Etiquette by Letitia

Your very own questions answered by Letitia herself.

Now you have the resource of America's definitive etiquette authority right at your fingertips. Find Letitia's answers to many of the common etiquette questions our clients have come across while designing their announcements and invitations. Here you will find everything from tips on writing thank-you notes, to guidance on birth announcements and even advice to put your mind at ease over your upcoming wedding.

Feel free to send us new questions - we will get a reply back to you promptly and select some questions to be answered by Letitia herself and posted right here in the etiquette section!

Birth Announcements

Holiday

Wedding

Party Invitations

Stationery

Moving

Birth Announcements

What is the proper information to be included on a birth announcement?

Of course the name of the baby and, if the baby has a nickname, provide it in quote marks underneath his or her name. You will also want to include the date, the time, the weight, the names of the parents, even if they're not married, and perhaps the town in which the baby was born. And, if you want to have more, you can put down the name of the hospital in which the baby was born and the address of the parents, and that's enough. Don't say no gifts or "see gift registry at Neiman Marcus". Personally I think that's in terrible taste, the less said the better. Leave it in people's hands and they should react in some way. They can write a note or send a gift.

It is traditional to include birthweight on an announcement, but what happens if you've had a premature child or an extremely large child?

Well no, if the child you had is an extremely large child or born premature, there is no reason to draw attention to it. But most babies come between 6 and 9 pounds and people are just sort of curious. Really only the parents care, but it's good to put down.

When should the announcements be sent out and when is the latest that it can be sent out?

In a perfect world, birth announcements would be sent out almost immediately. If you can, work on getting ready to order them during the last couple of weeks of the pregnancy. You can have them picked out and everything organized so you just fill in a few blanks and then you can get them printed fast. Get the easy stuff out of the way, like buying stamps at the post office that are appropriate, sort of fun for babies. Have that all ready so that once the baby's born it can be done easily. Of course a perfect world rarely happens and suddenly weeks have gone by and that's fine. At some point your little one will let you find the time to announce him or her to the world. The latest you should get them out I think would be six months. You don't want the baby growing up and getting married before you announce its birth.

Is there a special way of writing announcements for twins?

No, I think it's better not to. It's a surprise element just to see their names. Put them on both sides of the announcement so there's no question that they are two different people instead of one horribly long name.

Is it necessary to write a personalized note on each announcement?

No. The mother and the father will be too busy and too tired to do that. If to a grandmother or an aunt or uncle or something, yes. You can say, little John looks just like you. Do something that's obviously sort of a joke. Other people, no. They should come back to you. Then, when they receive the announcement should call you or send you a note or just send up fireworks of joy.

Is it necessary to include a photograph with my birth announcement?

No, because the baby's hospital photographs are all simply terrible. They all look alike and, quite frankly, it is usually not a very attractive picture. If you want to send a photo, wait until the baby is attractive, which he or she will be by one month old, already has a personality. Then you can send out some photographs.

Are people who receive birth announcements expected to send gifts?

They're not forced to, they're not expected, but it's just a nice thing to do. A letter, certainly, in lieu of gifts. If you're having a tough time financially, don't send a gift. But send a note saying, we're so happy for you. React to the announcement. Make a telephone call, do something. Speaking of stationery, I think stationery makes a very cute gift, with a monogram or the baby's new name, any kind of stationery. That's a really sweet gift.

I kept my maiden name, how can I best word my child's birth announcement?

Robert Anderson and Mary Lewis Smith announce with great joy the birth of their daughter, Mary Louisa etc., etc. Just put both their names up there and put her name, the name that she goes by, and if people wonder whether they are married or not, they can find out through other means. The invitation doesn't have to spell out that they are married. Many women keep their own name after they're married and nobody who would look at that and say, oh they're not even married, not in today's age. A lot of women just keep their name, so it's nobody's business anymore whether they're married.

Does my baby need stationery, thank you notes or calling cards?

It's very nice to have stationery for a baby or a child to send, for example if one of your contemporaries has a baby, for your baby's card to be in the gift to the new baby. It's adorable. So, just have the name printed in the middle like a calling card. It's adorable, very sweet to go with the gifts.

We have adopted a child, is it appropriate to send out announcements, and what is the best wording?

