of those you wish to tip and consider your budget. 

Those Who Provide us a Service Regularly

One session’s fee is usually appropriate. If you pay $20 a week to your gardener, an appropriate tip would be $20.   For those whom you see more often or give great service, such as a hair stylist, feel free to tip more.   

  • Gardener
  • Hair stylist/manicurist/barber
  • Baby sitter (after work)
  • Pool cleaner
  • Pet groomer
  • House cleaners (if it is a group, the tip could be a big box of candy or something to share)  
Employees in the Home

These special people typically receive one to two weeks’ extra pay depending on how long they have worked for you and how many days a week they work.  

  • Caretakers
  • Nannies
Doorman or Building Supervisor 

This person is in a class by herself.  She/he provides a very special service and your comfort is in her hands.  Ask some of the other residents what they give and perhaps all could give a joint gift so there is no competition or comparison.  Could be anywhere from $30 to $200. 

Newspaper Delivery Person 

Could be $10-$20 depending on the service you receive.  

Note: Tips do not have to be cash.  Gift certificates to a restaurant or theater tickets are wonderful gifts.  Be perceptive and thoughtful when giving a tip or gift in lieu of a cash tip. Notice the person’s preferences.  

If you choose to give cash, present crisp bills in a card.   

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Relationship Advice: Poll of 13 to 85 year-olds

What do those 13 to 85 really want in The Best Date Ever?

1. Would you rather go on an old-fashion date or one of no gender expectations? 

A)    Yes

B)    No, I can open my own car door

C)    It doesn’t matter

Over 85% of all interviewed appeared to prefer old fashion dating manners. 

Most men stated that they want to provide a memorial evening including all the old fashion manners mentioned. 

20-30-year-old age group really want to know old-fashion manners rules.

2.  Is it appropriate for the woman to ask the man out for a date?

A)    No

B)    Yes

C)    It’s best if the man asks, but it’s alright if she does 


Both genders feel it’s best for the man to ask.

Most consider the restaurant date the most appropriate for the first date. 

3.  Should the man be expected to pick up the tab?

A)    Yes

B)    No

C)    Men pay for the first three dates 


If he wants a second date, he’d better pick up the first.
Many business and scholarly women vehemently disagreed--we can pay their own way.  Treat me well, but on an equal level.  Most declared that their memorable dates paid the tab though. 

4.  Kiss, shake hands...on First Date  

A)    Kiss

B)    Shake hands

C)    Hold the heavy breathing for later—sweet kisses are fine 


A not-too passionate kiss might be best.  Yes, it's fine to kiss on the first date.  The handshake would be fine as well, especially if this is the only date.   

Amazingly, most of those interviewed agreed.  This wasn't what I expected, especially from the 20-30 age group. 

Your thoughts?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Party Etiquette: Adult Birthday Party Hosting

Etiquette 101: How-to Host an Adult Birthday Party That Will Please Your Guests

Birthday Party Etiquette

Hosting an adult birthday party can be tricky, since many don't realize it isn't a gift-giving event.  If gifts are expected, the birthday baby could appear greedy.  Imagine an adult birthday party resembling a child's party focusing on gifts--very silly, indeed.  On the positive side, because gifts are not the focus, it opens up the possibility of hosting our own.  This is a plus for those of us who view our friends as the best birthday present.   Now we can have our cake and eat it too!

To assist us with hosting a party that will be viewed positive and polite, here's a bit of birthday party etiquette Q & A.


I invited 30 people (15 couples) to a birthday party I'm hosting for a 45-year-old male.  I designed the invitations to look like a ticket stub, which includes a door prize stub.  My question is this:
  • What are appropriate door prizes?
  • What should be the minimum and maximum cost of a door prize?
  • How many door prizes do I need to provide?

There is no one appropriate door prize, amount, or cost.  All is perceptual and a personal decision.  Base your choice of door prizes -- one per ticket -- on the formality of your party and your budget.    As host, you are responsible for all of the costs; please do not ask guests to pay for anything.  This includes their meals if hosted in a restaurant.

If I was hosting an informal party, my choices of door prizes would be bottles of medium priced wine, coffee table books (probably about wine or wine country), and baskets of goodies.  I’d spread the drawing of prizes out to create suspense.  Gift cards ($5-$10 maybe) to Starbucks would be nice too.  However, this is just my taste—coffee and anything wine related, throw in some chocolate and I’m in heaven.


