News and Articles

January 2006
The Daily Home Talladega, Sylacauga-Pell City, Alabama

Dear Millie,

I know that thank-you notes are the rule for gifts you have received, but are e-mailed thank-you notes considered poor etiquette?

Dear Reader,

This is a popular question in this day of electronic mail. Everything we do has been touched by the computer from downloading your favorite songs to your iPod™ MP3 player or "Tivo'ing" your favorite television program. Expending the effort to send a handwritten note signed by you via the US Postal Service seems so quaint and archaic.

But have you received an e-mail from friends and there were many other people on the same mail list, receiving the same impersonal message? Being included along with a score of other people doesn't make you feel special.

Electronic mail is fast and easy, but the personal touch is missing. The personal touch conveys that you cared enough to take the time to sit down and compose a heartfelt note to them. It demonstrates genuine appreciation. The gift giver has taken the time to be part of your celebration, be it a holiday, birthday, wedding, or religious celebration. Writing a personal note makes you stand out as exceptional; not ordinary.

Dear Millie,

We received many cash gifts and gift cards for our wedding. What is the best way to thank someone for money? Do you mention the amount?

Dear Reader,

The best and most gracious way is to thank the person for the item you plan to purchase with the gift card or money. "Sam and I will be moving in our new apartment soon and need...", whatever. Recalling the things you registered for at various stores will do for a start. Explain that their gift makes it possible for you to make the purchase you needed right away.

Brides now receive many cash presents. Use these phrases to say thank you without mentioning the amounts: (over $500) "incredibly generous", ($100-$500) "extremely generous", ($50-100) "very generous", ($25-50) "kind", and (under $25) thoughtful. As always, it's important to send a handwritten thank you note.

Dear Millie,

My daughter is invited to a birthday "tea party." Is there anything special that my daughter should know about tea party etiquette?

Dear Reader,

Tea Parties are fun and an excellent way to practice etiquette skills.

These are tips to follow to make the tea party fun and avoid any awkwardness:

The courses will be out on the table to be eaten in this order: first the scones or muffins; then the tiny sandwiches, and lastly, the sweets. These may be on a three tiered server, in which case you start at the bottom and work up to the top. Think of it as a meal where you start with bread, then the main course, and have the dessert last. You may use your fingers unless the food is messy; then use your fork. For scones or muffins, break off a bite-size piece, then put a small amount of jam or butter on it. If Devonshire or clotted cream is available, a small amount can be dabbed on after the jam. This thick cream is for scones, not for the tea. Remember to use a small amount of cream on your scone or muffins to prevent dripping when you take a bite. Take bites of the tiny sandwiches; never take the whole sandwich in your mouth, even though it's small. Be careful not to allow the sugar tongs to get wet in the tea. After stirring the sugar and milk, place the spoon on the side of the saucer. Do not blow on the tea to cool it. Hold the tea cup normally, fingers together; do not allow your pinky finger to wave. Always keep you napkin in your lap.

Tell your daughter not to worry if some things are not done "properly." Just have fun eating and socializing with friends. The more practice, the more all of this will become automatic.

Millie Chastain is the Director of The Protocol School of Alabama. Send questions to Summer class registration begins in February.