The Ultimate Guide to Bedding Part 1

The ultimate bed [Via Wikimedia Commons]

The ultimate bed [Via Wikimedia Commons]

This isn’t technically etiquette but it is etiquette adjacent, because hosting is a big thing in etiquette, and a gracious thing to do as a host is provide a nice bed. And if you are a guest, you are going to want to know what all the parts of a bed are so that you don’t accidentally mess it up.

First the components of a bed:

The frame: all beds should have some kind of a frame. Mattresses on the floor are for frat boys. This frame might simply hold the mattress and box spring or it might be connected to a headboard and foot board.

The box spring: this is sort of optional these days as there are many kinds of beds that don’t need them. But if your bed has a basic metal frame at the bottom, the box spring raises the height of the bed, provides a solid platform for the mattress to rest on (hence why a platform bed might not need one), and by preventing contact with the frame, also prevents wear and tear on the mattress.

The bedskirt: Goes between the box spring and the mattress and hangs down to cover the boxspring and frame. It’s entirely decorative but can really help pull the bed together.

The mattress: is pretty self explanatory- its the soft thing you sleep on. It can be made out of springs, memory foam, water, and other things.

Topper: this is an optional addition to make your mattress EXTRA comfy. It can be memory foam, egg-carton foam, or feathers. Basically, its a thin, extra mattress made out of a luxurious material.

Mattress pad: This is something that you put on top of your mattress to protect it from stains. Some will have a topper built into them, like an extra thick pad. Some are just some batting in cheap fabric.

Sheets: Traditionally, a sheet set includes a fitted sheet (with elasticized corners that no one can fold- it took me a year and many youtube videos to figure it out!), a flat sheet, and pillow cases. You can also use an additional flat sheet in place of the fitted sheet, you just have to make hospital corners on each corner to keep it in place.

Sheets can come in a number of different fabrics: cotton, flannel, polyblends, linen, satin, and silk. Generally, you will want to choose natural fibers- 100% cotton, linen, or silk. For cotton, Egyptian cotton makes the softest sheets because it has longer fibers than other cottons. Linen (which is made from the flax plant) is great for warm climates and flannel is great for when it’s cold. If you can’t afford silk sheets (so, um, everyone?), you might be able to spring for just the pillow cases- they are great for your hair and skin (full disclosure, I have a set). Thread count is important, but anything above 300-400 doesn’t matter much because they are just using thinner thread.

Blankets: Blankets are often pretty scratchy, so they are generally used over a flat sheet, for extra warmth in the winter. It does seem like blankets are falling out of favor these days, with a preference for heavier comforters and duvets. In very cold climates, you can use an electric blanket which have heating coils to keep you nice and toasty.

Duvets: A duvet is a down (feathers) or fiber filled blanket. It is plain white and made out of a cheaper material because it is meant to go inside a duvet cover. They are sometimes also called comforters.

Duvet cover: A duvet cover is two sheet-like materials sewn together on three sides and left open on the bottom. You shove your duvet up inside it and use it to cover your bed for both warmth and decoration. The duvet cover is often a pretty pattern that you can use to match to the rest of your bedroom. The advantage of using a duvet cover is that it can be washed easily without harming the expensive duvet inside. It is so easily done, that many people (especially in Europe) forgo a top sheet on their beds all together and use just a duvet to cover themselves (*shudder*).

Comforter: A comforter is very similar to a duvet+cover except that the warm part is directly sewn into the decorative part. Comforters can be very elaborate and are not easily washed, so you will always want to use a sheet with them.

Bedspread/Quilt/Coverlet: This is a heavy fabric that you put over your sheets and blankets to be mostly decorative (though its great in the summer if you find a comforter or blankets to be too hot). It’s a little old fashioned and you don’t see them much.

Pillows: You rest your head on them to sleep. They come in many types: memory foam, fiberfill, down, bran (idk, its a thing), and many others. They generally have utilitarian covers, so you want to put them inside a pillowcase both for comfort and to protect the pillow from your hair and face grease, sweat, and drool. When putting the pillows on the bed, the open side of the pillowcases should be on the outside edge of the bed.

Shams: Shams are very fancy, decorated pillow cases (usually matching or complimenting your duvet cover, comforter, or bedspread). There are two ways to use shams. Either the shams have their own pillows inside them (I use cheap or old gross pillows) and go on top of your sleeping pillows. The other method is to stuff your sleeping pillows inside the shams every morning and put them on the bed like that. You do not sleep on shams! When going to bed at night, either put the shams-with-pillows behind your sleeping pillows up against the wall or headboard, on the floor, or if the sleeping pillows were inside the shams, take the shams off and fold them up and put them on the floor or a chair or something.

