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.


Paddington Bear is the Politest Bear

Paddington Bear has his own statue at Paddington Station! [Via Wikimedia Commons

Before I picked up A Bear Called Paddington recently, all I could remember about Paddington Bear was that he wore a navy toggle coat and a red hat and came from Peru. I also, unfortunately, remember the time when my sister was in pre-school and I was a little bit older, she brought home some kind of class book that had a line drawing of Paddington in it and I took it upon myself to color him in. My mom was furious and marched me in to apologize to the teacher for defacing school property. Pretty good parenting, but a mortifying memory for me.

It turns out that the Paddington Bear books are extremely lovely stories about an ACTUAL bear who is adopted by the Brown family. For some reason, all this time, I assumed that Paddington was a stuffed, toy bear that could talk (because that makes much more logical sense?) Paddington loves marmelade and is always getting into scrapes. He is also extremely polite.

  • Right from beginning, Paddington shows his good manners when he is introducing himself to Mr. and Mrs. Brown: “The bear raised its hat politely—twice. ‘I haven’t really got a name,’ he said. ‘Only a Peruvian one which no one can understand.'”
  • Paddington demonstrates his respect towards his elders by always addressing adults by their title. Even though they’ve adopted him, he always calls his caretakers Mr. and Mrs. Brown: “Paddington licked his lips. ‘I’m very thirsty,’ he said. ‘Seawater makes you thirsty.’ He picked up his suitcase, pulled his hat down firmly over his head, and waved a paw politely in the direction of the buffet. ‘After you, Mr. Brown.'”
  • While he waits for Mr. Brown to bring them some food and tea, he spies a half eaten bun on the table but the waitress scoops it away befoe he has a chance to say anything: “‘You don’t want that, dearie,’ she said, giving him a friendly pat. ‘You don’t know where it’s been.’
    Paddington felt so empty he didn’t really mind where it had been, but he was much too polite to say anything.”
  • Sometimes, however, Paddington’s attempts to be polite and helpful go awry: “The taxi driver jumped at the sound of Paddington’s voice and narrowly missed hitting a bus. He looked down at his shoulder and glared. ‘Cream!’ he said bitterly. ‘All over me new coat!’ Judy giggled, and Mr. and Mrs. Brown exchanged glances. Mr. Brown peered at the meter. He half expected to see a sign go up saying they had to pay another fifty pence. ‘I beg your pardon,’ said Paddington. He bent forward and tried to rub the stain off with his other paw. Several bun crumbs and a smear of jam added themselves mysteriously to the taxi driver’s coat. The driver gave Paddington a long, hard look. Paddington raised his hat, and the driver slammed the window shut again.”
  • While Paddington is very polite, sometimes he has a hard time actually showing correct etiquette. He IS a bear afterall, and things like eating breakfast in bed can be quite tricky even for well-mannered people: ‘Now, I wonder what she means by that?’ said Paddington. But he didn’t worry about it for very long. There was far too much to do. It was the first time he had ever had breakfast in bed, and he soon found it wasn’t quite so easy as it looked. First of all he had trouble with the grapefruit. Every time he pressed it with his spoon a long stream of juice shot up and hit him in the eye, which was very painful. And all the time he was worried because the bacon and eggs were getting cold. Then there was the question of the marmalade. He wanted to leave room for the marmalade.”
  • He even has quite a disaster on a trip to the theater. His family is helping him take off his coat and get him settled in his seat, but: “‘Mind my marmalade sandwich!’ cried Paddington as [Judy] placed it on the ledge in front of him. But it was too late. He looked round guiltily. ‘Crikey!’ said Jonathan. ‘It’s fallen on someone’s head!’ He looked over the edge of the box. ‘It’s that man with the bald head. He looks jolly cross.’
    ‘Oh, Paddington!’ Mrs. Brown looked despairingly at him. ‘Do you have to bring marmalade sandwiches to the theater?’

Paddington Bear is so charming and funny that it is pretty appealing even to adults that I read the first book the whole way through. It’s always nice to see, too, when a beloved children’s character is also an example of good etiquette.