I have a friend turning 30 who is planning her own birthday party.  The invitations stated that it is a 30th birthday party, but not to bring gifts.  Is it proper etiquette to plan your own birthday party?  Usually the spouse or friends host (especially since it is her 30th).  Originally, I wasn't going to go because I was so irritated by it.   However, I have since changed my mind since we have been friends for the past 23 years.  I am wondering what the proper etiquette on this is? 


If it is clear that no gifts are expected, it is considered appropriate to host one's own birthday party.  Therefore, she is fine.  Many single people want to celebrate their birthday with their friends; hosting their own party may be the only way they may.  So, go, enjoy, and don't feel badly.  

FYI: In the past, it was considered impolite to state that gifts are not expected in birthday party invitations.  Stating so would imply that we actually were.  However, with the expectation of gifts for everything these days, we now consider it is appropriate to do so. 


My brother wants to take his wife on a cruise for her 50th birthday.  He would like to "invite" a few friends and family to come along.   However, they will barely have enough to pay for their tickets.  How do we ask others to share the celebration, but to buy their own tickets? 


There is no polite way to "invite" and not host.  However, he could informally notify all about the trip, giving them the travel information if they wish to jump on the ship.  This way it is up to each person to contact the travel agent if they wish to travel--no inviting. 

Post of Interest

Friday, February 12, 2016

Holiday Etiquette: Rules for Men on Valentine's Day

How to Avoid Sleeping in the Dog House on Valentine's Day

Survival Guide for Men

Let's face it.  Valentine's Day is a perilous day for men.  She is optimistic with high expectations and you cannot get it right.  Sigh.  It's just not fair for the masculine among us.   Valentine's Day should be more about hearts and flowers and less about pouting and trepidations.   Therefore, I have created a short tutorial on women that just may help you stay out of the doghouse and wow the woman in your life this February 14. 

Understanding the Double X

There is a reason women tend to prefer "Chic Flicks".  It is all about romance.  Women like to feel special and loved.   Consequently, give her romance, as it beats out just about anything else you can give your ladylove.   Appeal to this side of her and your evening will involve more than just a peck on the check.  Watch a few of her favorite girly films to gain perspective of what she might appreciate.  Perhaps watch one together after a meal you have prepared.  She'll love it!

The one ultimate, not-to-break rule is that your gesture or gift be thoughtful.  Learn what she likes and do it.  It does not necessarily require cash, but it does require thoughtfulness. 

Romantic Ideas:

  • Surprise her with her favorite beverage, perhaps a nice sparkling wine. 

  • Cook her favorite meal pairing it with her favorite beverage.

  • Write a poem for her using significant events from your love story as material. 
Women can be like magpies.

Typically, women like shiny things, like jewelry and sparkling wine.  Of course, throwing in a few pieces of dark chocolate may seal the deal.  Both the sparkling wine and chocolate are relatively inexpensive.  However, jewelry can be expensive, so check out local thrift stores and estate sales.  Don't laugh.  There are some great finds when one looks.  Searching for the perfect piece of jewelry implies that you wanted to find something truly unique, something that suits her. Just make sure it is something you know she will love.

Women hint, so put your listening-ears on!

Women tend to hint rather than directly state what they want.   Most often, when women want something they do not actually need, they will say something along the lines of, "Wow, these earrings are half price this weekend!"  Avoid the temptation to reply with, "Why do you need another pair of earrings when you already have 50 other pairs," as this will definitely earn you the look and a heavy sigh.  Instead,   try smiling and changing the subject.  File the information in short-term storage and secretly purchase those half-off earrings.  Pair this with chocolate and -- again -- you have a winning hand. 

Important dos and don'ts for the special evening 

  • While it is not imperative to act on all of these suggestions, attempt at least one. 

  • Do listen and follow through

  • Do remember to be thoughtful

  • Do something special just for her

  • Do include chocolate and something sparkly

  • Do not forget that it is Valentine's Day

  • Do not invite your friends to watch sports at your house that night

  • Do not give just a purchased generic card -- it's thoughtless

  • Do not give her lingerie unless she likes wearing it.  It usually appears to be a gift more for you rather than for her.