Throw pillows: These are decorative pillows and should also not be slept on. They can be piled up in a handy chair or tossed on the floor.

On Friday, I will continue with part two: how to make a bed.

Your Ultimate Guide to Plus Ones

Bring a boy band to a wedding

People are really opinionated about plus ones (+1s, whatever) at weddings. I’ve heard that it’s mandatory to give every single guest a +1. I’ve heard of friendships torn apart because a guest didn’t get one. I’ve heard of people having an awful time at weddings because the couple told them they had to bring a date and they spent all night babysitting a stranger instead of hanging out with their friends. Like many etiquette issues, it’s a place where people assume there is one rule and that they know what that one rule is.

You do not have to offer +1s to anyone at your wedding–that is a rule. But if you want to, it can get tricky to figure out who should and should not get one. I’ve found that it helps to have a few things in mind when offering +1s to your guests.

  • Is your guest dating anyone? If they’re dating someone seriously, they shouldn’t get a +1, but rather an invitation to their actual significant other. Where to draw the line on significant others, though? Only married couples? Engaged? Living together? Dating for over six months? Whatever you decide, be consistent. No one will appreciate if they couldn’t bring their boyfriend of a year and find another guest got to bring someone they met on Tinder the week before.
  • Does your guest know other people? One of the biggest arguments for +1s is for guests who may not know anyone else, as it’s no fun to show up to a giant party by yourself. Sometimes you need a buddy, and offering a +1 to that friend you know from work who has never met any of your other friends before is a great way to ensure they’ll have someone to talk to. On the other hand, if you have a group of single friends who’ve all known each other since high school, it may be more of a burden for them to bring a date and make sure that date is having a good time than to just come alone and hang out with their friends. This goes double for a destination wedding. It’s one thing to drive an hour to a party where you don’t know somebody, but quite another to fly to Mexico for it. If you’re friend’s not the solo adventurer type, offer to let them bring a friend and make a vacation out of it.
  • How many people are going to be at your wedding? If you’re having a 500 person wedding, you probably won’t a few +1s you’ve never met before. However, if you have a 20 person ceremony and an intimate dinner, cousin Betty’s girlfriend of two weeks might be an awkward addition.
  • Are you comfortable with strangers around? Offering +1s means you’re giving your guest sole discretion as to who they bring. You may give one thinking your college friend will be bringing her new boyfriend, but she may bring another friend, or her mom, or her yoga teacher. The nature of the open offer is that it’s up to her, so make sure you are comfortable with that.

Similar consideration should go into choosing whether or not to bring a guest if the invitation is extended. Is your guest the type to mingle and make friends quickly, or are they going to need to have you by their side all evening? If ten of your best friends will also be at this wedding, is a guest necessary? If you know nobody else there and are bringing a guest, are they a person you can have fun with?

Remember, you should not stand for people demanding to bring guests, or demanding to bring more guests than they were allowed, or asking to swap out one guest for another. And if you RSVP for yourself because you don’t have a plus one, you’re not allowed to add one after the fact, even if your original invitation offered you a guest.

Is An Irish Exit Rude?

Sepia Dancing Off StageThe Irish exit, Dutch leave, French goodbye, whatever mildly ethnic slur you want to call it, is when you leave an event without saying goodbye to anyone. Is it rude? Well, yes, often, but it can also be a relatively low level rudeness depending on the circumstances.

Unforgivable circumstances:

  • On an actual date with another person (unless they are being abusive, etc etc, caveats)
  • Small gatherings where your absence would be easily noticed
  • Any hosted event (you must always thank and say goodbye to your hosts- even at something as big as a wedding)
  • When you are supposed to be giving a ride to someone (unless you ghost away into the night together)

Forgivable circumstances:

  • A large, casual gathering such as 20ish friends hanging out at a bar
  • Casual, group oriented events such as a end of school picnic (though I would consider this just…leaving)
  • Anytime trying to say goodbye would disrupt the event (such as a religious service or when there are speeches happening. Though you should try to avoid leaving in these instances except when you are ill or have other extreme circumstances.)
  • When it’s a large family gathering where goodbyes take an hour (jk! love your family!)

