Darn near everyone could use a little tune-up in the etiquette department. Cotillion days are long behind us — and, if you’re like me, you only went because your mother insisted, resulting in a less-than-memorable experience.
Besides, our questions now extend far beyond table manners and the correct way to slow dance with the opposite sex. How do you politely break up with someone? How long do you really have to send a wedding gift? What does a black tie affair in 2015 mean, anyway?
These answers can be as mysterious as the solid particles in your grandmother’s holiday Jell-o mold.
There is hope for those looking for a refresher course in all things etiquette, in the form of a new book, Savvy Girl, A Guide to Etiquette. And the idea for the book started at a place where manners are key.
Dallas resident Bren Underwood was seated next to Savvy Girl founder Brittany Deal at Underwood’s best friend’s wedding, and the two instantly hit it off. Deal, a loyal reader of Underwood’s blog, Must Bring Buns, later approached her about entertaining advice for Deal’s first book, Savvy Girl, A Guide to Wine, which led to the collaboration of this etiquette book.
“Thanks to my English grandmother and mother, I have always had a passion for etiquette,” Underwood says. “Throughout my childhood, these two amazing women educated me about manners and instilled in me a true appreciation for the importance of a handwritten thank you note and beautifully set table.”
She says that although their guidance carried her part of the way, the rest she had to learn — through experience and researching the correct way to handle a situation. And, like anything, practice makes perfect. But she isn’t sitting too high on her horse, admitting that she is guilty of the occasional etiquette infraction too.
The book is broken down into different situations, including wedding, dating, social, table, on-the-job and the art of a good thank you note. The book also has a section that is particularly relevant to today’s society: tech etiquette.
“We live in an incredible time with access to incredible technology,” Underwood says. “That said, I think technology, phones for instance, sometimes distract us from the people we are with and prevent us from being in the moment.”
What does Underwood suggest to remedy this? Instead of Instagramming your way through a meal with friends, agree to put your phones in a pile so that everyone is in the moment. Did you get a great gift that you can’t wait to thank someone for? Instead of texting a “thank you,” send a handwritten letter that makes the person who gave you the gift feel good.
That is, as Underwood says, what etiquette is all about.
“The foundation of etiquette is making others feel comfortable and appreciated, and this will never fall out of favor,” Underwood says. “I think it’s an important mantra for this generation in particular.”
After reading through the book myself, I took notes on some questions that I have always pondered:
- Is it tacky to ask guests to strip the bed sheets before they leave? (Yes. Don’t ask unless they do.)
- If someone leaves a voicemail, can you text them back? (No, not unless you are texting to say you will call back soon.)
- When on a date, can you order the most expensive thing on the menu? (Go with moderately priced, as your date is paying.)
- Are bridesmaids expected to pay for their own bridesmaids dresses? (Yes ma’am. Time to cough up the cash.)
The list goes on in this easy-to-read guide, ensuring you are on your best behavior during all of life’s occasions. And these rules apply no matter how many years go by or how many parties you throw.
“These little acts of kindness and thoughtfulness will always be in fashion,” Underwood says.
Buy Savvy Girl, A Guide to Etiquette on Amazon. And if you have any etiquette questions for Underwood regarding a specific situation, she always takes questions on her contemporary etiquette and lifestyle blog, Must Bring Buns.