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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Solving Family Dilemmas

Thursday, May 14, 2015


What is the etiquette for naming a baby?

Who owns a family first name? My brother wants to use my daughter’s first name for his soon-to-be-born baby. Our daughter is named after our deceased mom, Hazel.
My brother and his wife are having a girl and insist on naming her Hazel. They say because we use my daughter’s middle name, Charlotte, as her first name, the name Hazel, even though it is on her birth certificate, is fair game.

My wife is beside herself. She says there will be two first cousins both with the same first name of Hazel, as well as the same last name, in our local school and summer camp. They will be less than a year apart in age. How to we resolve this dilemma amicably?  

~A.W., Charleston, SC

Yes, your daughter’s legal first name is Hazel, but the name she goes by is Charlotte (her middle name). Hazel is also your deceased mother’s first name. Since you are actually using your daughter’s middle name (Charlotte) for her first name, your mother’s name (Hazel) is not being utilized — because your daughter is not called Hazel.

It seems unreasonable if you’re using the name Charlotte, that your mother’s name is not fully appreciated. Especially, since your brother wants to use it for your mother’s granddaughter.
What is the etiquette for naming a baby?

You have two options here. Either start calling your daughter by her legal first name Hazel, or be a good sport: out of respect, share your mother’s name with your brother’s daughter — your niece.

Think of it this way. In not utilizing the name Hazel, you are hanging on to your mother’s name in an unfair manner. It’s like the person who pretends he’s saving a seat in the movie theatre for his date, when he is actually saving the seat for his overcoat. 


What to say about your downsized wedding?

My daughter has a huge heart and is very social. Once engaged, friends came from out of nowhere and of course she told them all they would be invited to her country club wedding. All of a sudden her small family wedding turned into a circus for 500 guests, most of whom my husband and I do not even know.

The hard part for her dad and me is that her younger sister had a lovely wedding with 125 guests that seemingly went off without a hitch. But our older daughter’s dream wedding surpassed our budget. Her plan would have bankrupted us. She understands. Her fiancé understands.

Amazingly, we’ve managed to scale back the size of the wedding, simplify the venue, trim down the plans, and cut costs.

But now the bride and her fiancé are faced with the humiliation of having to disinvite guests who text wanting to know if they are still invited.

I understand that traditionally all guests invited to an engagement party are invited to the wedding, but it was not possible. They assume the invitation will be forthcoming and some have even sent presents from the bridal registry. (Perhaps hoping that its not too late to secure an invitation.)

Do we have to notify those who were invited to the engagement party but are not being invited to the wedding even though they have sent gifts that we’ve returned to the sender or to the store? And do we include a note saying exactly what ……?

It’s extra work for me, but I feel they should not accept gifts from those who are not being invited to the wedding, and they should receive some kind of note explaining why the gift was returned. We are in need of your professional advice.

~Mother-of-the-Bride, Charleston, SC

You are not alone in facing the dilemma of what to say about your daughter’s downsized wedding. This happens more often than not. It sounds as though you have done everything you had to do to create a manageable budget.

Be assured that your daughter and her fiancé do not have to return any gifts that were sent as an engagement present. I know, sometimes it is hard to figure out if an over-the-top gift was meant as a combined engagement-and-wedding present.

Certainly presents sent prior to the engagement party or shortly thereafter and the sender attended the engagement party, were a gift for having attended (or having been invited to) the engagement party.

Also, if the wedding couple’s bridal registry had not been activated before the engagement party, any presents not sent from their registry would not have to be returned.
Nevertheless, any present received before six weeks prior to the actual wedding, could easily be considered an engagement present. Once the wedding invitations arrive in the destined recipients’ hands, any present received from a wanna-be guest should be returned in its original box to the store, or person, with a short but sweet note.

As to what your lovely daughter the bride and her fiancé should text back to those who asked what’s up with their invitation? Leave that to them. Simply said, it is a small family wedding. 


Keeping family together

By accident, my son-in-law spilled car oil on my son’s brand new expensive carpet at Christmastime. He responded quickly and offered to have the rug cleaned by a company he found on his iPhone, which was reasonably priced. Nevertheless, My son’s wife insisted that the carpet be sent to a cleaning company specializing in using environmentally safe products that is very expensive. My son-in-law declined to pay the amount asked.

The outcome is that my son and daughter’s spouses refuse to attend the same family gathering together. As the patriarch of the family I’m wondering how to resolve the problem, because my wife and I enjoy having our whole family with us for the Memorial Day, the Fourth and Labour Day holidays so that our grandchildren, who live in different states, can get to know one another. 

We’ve tried to stay neutral.

All my wife wants for Mother’s Day is to find a solution for keeping the family together. What’s your advice?  

~J.L., Nantucket, MA

Keeping family together takes patience, social skills, and awareness of all the family nuances. Not an easy task.

It is up to your son-in-law to help pay for the cleaning of the carpet by giving your son a check for the amount he would have paid to use the carpet cleaning company of his choice.
It would be disrespectful of your son-in-law to shirk the responsibility. However, don’t confront him at a family gathering. Talk to him ahead of time and as soon as possible, so that you can all put this behind you in time for summer fun.

Encourage your son-in-law to pay something toward the cost of cleaning the carpet. Otherwise this petty little problem will morph and split the family. 


Making a memorial service private

How do we contain the numbers at a memorial service in our church?  My husband died and a good friend is hosting a dinner reception after the service, which will take place in three weeks. The problem is this. The restaurant can only accommodate so many people, because of the strict fire code. My apartment is too small. Relatives and friends are coming from other states, our children's friends will feel they have to attend, and everyone will expect to be invited to some sort of reception afterwards, which I cannot afford to host.  

~N.W., Providence

Even if there has been an obituary in your local paper, take out a paid obituary announcing your husband's death and stating that there will be a 'private memorial service.' Let the church know the service is private and by invitation only. The church should be able to rope off the main area of the church for invited mourners. The officiate should NOT announce the reception following the service. People not personally invited will attend the service and sit in the areas of the church not roped off. You cannot keep people out of the church, but you can delegate who sits where. If there is no announcement or information in the memorial program, people will pick up on the fact that the reception is private.  


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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