Of course, an announcement is always appropriate to let people know about a new member of your family. "Mary and Bob Campbell are happy to announce that a wonderful young man has joined our family, George Louis Campbell, born on? and you put down his birth date, even if it is two or three years previously. And that's all you have to say. If you want to you can say who came to us from China, if this is a Far Eastern or South American child I think it's good to apprise people of that fact.

Holiday

I am worried about offending friends of different faiths by sending my Holiday cards.

You have two choices: What you do is you either find a card that is neutral, non-specific without any religious connotation greeting. Or you can have two sets of Christmas cards made. One of them say, May the Joy and Holiness of this Season Be With You Always, May the Lord Bless You in the New Year, or something like that. Then another set made for all your business friends and so forth that should say, Seasons Greetings and Happiest of New Years. You can say Seasons Greetings or Happy Holidays or Happy New Year, you're not going to offend the people of any faith.

How wide a circle of people are you expected to send Holiday Cards to?

Wide, very wide. Holiday cards are a wonderful way of reaching out to those you have not seen or spoken with during the year - why limit the number of lives you can touch? And further, in tough times, you should triple your holiday card order because you may not be able to afford gifts for everyone. So send those people a card. If you've given them a gift every year, they are going to expect one this year. So you send them a card around December 4th or 5th, and say I'm terribly sorry we're tightening the budget this year, no gifts but I had to tell we send you our love and best wishes for the season, etc. etc. So a handwritten note on a Christmas card or Holiday Greetings card will take the place of the gift.

Is it necessary to sign each and every card?

Yes. It is insulting to have a printed card come with only a printed name. As far as the recipient is concerned, nobody from that family saw a card or signed it. It might just not as well have been sent. If you're a celebrity, you write "Hope this is a great one, love Harry." - very simple, but do not let it go through the mail just with that printing. It's just so business-like, it's like sending a small cheap calendar. I hate those little things.

What about beyond the signature, must I write a note?

Well, say cheers to your family or hope all goes well. You don't have to make specific names. You are sending a holiday card, not a letter. You could write a hundred of them while you're on the airplane and not worry about what you're writing, just make them personal.

When should I plan to mail out my holiday cards?

As soon as you have them addressed. The mail is so slow, worse every year. Mail them immediately, and you have to get your act together and order them by September, early October. Get on the ball and do it and get them out early. They're appreciated when they come early, they're not lost in the barrage of catalogs - it will make an impression. First Christmas cards always make an impression. The earliest is the day after Thanksgiving. At the latest, cards really should be sent by the day before Christmas. But since I'm so busy, I'll send many Christmas cards after Christmas. Up until January 1st I think you're okay when you say, I'm sorry I'm late and you explain why. After January 1st it becomes a bit of a joke.

How quickly do thank you notes for holiday gifts need to be sent, and is a note always expected?

A note should always be expected. So many have bad manners today. Generations are being born without anyone teaching them that notes are important and they think email will do it. Well the email will do it for the little presents. If you got a present from your bank, a key chain with the bank logo on it, and it is sent by the person who handles your account, you send an email back and say "Jerry, thanks a lot for the key chain, it's already in use." That's fine. If Jerry, who handles your account, sends you a case of Florida oranges, you write him a letter, you do not send him an email. And you say "...that was the nicest thing, you got us some vitamin C for Christmas, thank heavens we need it." Just two sentences, that's all you have to say. Just acknowledge the gift because otherwise that person is going to wonder, did you get it, do I dare ask, it's embarrassing to ask.

Wedding

How do I decide whom to invite to my wedding?

You should sit down long beforehand with both parties involved and get some ground rules established. All the factors need to be discussed; from family size to geography to who is paying for the wedding - get it all out in the open. As in, "Look we're going to have 200 people, we're not going to give them dinner, it is going to be a cocktail party. 125 come from the bride's side, 75 come from the groom's side." If that's understood right at the beginning, and then the groom's family wants a few more, you've got a basis to work from.

We've got too many people on the list - How can I possibly cut back?

The first thing to realize is that guests make the wedding. Better to cut down on the menu - don't serve filet mignons, serve meatloaf if you have to. Cut down on the extravagance of the food and wines that are served but don't cut down on the people who deserve to be there.

Invite your truly great, old friends that you grew up with and invite your best college friends as well as those new friends you love and adore - get a sprinkling of all your favorites. Then explain to the people you've invited that you plan to have a small wedding so they don't expect to see every "Tom, Dick and Harry" there. Tell them to please keep quiet as you're very strictly limited on invitations and they'll understand. Realize you may end up hurting some feelings no matter what you do.

