7.30.2010

Chelsea Clinton to Marry, So Congratulations?

Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is about to be married. Offer Ms. Clinton "congratulations"? That would be: bad manners, in the extreme.

Manners Matter?
People don't talk about "manners" anymore. Why not? Manners, like laws, matter; the How we get along with each other ‘glue.’ To offer a woman --fiancée --bride-to-be "congratulations" is like the proverbial 'fingernails on a blackboard' -petting a kitty backwards, it isn't done. To say "congratulations" is equivalent to saying: 'oh you landed a man.’ Bad form. Proper thing to say to a bride: Best wishes.

Conversely, to a man -fiancé -groom it is appropriate to say "congratulations" as in: 'well done, a woman has agreed to spend her life with you.’ I wish people would remember that.

Wedding Customs
One does not hear "Here Comes the Bride" at the wedding of a Jewish couple. If if one does hear such: the person marrying the couple unlikely a rabbi, and/or the bride and/or the groom are not Jewish and/or ignorant of history. Jewish people do not play that at weddings, the person who wrote it: anti-Semite. Orthodox, Conservative or Reformed, don't expect the wedding to be on a Saturday, the Sabbath, at least not before sundown.

Traditional Japanese bride: doesn't wear white, it's the color of death in that culture. Considered extreme bad manners, for the same reason: gift of a clock or knives, signifies giver wishes death for the couple, Not a good idea.

Americans throw rice after the ceremony, which is supposed to represent fertility. Though not bad manners, I've always thought that was stupid, especially after one of my sorority sisters slipped on thrown rice and tumbled down a few steps of the church. Still remember it vividly, gave me a chill, I took it as a bad omen. Though she did have children, one of each and very happy marriage, one evening I turned on the news and saw her picture; since her husband, Russ, had an important high-profile job, I was stunned to hear: the day after a sicko let out of prison, he somehow got into her car's back seat, strangled her. RIP, Marie.

If one 'must' throw something at the newly-married: blow bubbles or toss flower petals and just wish the couple best luck.

In this country: it is extreme bad manners for a female guest to wear white; just not done as, of course, it detracts from the only one who does wear white at a wedding. You do know why brides wear white, right? lol, ah well. Traditionally: it is considered bad omen and bad manners to wear black, except for men. Black tails and waistcoat: heavenly.

Pop quiz: can you remember a single meal you've Ever eaten at a wedding reception? Nothing to do with manners, but couples and their parents spend enormous energy -worry -money on what to serve guests, on food. I think that's nuts.

I went to the wedding of every one of my sorority sisters, my own sister's two weddings; countless weddings connected to composers and related friends of my parents when my step-father was head of a studio. I cannot recall a single thing I ever ate at any wedding, including: my own.

The best wedding ever?
Gun to my forehead: couldn't say what we ate. Do remember I was at a table of the Bel Air Hotel with two: a famous scientist and a composer. We talked of the newly-married and ecology -sociology -earthquakes -galaxy -many subjects, debated with intensity, facts, wit and fun. Best I can summon: the flowers were stunning, heavenly, wanted to take all home.

So if you're in the middle of wedding-planning muddle: the people and the feeling matter. What to serve? Skip the pricey same old same old chicken -steak -lobster, go for the gold: order Chinese. WHO doesn't like Chinese –broccoli & mushrooms in oyster sauce -rice -noodle dishes –trays: bites –dim sum. The meat-eaters –the vegetarians –the hungry –the fussy –the grumpy will be happy. More variety than any boring 'plate' meal, de-lish, affordable, and no bank loan needed. If you're still not sure: just remember nobody will remember what was served anyway.

No One Gives 'Heads Up'
EXPECT the unexpected. Believe it: things happen. Day before my wedding I was so nervous I actually made a U-turn on a single-lane road going up hill on the edge of a cliff, in Palos Verdes. A cop, duh, stopped me. In talking learned that he had just started working, didn't know anyone on the hill. I invited him to the wedding! He invited me to go on my way, carefully –and to my delight, showed up. Stuff happens, ask any bride, expect things to go wrong. Go with the flow, accept whatever with grace, humor.

Dessert?
Besides wedding cake, what to serve? Does it have to be some pricey sugared empty calorie something? Instead, who wouldn't appreciate The Perfect: fruit, any kind. Always delish, plenty sweet, colorful, tasty. If you 'must' have the 'done up,' serve with a sorbet, say mocha or the always perfect: lemon.

Champagne?
The French bubbly an be expensive, instead Go for the delish, Italy's version of sparkling wine Prosecco, Affordable, at Trader Joe's only $6 bottle; tasty, goes with everything.

Gifting –in Recession?
My sister got married when I was still in art school. The 'wow' gift was just not on Possible list. What to do instead? I made the rounds of thrift shops until I found a large basket with lid, and large piece of bold fabric; off to the hardware store for self-stick shelf paper. Cut the shiny washable paper in a four-leaf 'clover' and applied to fabric center. Then to discount store for flatware with colored handles that matched, in this case red & white, matching plastic plates, cups and two containers with lids. Same fabric stitched inside of lid held utensils and viola: picnic basket for Two, unique and inexpensive.

