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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Be the Best Guest & More

Thursday, December 25, 2014


How to insure your children's good manners? How to be the perfect holiday guest? Do I have to ask her dad's permission to get married? Holidays can be breakup time for a friend, be kind and gentle.

Asking Her Father's Permission to Marry

My girlfriend’s family are traditonal and religious. We’ve been living together for a year and I’ve bought her a ring. Do I have to ask her father for her hand in marriage? We’ve been together for two years and I’m sure she’ll say yes, but if I ask him and he says No, then what? What is the etiquette for proposing in our situation? 

~ T.S., Far Hills, NJ

Yes, it would be polite to ask. But not just the father. It is more common these days to ask both parents at the same for their “blessing.” That is, if they are both her birth or adopted parents. If they are divorced, ask them separately — unless of course they’ve remained friends.

To conform to her traditionalist parent's sense of etiquette, ask for permission, or for their blessing, when your fiancée is not present.

They won’t say No. It is more than likely that they are expecting your engagement. Ask them over a casual breakfast of brunch. In your own words, start by saying you love her more than you’ve ever loved anyone.

‘Asking the father’ has modernized to include the mother. Same-sex couples rarely ask either parent. It goes without saying that when the parents are of the same sex, both would be asked -- if you're asking. 


He Broke Up with Me Before Christmas 

My boyfirend of three years broke up with me and Christmas is coming. I don’t know how to tell my family and friends. They had bets that he would proopse to me during the holidays. I’m too numb and angry to be depressed. What do I tell people? I don’t want everyone feeling sorry for me and have it be the main conversation of our family’s Christmas?  P.E, London, UK

It is what it is. Hard to explain just yet, because you don’t want to over-explain or complain — and have everyone feeling sorry for you.

Write him a letter expressing how you feel about him. But do NOT send it. Hide it so nobody stumbles upon it, but remember where you’ve hidden it. You might want to rip it up — or show it to him one day, if you get back together or reconcile to become good friends.

What to tell your friends and family is how you‘re feeling about the breakup. For the time being, try to rationalize that you ‘mutually agreed to end your relationship.’ Tell them that and no more. At the moment you just want to save face. Say that when you’re ready to talk about it, you will, but not to ask any questions just now. Give yourself time to breathe, reflect on what’s happened, and to sort out your feelings.

Take yoga classes and breathe your anger and disappointment out the door. You want to get your mind in a place where it is at peace with the fact that a breakup has accured. Otherwise, Christmas will become a pity party, and apparently you do not want that. 


Tips for being the best guest

Going to my girlfriend's grandparents for Christmas dinner and meeting them for the first time. She told me what to wear, to leave my baseball cap at home, and to buy her grandmother a box of chocolates, but what else do I need to know? 

~B.L., Charleston, SC

Rise to the occasion by arriving on time with a gift for the hostess and shake hands with your hosts. Make yourself a self-sustaining guest by hanging up your coat -- leaving your cellphone off and in your coat pocket -- and pitch in. Ask, "What can I do to help?"

Circulate and make a point of talking to the other guests. To catch up on what's going on in the world, whether it is the fall of the Russian ruble, cyber spying from North Korea, or the opening of Cuba, catch the buzz at the Skimm.com. 

During dinner, stand up from your seat and make a very short toast such as one of these:

Here's to the day of good will, cold weather, and warm hearts!

Joy to the world -- and especially to all of you!

Peace and plenty for many a Christmas to come.  ~Didi

Checking the children's holiday manners

My aunt is a stickler for good manners and she's coming for Christmas dinner. What manners are a must for children four and six-years-old?

~Alice, Providence

The day before Christmas role play good manners with your children. How to be a good host and what to say -- and not say. Start by letting them take turns answering the doorbell to welcome guests with a cheery "Welcome!" -- with eye contact and a handshake. Practice eye contact with a couple of staring matches.

Show them how to open a present even if they don't like the present, and encourage them to find something nice to say about the gift.

Placing their napkin in their lap and eating with a knife, fork, and spoon are easier for some, but they will become neater with practice and through watching others at the table.

What to say as a toast or for grace. Suggest something such as, "I'm grateful for the love of my family." Help them be be grateful for something that is not a toy or material object.  


Do you have a dilemma about love, family and life in general for Didi? Go ahead and "Ask Didi."  If your Question is used, we can withhold your name and/or location. 


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