Formal Titles: Doctor Dilemma

Q. Is it proper to use Dr. rather than Mr. on a wedding announcement if it is a DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) not MD?

A. No, you use the title Dr. for anyone who has earned it and uses it professionally and socially. A DMA is just as entitled to be called Doctor as is an MD.

Dining Etiquette: Signals for the Sated

Q. Can you think of any possible ways that you can signify that you have completed your meal?

A. When you are finished, you place your silverware diagonally at the right side of your plate, with the handles at about three o’clock and the ends at about eleven o’clock. You do not connect utensils by placing the knife in the slots of the fork. This is the traditional and correct way to indicate that you are finished. You do not push your plate away, put your napkin on the table, or give any other signals.

Formal Wear: What is appropriate?

Q. I have been invited to a ‘Black Tie Optional’ wedding for August. As I have been a family friend of the bride since her birth, I am wondering what would be appropriate to wear. I am a past 50 year old female.

A. A knee to tea length, as is your style preference, cocktail dress or suit, or at least dressy dress, is just right. If you prefer to wear pants a dressy pant ensemble is okay, too.

Wedding Celebration: A Proxy Party

Q. My son is getting married out of state over Thanksgiving weekend. We aren’t inviting many of our local friends to the wedding due to the distance and Holiday travel. We would like to have a local party for our friends who will not be invited to the wedding to meet the bride. What should we call it, if anything? Is it OK to have it this summer before the wedding? I am thinking of having a Sunday brunch. How should I word the invitations?

A. That is a great idea, and you can simply invite friends to a brunch. If you wish, you can write “in honor of Steve and Jodie” on the invitation so guests know there is a purpose other than getting together. This would not be a gift-bearing event, however, so you don’t want to call it a shower.

Formal Wear: What does that look like, exactly?

Q. We are invited to a summer wedding and we were wondering if formal wear requires a suit or if my husband could wear just a sports jacket and tie with a pair of slacks.

A. A formal wedding usually means black tie – the words often are used interchangeably. If black tie or formal is not used on the invitation, then a dark suit, shirt and tie are expected for late afternoon/evening weddings. For daytime into late afternoon, a sport coat, slacks, shirt and tie is fine.

Bridal Shower Gifts: Gifts as the Main Act

Q. What is the correct form regarding opening gifts at a wedding shower? This is a shower for the couple, where mostly family will be attending. Should they wait until after the shower to open their gifts?

A. No, a shower is all about gifts and the opening of the gifts is the main “entertainment,” in addition to refreshments, at the shower. Therefore, time and space should be set aside so the couple can open their gifts with family is gathered around to share the moment.

Online Chat Rooms: Understanding Boundaries

Q. My wife is a member of an online support group for people who are going through difficulties in their marriages. Her involvement with the community has made our marriage stronger and so I support her continued involvement with the community wholeheartedly; however, I recently discovered that during her nightly (and necessary) chats with members of her group, she was using term like ‘dear’ and ‘sweetie’ to members in the chat room and on personal IMs. There is also the usage of those cute icons being sent with her messages, like ‘hugs’, ‘winks’, etc. I told her that I felt these things are not proper and explained my reasons why. I have no problem with her being on line with them, since I realize that is it is important for her to be with them, but what I call the affectionate stuff, is not appropriate. She told me that it was OK and they all do it and it is normal between the members of their group. I questioned this since I know that she is sending these to the male members. Is this appropriate etiquette? Even amongst male friends? Even though her motives are good, how does the one on the other end of the conversations interpret these things? I feel it can open too many doors for someone who may misinterpret her friendliness. ]

A. It probably is true that the group uses affectionate terms because they are connected and feel comfortable with one another, and there is no flirtation meant or interpreted. Each circumstance is different, and this probably is well intended and received on those terms. In general, however, you are correct that one must be careful using too many terms of endearment with others who could misconstrue one’s attempt at friendliness as being an invitation for a closer involvement, and it is best not to use them because one doesn’t really know for sure how something meant innocently is being received. It is a matter of personal safety and of not being misinterpreted that you are concerned about, but you might let this one go assuming the group isn’t suddenly planning to meet or change the manner of their relationships.