Another: a couple got matching cotton kimonos, from Chinatown. For a wedding anniversary: two different kites. Colorful –not expensive yet fun. Beyond china and flatware, Yes, I do think "registering" for gifts is tacky, in poor taste, rather unpleasant. Just because stores selling pricey goods invented the idea to move merchandise: does not make it a good thing –or mandatory to 'obey.'

The gift that keeps on giving?
For reasons I've never understood: guests show up at the wedding with gift. Why? Bad manners, bad form, inconsiderate, and frankly: just dumb. WHOM do they imagine will deal with those gifts? The newly-married? How? Put the gifts –into the car of exhausted parents?

Ship the gift; take it round to the couple or to the parents before or after the ceremony, but do not bring a gift to the ceremony, that's thoughtless, bad manners. Also: newest thing, past few years, thieves crash weddings, steal gifts.

Whether the 'white elephant' or the thrilling, no matter what the gift: IF a guest chose to give, and it is not required one does, then the couple owes Thank You notehand-written AND Prompt. NO, Not via e-mail –Not pre-printed –Not written by someone else. Though exhausted from six-weeks of travel, I still have pride in the response from those who received my Thank-Yous, written the day after we returned. It Matters.

Money?
Would you spend $20,000 on a New Year's Eve party –on Thanksgiving? The average price of a wedding today supposedly: $24,000. A wedding reception: is just a party. Why spend so much money –on any party? Every dollar spent on a single day: money not available for the future. No GOOD reason to spend all that money on a party. What matters: Purpose of the day.

Wedding Planning: drains energy, detracts from where the focus belongs, on the future. The "must have" dress? Can be found: in second-hand shop. My aunt called once during her turn volunteering at charity thrift shop: did I know of anyone getting married, they had just received twelve wedding dresses, all new. Most expensive: $99. –not the budget-strangling $2 -$3,000.

The Truly important: make the day unique, in any ways you want. One way, for me: as we walked down the aisle I stopped to kiss my grandfather, grateful he was alive, well enough to be there. Unexpected, he had emotional reaction, made him cry. Another: the music, other things. Hundreds of customs around the world can be incorporated to honor family members -heritage, make wedding special, unique. None has to be costly.

'Must have' gift for guests?
Who says you can't use humor? Working on a client's opening night party, I decided guests, investors in a new bank, should get "silver" something gift at opening reception, to fit the theme. Kept trying to find 'perfect' Sterling do-dad, while construction was going badly. When it was determined bank wouldn't be finished in time for the opening: I decided to hold the party anyway -amid un-finished construction, debris, orange cones and all –black tie. Scraped Sterling do-dad: found a chocolateer who produced over-sized foil-wrapped "kiss" –thank you to each investor for patience. It was a hit, and a bargain.

If humor doesn't work for you, think of ecology. We're loosing Rhode Island-sized rain forest every week, so plant trees in guests name, donate to NRDC -to only ecology group registered to lobby Congress, Sierra Club or some-such.

After wedding day, No one talks about it, but: it is extraordinarily hard to BE married. Love, eventually, little to do with Marriage. The slob who drops wet towel wherever; messy, half-dressed at breakfast table not a thing of beauty. It takes consideration, patience, ability to Truly Listen, patience, manners.

Best Marriage?
There are so many ways a marriage can ‘sour.’ But Good manners like good posture: when you see it you Know, it's beautiful, and the 'glue' that keeps things together. Without good manners: why are you marrying that person? You can expect: trouble.

Like everyone, I've seen many married people, but the best marriage I've ever seen: the couple kept certain formality and always did two things. They dressed and went out, out EVERY Saturday night. –Movie & pizza alone, dining & dancing with others, all year, every year they kept 'date night.’ They and their children were better for it.

Though they had two young children, no matter what: at the end of the day they sat together, alone, over a drink and talked, every day. Tomato juice & lemon or cocktails didn't matter, the talking and the listening did.

BTW: if you want to raise healthy, non-addicted, productive, ‘together’ child do the same, only: lying down and in the dark. Start with subject or question that requires an answer, not a yes/no. Then be silent; really Listen.

Familiarity?
Good manners can go far, but eventually when it comes to 'close quarters,' one wants a bit of space. A very good thing: two sinks in the bathroom, or my preference: separate bathrooms. The 'charm' wears off quickly watching personal grooming.

Nutty?
In a life-long marriage: separate bedrooms makes marriage go smoothly. If that’s not possible: separate beds will ensure a good night's sleep and long life together. Discussing that with a Brit friend once, he suggested very Best thing for a long marriage: separate houses, side-by-side. lol, Brits have wicked sense of humor. But then: he was into year nine, I think, and going strong.

Consideration from good Manners makes for good relationship. To a bride –best wishes, to a groom –"congratulations," together: Best wishes for a long happy life together, Chelsea & Marc.

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tag: manners wedding mores custom planning catering, Chelsea Clinton

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