The one group you must take care of is family, family members and those who helped raise you - put them at the head of the list. Take care of family because family gets very touchy. If you leave out cousins, 2nd cousins, they just get furious. Even invite that cousin you've never gotten along with. Weddings should be a time to overlook family problems. You cannot leave out the "steps" and the "halves" from another marriage, you have to invite them all, so put them right up there on the front of the guest list. Weddings are supposed to be a time of joy and that starts by being inclusive.

Should I invite my co-workers?

This is another area that is likely to breed envy among people. In a close knit office environment, they all think they should be invited. I know several young people who have solved this by not inviting any of them to the wedding, but by having a special party for them alone. They'll get a cousin or grandfather, their uncle or a friend to have a cocktail party and invite all co-workers and have a long cocktail hour just with them and the bridal couple and they'll feel that they've been at a wedding reception and feel special which is great.

Should I order extra wedding invitations?

You always want to order more invitations than you think you will need. You never know, you might want to add on some guests after the first invitations go out and you will definitely discover people you forgot to include in the first go around. Order more because I have seen many weddings where guests have actually been asked to give back their invitations so the bride can stuff them in a new envelope to send out again! It happens!

When and to whom should I send Wedding Announcements?

Wedding announcements are sent to everybody you know can't make the wedding. Everyone you wanted to invite to the wedding and couldn't. All your pals from Kansas City where you grew up. You just sweep them all into a huge list and make sure they get the announcement.

They are mailed the day of the marriage, but after the ceremony. You have to be superstitious about it, never mail them before, after. Have somebody there, I always tell brides to make one of the bridesmaids or one of the ushers have a big sack of them with stamps, addressed at the wedding and they slip out after the ceremony, during the reception and put them in the mailbox. People love to see the date of the wedding on the envelope.

When should the invitations be mailed out?

I believe in 8 weeks before. Others say 6, but I think 8. Since half of the mail is delayed at the post office and so forth.

We're having a no-children policy at our wedding. How do I address this situation on the invitation?

You don't address this on the actual invitation. You make a few well-placed calls. You have your bridesmaids or your family say, you know I hate to tell you but they can't accommodate kids at this upcoming wedding. Please arrange for somebody to take care of them. It's terrible to put it on the invitations. It's such a strong negative to have printed. So just make a few telephone calls and tell them to spread the word, and they will.

What should I consider concerning addressing my envelopes? Do they need to be calligraphy? Are labels terrible?

Labels are terrible. Weddings are one time everything should be done by hand. Even if you can only get a high school student with bad handwriting, it doesn't matter, it just has to be handwritten.

What information should be included on a wedding or marriage announcement?

George Harrison and Barbara Smith, if she's keeping her name, or Mr. and Mrs. George Harrison announce, you can say "announce the happy news of their nuptials" or "We are happy to announce that on January 1, 2002 we were married at Santa Barbara at the Church of the Holy Ghost, Santa Barbara, California". Then down below that, new residence and new telephone number. Or you can just make it as personal as you want to and just say, "We finally did it. We did it in a little church that we know and love". You can ham it up with announcements.

Are the recipients of announcements expected to send a gift?

No, but if they're a good friend they will. No, they're not expected.

Will my wedding guests know where to send gifts?

You can put an address on the wedding invitation "at home after June 3rd" or you can just show it on the return address. If you're going on a cruise and you haven't been living together, you're going to get wedding presents sent and there is going to be nobody there to get them. So what you do is you say, "at home after January 20th" on the invitation or on a separate At Home card. If the wedding is on December 20th, and you put your parent's address as the return address they will get the RSVP's and the early wedding gifts. Some guests will wait until you're back and you're in residence and send your wedding presents then, which isn't a bad idea either. Many different situations can be addressed with the use of an At Home card.

What about same sex marriages?

Well yes, there are announcements and invitations for commitment ceremonies. Traditional wording is fine or it is obviously at the discretion of the participants to decide how formal an affair this will be.

Party Invitations

How far in advance should invitations be extended for a more informal party?

Two weeks is really it. One week only if you're in a small town, you know they're not going to be busy for a cocktail party. Any kind of a meal you need two weeks at least, three weeks is preferable in a city like New York.

How is the best way to word an invitation if there more than one host for an event?

