Wedding Invitation Hack

Earlier this week, I talked about rude lifehacks. But I was also reminded this week about a cool invitation thing that I wanted to share- you can send your wedding invitation to certain important people and get a response, with the most popular being The President of the United States and Mickey Mouse!

Okay, technically you no longer need to send an actual invitation to the President- they have a handy form online that you can fill out for a wide variety of milestones- baby’s birth, major birthdays, Eagle Scout/Girl Scout Gold awards, etc. You can find it here. Note, this service is available to US citizens only.

For a response to Mickey and Minnie Mouse, send it to:

Guest Letters

Letters to Mickey Mouse

P.O. Box 10040

Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-00100


If you are a British citizen (or Canadian, Australian, or New Zealander), the Queen will send you a greeting for a milestone birthday (and they mean serious milestones- 100+ only) or wedding anniversary (starting at 65 years!) but (not for a wedding). Find the form here.


And if you have a deceased loved one who is a Veteran of the United States, you can find information about requesting a flag here.


Oh My God Don’t Complain To The Hosts Of A Party You’re Currently At

As we’ve established, planning a party is hard. No, it’s not hard to say BYOB and order a few pizzas, but when it comes to any parties larger than that–dinner parties, holiday parties, weddings–there are a lot of moving pieces. There are guest lists and menus and seating arrangements and invitations and possibly staff, all weighed against the ultimate stress of any party: money. So every party, generally, is a balance of all those things. It’s an experience that makes the most people possible happy without the hosts going broke.

This means that, sometimes, there are minor disappointments, though I hesitate to call them that because no reasonable person would be disappointed. If there’s only beer and wine instead of a full liquor bar? Fine! One dessert instead of a dessert buffet? Whatever! Plastic cups instead of glass ones? What is your life that this is even registering as a problem?!

Which brings me to an incredibly unreasonable person I encountered at a recent wedding. The wedding was beautiful, and featured heavy passed appetizers and a buffet with many, many options. There were plentiful tables, couches and bar tops, though apparently the deal was that, while there were enough surfaces for everyone to eat at, some people were to be left standing. Again, just fine! You take 20 minutes to eat on a bar top and sit on a bench later and everyone has a grand time. Well, that wasn’t the case for one guest, who I overheard on line for the amazing mac & cheese. She would not stop talking about how there weren’t enough chairs. As if that weren’t bad enough, the father of the groom came over and joked about cutting the line for food (as he is the father of the groom). She said no, because they were mad at him that there weren’t enough chairs. He looked incredibly apologetic and sort of slinked away.

You can probably tell I was horrified. It’s fine to privately notice, and maybe even complain to a close friend, that you wish things were one way and they are in fact another. We do this every day. But let’s just make it clear that a situation like this is no one’s fault. Nothing was done wrong. Things were just one way and this woman didn’t like that. Recognizing that herself is one thing, but complaining to the host is entirely another. Just…just don’t do this? Okay? Good.

If You Want, You Can Still Take Etiquette Lessons


The idea of charm school is really quaint at this point. Girls walking with books on their heads, the back of your hand smacked if you pick up the wrong fork or put your elbows on the table, the thought that you need to practice how to curtsey. Most of these are not practical lessons in our lives anymore. But, if you so choose, there are places you can still go for etiquette lessons.

I recently came across the Etiquette School of New York, which has been around for ten years and offers classes in dining and entertaining, teen etiquette, and even corporate etiquette. There are also online classes at It’s All About Etiquette, and Beaumont Etiquette, which features this woman measuring the distance between flatware with a butler’s stick. Of course, these classes come at a price–the Etiquette School of New York’s adult finishing school will set you back $750.

I’m not sure how I feel about this! On one hand, we believe social graces are important and something that should be more general knowledge. I mean, that’s the point of this damn blog. And running these classes is work and nobody should work for free. The instructors are teaching specific skills and should be fairly compensated–no one should be expected to put in time and effort out of the goodness of their own heart. (To that end, click on our ads so we can make money!)

On the other, however, is the concept of privilege. The idea is that by going through these classes you’ll have the upper hand in social and business interactions by learning the “soft skills” you may not learn in college or elsewhere. Guess who already has the upper hand there? People who can afford $750 for finishing school.

No, you don’t need a class to learn how to give someone a firm handshake and look them in the eye while talking to them, or to say “please” and “thank you.” But I worry that the other skills these classes teach–networking, small talk, “how to make a good first impression”–are being taught to the people who were already in the position to be getting those jobs. That, basically, rich white people are taking classes in the rules rich white people created in order to advance more rich white people.