When else do you find Irish exits acceptable/unacceptable? Let me know in the comments!

Potluck Etiquette

Church ladies know how to potluck! [Via Wikimedia Commons

Church ladies know how to potluck! [Via Wikimedia Commons

If you are throwing a potluck, you are not “hosting,” you are “organizing” as hosting implies that you are providing everything for a party.

Potlucks are not appropriate for wedding receptions as wedding receptions are supposed to serve as a thank you to the guests for doing the important duty of attending the wedding. However, you can get away with it in certain circumstances: having a VERY small wedding of mostly locals who are enthusiastic about the idea. It’s also a lovely idea to throw a potluck FOR a couple who otherwise wouldn’t have a reception.

For less formal gatherings, a potluck can be a great way for a bunch of people to get together without it being a significant cost for one person/family.

However, if you want to plan a potluck, make it clear when issuing the invitation. Do not pull a bait and switch:

“Hey, do you want to come over for dinner on Saturday?”

“Sure! That sounds so fun!”

“Great! Come at seven and bring a salad to feed 8!”

That is not okay. You must say something like, “Hey everyone, it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other and it would be really fun to hang out and play board games and have dinner on Saturday. We can have it at my place if everyone will bring a dish. I will grill burgers and hot dogs, so bring some sides, desserts, and drinks that go with them!”

And if you are the one with the great idea to host a potluck, please actually make some effort towards planning. In addition to food, you will need serving utensils, plates, cups, silverware, etc. You want to also help guide the party so you don’t all end up bringing potato salad. Making a party potluck doesn’t mean it doesn’t take any work. That being said, don’t be a potluck dictator! Letting people know what categories of items are needed is great, telling people that they must bring a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is not. Also make sure you have a convenient area to set up the food in a central location so everyone has a chance to access it.

For the potluck attendee, of course it goes without saying that it is beyond rude to show up at a potluck empty-handed. It is also rude to bring significantly less than anyone else. Don’t show up with one $2 2-liter of soda when everyone else is bringing their famous lasagnas and layer cakes! It’s fine if you can’t cook, just say that you will bring all the paper goods or 5 2-liters of soda- something comparable!

Another good rule is to bring at least enough to feed the number of people you are bringing with you plus a few more (ie a couple with two kids should bring way more food than a single person!)

If you have significant and difficult dietary needs, make sure you bring something substantial that you know you will be able to eat, or just decide that potlucks are not your bag and decline the invitation. Don’t get there and complain there is nothing you can eat.

Never criticize a dish someone else brings. If you don’t like it, simply don’t eat it.

Your dish should be ready to serve when you arrive- you won’t be able to guarantee that there will be fridge or oven space (unless you clear it with the host in advance.)

When serving yourself, be sure to take small enough amounts that there will be plenty of food for the people behind you. It sucks to be last in line and have nothing left to eat besides some melting jello salad.

Don’t go back for seconds until everyone has gotten firsts.

Thank Goodness We Don’t Have to Do That Anymore: The Guest Card

Things that are only possible with this many servants.

Back in the day, for a certain level of hostess (ie with a huge house and a lot of servants), guests would have quite a lot of options during their stay- whether they would have breakfast in their rooms (if you haven’t noticed, on Downtown Abbey, it is only married women who are allowed to have breakfast in bed), what they would like for breakfast, etc. Usually the hostess would ask these questions naturally during the first day of the stay. But the truly chic hostess would leave a little card in the guest’s room for them to fill out before dinner:

What time do you want to be awakened? …………………..
Or, will you ring? ……………………………………
Will you breakfast up-stairs? …………………………..
Or down? …………………………………………….

Underscore Your Order:

Coffee, tea, chocolate, milk,
Oatmeal, hominy, shredded wheat,
Eggs, how cooked?
Rolls, muffins, toast,
Orange, pear, grapes, melon.

At Bedtime Will You Take

Hot or cold milk, cocoa, orangeade,
Sandwiches, meat, lettuce, jam,
Cake, crackers,
Oranges, apples, pears, grapes.

That’s even nicer service than any hotel I’ve ever been to! Of course, this sort of thing was super rare and in no way would be expected today.

In a related note, grand houses also used to have “guest books” just like you would see in a fancy B&B or a historical site, in which all the guests would write their names, the date of their visit, and some comments. This was a way for the family to look back on who had visited them and when (a must for frequent hosts!) and a nice momento. These are great resources for historians today, as well.