Responding to Condolences: Gratitude Does Not Go Bad

Q. I lost my husband some six months ago. My family and I received mounds of sympathy cards, food, flowers and money. We received over some 500 cards and correspondences. I have attempted to set up help from friends and family to respond to many of these, but the scheduling often fell through. I have responded publicly and with personal correspondences to some, as well as organizations/affiliates and co-workers. I however have not fully taken care of corresponded to many individuals that I desire. During these past six months multiple changes, family and work related matters and my health have impacted my ability to organize and stay focused to this task in a timelier manner. Can you advise we on the appropriate time frame and window of opportunity that I may still express my gratitude to these people? Also, is there a timeline on a public newspaper thank you?

A. I am sure that most people who sent notes and gestures of condolences do not expect a response from you in your darkest period of mourning, or any immediate action whatsoever. There is no definitive timetable which you should adhere to when sending out your thank you notes, and it is never too late to express your gratitude. Simply attend to your list as best you can, when you are feeling up to the task. If your close family members or friends are not able to write them on your behalf, it is better that you do so personally when you feel you are able. We are not aware of any protocol associated with a newspaper thank you, as we recommend that all notes of condolence or acts of kindness (except when a printed condolence card is sent without a personal message added, which does not require an acknowledgement) be acknowledged with a handwritten note.

Wedding Registries: Word to the Wise, Word of Mouth

Q. How would you let guests coming to your wedding know where you are registered? Do you include that in the invitation or is it only appropriate in a shower invitation. We don’t want to make people feel like they have to give a gift but if they want to then we would like to share that information.

A. It is never correct to include registry information on any invitation of any kind. This type of information should be shared by word of mouth, told by close friends and family of the bride and groom to guests who inquire.

Wedding Roles: An Honorary Mother of the Bride

Q. The mother of the bride is deceased, and the bride has asked me to ‘stand in’. What is the correct designation? The groom’s mother/aunts/sister, etc keep asking ‘and what are you to the bride?’

A. There is no technical term for “stand-ins.” You would be considered an Honor Attendant, and if you were looking to identify yourself on the program, you could be “Honorary Mother of the Bride.”

Wedding Showers: Hostess With the Mostess Events

Q. What is the proper etiquette when friends offer wedding parties and showers for a person but the bride already has a number of wedding events already planned? How do you say in a nice way, ‘Thanks, but we already have a sufficient number of wedding events planned.’ Also, what is the rule about the number of times a person should be invited to a wedding shower or party?

A. You may certainly graciously decline your friends’ kind offers to host pre-wedding parties for you, giving the tactful explanation that you already described. Many brides- and grooms-to-be feel overwhelmed by all the wedding planning and being the center of attention throughout the engagement period. Also, they do not want to keep inviting friends and family to events that they feel obligated to attend. In most cases, more than one or two showers is enough of a pre-wedding celebration.

One should always avoid inviting a person to more than one shower (or party that is associated with a gift-giving obligation) so as not to cause undue financial strain. The exception would be mothers and attendants, who are not obligated to bring more than one gift if they do choose to attend more than one shower.

Cordial Neighbors: Reaching Out

Q. We are celebrating our child’s first birthday soon. Is it the right thing to invite our neighbors, with whom we are very friendly? On one hand I feel like we are snubbing them if we don’t, on the other hand, I don’t want them to feel obligated to buy our baby a gift. I would like to continue the cordial relationship that we have.

A. It is certainly a very neighborly gesture to invite them to your child’s birthday party. If you don’t want them to feel obligated to buy a gift, simply tell them so frankly, or write it on a short note. Perhaps you can start a sort of “tradition” whereby you both agree not to buy gifts for each other, but to join in each other’s family celebrations. If you say, “no gifts, please” without further explanation, you may run the risk of causing them embarrassment when others arrive at the party with gifts in hand.

Wedding RSVP: Will We or Won’t We?

Q. How to I correctly respond to a wedding RSVP?

The response card reads:


_______ will attend

_______ will not attend

Do I put Mr. and Mrs. etc on the first line? Do I put a check mark or a number in the ‘will’ and ‘will not’ attend. My husband and I are attending and my daughter who was included on the invitation is not attending.

A. You would finish the first line like so:

(The M is already in place so you don’t need to duplicate it)

r. and Mrs. Smith

Next you may check the line will attend.

Finally I would write a small note below your response that indicates that regretfully your daughter cannot attend

Wedding Gifts: Present Perfect

Q. An owner of the company that employs my husband has invited the two of us to his wedding. I am confused as to what to do for a gift. Most of the items on the registries are taken, and we’re not sure about a monetary gift. Is there a proper gift for this situation?

A. There is no wedding gift that is “right” or “wrong” in terms of etiquette. If you are unsure of what to choose since most of the registry items are already purchased, perhaps consulting with another colleague who is close to the bride/groom for other ideas may be helpful. Another idea is to give a gift certificate from one of the stores at which the couple is registered; and monetary gifts are almost always appropriate.

Bnaimitzvah Invitations: Mazel tov for Two

Q. I am planning a bnaimitzvah — a reception for two children — for my son and daughter. The invitation will have both their names on card. Does the girl’s name or the boy’s name go first? He will turn 14 in August and she will turn 13 in October. A friend thinks oldest child’s name should appear first, but I am of the ladies-before-gentlemen camp.

A. Either is correct in terms of etiquette; however, you may want to consult with your rabbi who may offer some other line of reasoning.