Good question. An event hosted by a business, you have to list the hosts in order of rank. The CEO's name comes first, the President's comes second, the Vice President, Chairman, etc., the Board of Directors underneath that. If it's just informal, if four people are giving a cocktail party of equal, four managers list them across the top alphabetically -- George Abbott, Mary Barnes, David Edison -- across the top. If you have to explain their titles or the companies they are with, do it vertically. List them alphabetically and put George Abbott, Western Electric Company. Mary Barnes, Sears and Roebuck...that kind of thing so they all know who these people represent.

What about a social situation, bridesmaids throwing a shower, for example. Is that alphabetical as well?

Yes, alphabetical. Though, if it is at one bridesmaid's home, you would put her name first.

Is there a certain way the date and the time should be written on an invitation?

On a formal invitation you write out "Four O'clock". You don't use p.m. and a.m. With a more informal occasion you don't need to send an invitation with "Four p.m." written out, everyone's going to know it's not four in the morning.

What about for dates, we have an awful lot of questions about how to correctly word the date?

Write out the month, don't abbreviate it. Put the numbers, and forget the year. That's for formal invitations, unless it's a New Year's Day Party -- then you want to make that year stand out

Is it rude to put an end time on an invitation?

No, it is not rude. If time is an issue, you must absolutely do it and plan to turn the bar off 30 minutes later. Must do it, put 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. People need to know that so they can arrange their dinner dates, their pick up times for the children, everything. It's helpful for everyone.

I'm unsure about whether to use RSVP or regrets only on my invitation.

I'm against regrets only. It's a negative. You're asking only the people who aren't going to come to your party to make themselves known. Most times people who are not going to show aren't going to bother to contact you either. With an RSVP you get to hear the good with the bad and get excited about your event.

What about having nothing at all, just an invitation with no RSVP?

Well that's what people are doing now because nobody RSVPs anyway. So, yes people are doing this more and more. You just have to take a guess at how many people you'll get. If you're in a large city and it rains, you're going to lose two-thirds of the party, your guest list. If you're in a small town, you're going to have 95% show up. You just figure on where you are and what the weather is and make a calculated guess. I still push for using them, an RSVP helps take the guesswork out of it and it does give your party a bit more flair.

When should children receive their own invitations?

On a wedding invitation they should receive their own invitations from the age of 13.

Stationery

I have been given a complete wardrobe of stationery and don't know how best to use it. When is the appropriate time to use letter sheets versus note cards versus flat cards or calling cards?

Well, for calling cards it is quite obvious when you are to use them. You send them as gift enclosures and that's really all you do. Of course correspondence cards or "Flat cards" can be used for anything - they are incredibly versatile. You use them for a thank you note, you can turn them into invitations you can even stick a stamp in the corner and send them as a postcard - I've done that. Fold over notes are strictly for thank you notes for things like wedding gifts, traditional gifts, Mother's Day gifts. Letter sheets, when you have a lot to say, use a letter sheet. When you're going to write a long letter with an update of the family, use a letter sheet.

Should a mother write thank you notes for her newborn?

Definitely, yes. Not only a mother, a mother or father in today's age where women are working. A mother or a father, definitely. Young couples both working. Whoever is at home, not working, should undertake the social correspondence chores.

When is the latest you can send a thank you note?

It is never too late. I've known people who've sent a thank you note for a wedding gift, brides, three years later and the people who received it were so thrilled, so surprised. It's never too late. The trick is, if you've waited a year, you have to make it a clever note.

At what age should children write their own thank you notes and what are some guidelines for how to get my child to write them?

Children should write thank you notes from birth or have them written for them, of course. Mom or Dad or even a caretaker can do it. Mom can leave a list of people who have to be written thank you notes. "Dear Jonesy, Georgie loves his porcelain cup. He loves all the rhymes on it, etc. etc. I'm sure he's smiling because of your cup" And that's all you have to say, you've done it. You've written for him.

Then, when the child is four, you guide his hand over the notepaper. "Dear Mary, I thank you for your birthday party. Love, George." Guide his hand over the paper, it looks weird and jerky but they'll know it came from the child. The child knows it, the child is aware of it. When he's 7 or 8, you write it down and then he painfully prints it out, makes mistakes, runs up and down the page, it doesn't matter. "Dear Mary, I really had a good time at your birthday party. Thank you very much, George."