Important People of Etiquette: Ward McAllister

Previously: Beau Brummel

If you’re really into the Gilded Age or historical etiquette, you’ve probably heard of The Four Hundred. The Four Hundred represented New York’s social elite in the late 19th century and comes from the number of people that could fit in Mrs. William Backhouse Astor, Jr.’s (neé Caroline Webster Schemerhorn) ballroom. It turns out that, technically, the 400 person ballroom was actually at their Newport, RI “summer cottage.” I guess even back then space was tight in NYC. THE Mrs. Astor, as she was known, was the social gatekeeper for New York society. The Astors and their ilk were the cream of “Old New York” and were adamant about keeping all the “New Money” riffraff out. Enter Ward McAllister.

McAlister was born into a socially prominent family in Savannah, GA. After making some money as a lawyer in the California goldrush, he travelled around Europe picking up European manners and becoming acquainted with the customs of the nobility. Returning to the US, he married Sarah Taintor Gibbons and joined New York society. Distantly related, Mrs. Astor became his patroness and he set out to become the leader of society.

At the time, the Old Money of New York was the descendants of the original Dutch colonists or Knickerbockers and the New Money were people like the Vanderbilts who had earned (as opposed to inherited) their money recently in industries such as railroads. McAllister called the cream of the Old Money society The Tong (a play on the British expression, the Ton?) He also apparently called the Old Money the “Nobs” and the New Money “The Swells.” To be considered part of the four hundred, you had to have three generations of wealthy ancestors who had not worked in the trades.

Early on, he bought a house in Newport, RI and by convincing his society friends to also build summer homes there, made it one of the grandest summer resorts in the country.

As a founder of The Patriarchs, a group of fifty wealthy men who hosted many important events during the social season, he had great control over what social events were and who was invited to them. He also gave advice to society hostesses about food, wine, clothes, dancing, etiquette, and entertainments. Importantly, he saw his role as a social arbiter as an important job. He never dined at his club like so many men of his era so that he would always be available to dine with ladies. He was also fastidious about paying and returning social calls, to keep this web that held society up going.

He was also a famous host, giving small dinners in New York and hosting extremely popular picnics in Newport each summer.

In 1890, McAllister wrote a memoir, Society As I Have Found It, which while outlining his life and containing great detail on his methods of entertaining, also contained plenty of information about those high society people he was friends with. They were not pleased about this as they valued their privacy and banished him from society. Though, when he died in 1895, his funeral was attended by many of the society people who had been his friends.

Important People of Etiquette: Beau Brummel

So back in the day, in the 1700s, (rich) people were all about piling on ALL the fancy clothes. By wearing pounds of expensive stuff like lace, silk, brocade, gold, silver, wigs, hats, high heels (for dudes!), and so forth, you showed you were rich. But then in the 1790’s, along comes this guy named Beau Brummel, who changes men’s fashion radically and whose influence is still felt in those black tie wedding invitations you receive.

Beau was a middle class chap, so he actually couldn’t wear the fancy breeches and coats so popular back then as it would have been above his station. However, his family was fairly well off and he was able to attend Eton and then Oxford before joining a prestigious army regiment led by the Prince of Wales (future George IV). There he became good friends with the Prince and was able to join high society. Instead of the frilly frocks that other gentlemen wore, Beau focused on very simple and elegant clothing. He preferred very tight, light pants tucked into tall black boots, tail coats, and very very white neck cloths or cravat. For nighttime, it was similar but with all black clothing and white linen- the standard for mens evening dress even continuing today. Part of Beau’s schtick was extreme cleanliness. He would take more than two hours to bathe and shave, and then would be particularly fussy about tying his cravat. His fussiness inspired the rhyme about a dandy:

My neckcloth, of course, forms my principal care

For by that we criterions of elegance swear;

And it costs me, each morning, some hours of flurry

To make it appear to be tied in a hurry.

Obviously he was all about the unstudied coolness that takes tons of time and energy to pull off. He even claimed to never eat vegetables and polish his boots with champagne. He was so focused on himself and his image that he had no romantic relationships and even cut ties with his family.

Unfortunately for Beau, all of this elegance couldn’t stand up to even his large fortune. His debts piled up and he had to escape to France. Where more debts piled up and he spent the last years of his life running around trying to avoid them, eventually going slightly mad and dying in prison.