I’m not saying that’s what these schools are explicitly doing, and hey, it would be amazing if all kids got lessons in table manners early. But the inclusivity is the thing. If we’re going to say a general knowledge of etiquette and manners is necessary to social and professional advancement, those lessons should be available to everyone, whether through formal schooling like this or elsewhere. And if not, well, it’s pretty shitty to hire someone because they’re good at networking when they already had the money to learn how to do it. But, you know, put a book on your head. Posture is really important.

The Lady Magazine

Where else do you think you are going to find your staff?

Where else do you think you are going to find your staff?

I don’t know why I never thought to look at The Lady until recently. I subscribe to Town & Country specifically because it seemed like it would be a useful resource for Uncommon Courtesy, but for some reason, I never thought to look up and see what The Lady is like, even though I knew it existed. Now, I won’t be subscribing to it because the print version is 70 Great British Pounds which is EVEN more in American dollars, not even thinking about whether they have an even more expensive rate to ship internationally. Happily for me and for you, they have a website!

The Lady is actually Britain’s longest running weekly magazine- founded in 1885. Even more delightful for me, the founder was Thomas Gibson Bowles, the maternal grandfather of the famous Mitford sisters (Nancy was a contributor at one point, natch.)

The Lady has also been mentioned on Downton Abbey several times because it was and continues to be THE place for aristocrats to advertize for household help-even the Duchess of Cambridge does it.

Aside from it’s fascinating history and royal associations, the current The Lady is MAGNIFICENT.

First, there are the world famous ads for domestic help:

“Titled Sir and Lady, without children, require a butler and housekeeper for a couple position in a beautiful country house on their estate in Yorkshire.

The suitable couple will be responsible for the smooth running of the house, chauffeuring when required, care of fine antiques, fabrics and furniture, and must be knowledgeable in laundering full clothing and care of silver.  Traditional and formal service skills are necessary.”

Secondly, a column entitled “Nanny Knows Best:”

“It’s a fine line for parents and carers who instinctively protect and cushion children from life’s difficulties. So I’ve always found that somewhere between a stiff upper lip and a gentle warm heart approach is best. Like a spectrum of sorts. Sometimes a child needs a firm but fair hand. Sometimes lots of love and hugs. And sometimes a “you’ll be right” in that moment they’ve fallen over and not sure if crying or getting back up and playing is what they want to do.

Situations require all manner of approaches and not just constant smothering.”

Traditional British culture- like how to host a Burn’s night!

“Food should be absolutely central to the party. The star of the show is normally a haggis which, in a traditional sit-down dinner, is piped in by bagpipes, toasted with a dram of whisky and pierced with a dagger before being eaten.”

Of course they have their own etiquette column:

“Dear Thomas,
My oldest friend always criticises my Christmas presents and accuses me of getting them from charity shops. This year I thought I’d really try to improve. But I’m completely stuck for ideas. Can you help?
Doris Sydenham, Reading”

And the world’s most perfect horoscopes (this is for Scorpio, which is both Jaya’s and my sign):

“Grace and tact will not diminish the power of what you have to say or write. Think: iron fist, velvet glove.”

So, as you can see, this is a must-read for any anglophile or lover of all things pretentious.

Hostess Gifts Are a Bit Weird, No?

A tea cup is actually a fantastic hostess gift, now that I think about it. [Via Wikimedia Commons]

A tea cup is actually a fantastic hostess gift, now that I think about it. [Via Wikimedia Commons]

We’ve talked about hostess gifts plenty, but I was thinking about them the other day and I realized that they are sort of a strange custom. Something like wine, that could theoretically be used during the party (though you should never expect it!), makes sense, but when you get into some of the other ideas that end up on lists of “great hostess gifts” things start to get a little strange.

Like, “thank you so much for inviting me to dinner- here is a set of hand painted playing cards!” Or “a single teacup and saucer!” Or “a wine stopper from Italy!” All very nice things, but they seem so unrelated to the event at hand and so small and knicknacky that they really can’t be of much actual use to the recipient.

I’m not saying that we should abolish hostess gifts, because obviously they do serve a small purpose in showing your appreciation for something someone is doing for you. But, I do think that when you want to get a token gift in the under $10 range, it’s best to stick to consumables- chocolates, jams, flowers, pastries, wine that can actually seem luxurious at that price point rather than a small bit of junk that will end up in the donation box in six months.