When he's 9 he should write a better note and you have to be on his back. You have to sit down with him, hand him the stamps and address the envelopes for him. But make him write the notes out and promise him all kinds of rewards - we'll go to the football game when you finish. By the time they are 12 you should not have to say, have you written that thank you note Louise? You probably will have to, but you shouldn't have. By the time the child is 14, definitely he or she should be in a regimen where it's an automatic response the day after and mom should keep giving him boxes of stationery and note cards as a reminder that sits there on his bureau. Send him a new beautiful fountain pen and say I'm expecting you to use this for your thank notes.

When is the appropriate time to send a sympathy note?

Immediately, and if you missed out on "immediately" because you didn't know the person died, whenever you hear the news and if you don't hear it until a year later, write then. "Dear Cynthia, I didn't know about George's passing. I'm so sorry and would have called you. I hope you're doing alright, etc." It's never too late. It's like thanking somebody for a gift.

Moving

What will I need to do in order to prepare for a move?

Whether you are moving due to a new job, new lifestyle or because you’re just in need of a new scene, there’s a common thread in relocating: the anxiety that comes in undertaking such a daunting task.

In order to make your move the easiest it can be, FineStationery.com has compiled a checklist to help you organize the process of moving your life from one place to another. Use these practical moving tips as a guide to help make your move as smooth as possible.

2 Months Prior to Moving…
  • Research your new town on the Internet or purchase a copy of their local newspaper to familiarize yourself with the community.
  • Decide if the move will be do-it-yourself or if you’re hiring movers. (If the latter, call moving companies and get estimates on the move.)
  • Construct a floor plan of your new home and map out where to put furniture.
  • If you have children, contact their current school for their records. Then contact their new school and find out how to transfer the papers.
  • Keep a log of moving-expense receipts as some may be tax deductible.
  • Gather and organize important documents such as medical records, legal documents and birth certificates.
  • Order moving announcements to inform friends and family about your relocation.
  • Contact any renovators, such as plumbers or carpenters, necessary to ensure your new home is ready to move in the day of your arrival.
1 Month Prior to Moving…
  • If you are moving a great distance, order luggage tags for parcels you are taking with you on the plane.
  • Check with your insurance company to see how possessions are covered during the move.
  • If you’re doing the move yourself, reserve a rental truck, or if you’re hiring a company to help, go over your estimates to decide on the best movers for your relocation.
  • Order return address labels to match your new location.
  • Give proper notice to any clubs or organizations you belong to and ask if there are similar groups in your new town.
  • Purchase a gift for your realtor. Try a stamp or embosser, notepads or personalized stationery.
  • Disconnect any old utilities and call to set up new accounts.
  • Don’t forget to send out your moving announcements!
2 Weeks Prior to Moving…
  • Go through your house and throw away anything you don’t want to take in the move. Be honest with yourself – it will make the move that much easier.
  • After sorting through your belongings, hold a moving sale to sell what you and your family won’t be using in the future.
  • Notify creditors of your new address.
  • Get a head start and begin packing items you do not use on a regular basis.
1 Week Prior to Moving…
  • If driving, service your car in preparation for the move.
  • Finish packing for the move.
1 Day Prior to Moving…
  • Take a trip to the bank to empty and close your safe-deposit box. Call banks around your new town to set up new accounts.
  • Obtain cash or traveler’s checks. You’ll need it to pay the movers.
  • Make an inventory of items being moved to your new home. This inventory can act as a checklist on move-in day and will ensure everything gets to its new destination.
  • Pack small suitcases of necessities for the move, similar to packing for a short vacation.
Arrival at New Address…
  • Note your utility meter readings and make sure all utilities are functioning properly.
  • Watch the movers and go over the inventory checklist you made earlier to make sure nothing is missing.
  • Give the kids responsibilities such as unpacking items for their bedrooms. It will make them feel involved in making the new house your home.
Once You’ve Settled In…
  • Remember to give your realtor his or her gift.
  • Set the date and order invitations for your Housewarming Party or Open House.
  • If you’ve moved out of state, get a new driver’s license and tags for your car.
  • Write thank you notes to those who helped with the move.
We wish you luck on your move and an easy transition into your new nest. If you have any questions regarding suggestions for realtor gifts, moving announcements or housewarming invitations, please contact a FineStationery.com consultant at 1-888-808-3463.