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Holiday Party Planning – Being a good guest

You’ve spent years hosting parties. You’re used to doing most (if not all) of the work and making sure everyone is happy and everything runs smoothly. You love it—and you’re really very good at it!

But this year, for once, you suddenly find the roles reversed where you’re going to be attending a holiday party as a guest instead of hosting one. Between us, we know this may take you out of your comfort zone a bit…or a lot. Yes, it does take some work to be a good party guest. But to help you get through this holiday season with ease and grace, we’ve assembled a few tips for you. We hope they help. And we hope you have a fabulous time. It’s a party, after all. Have fun and enjoy!

Holiday Party Planning   Being a good guest

  • RSVP – RSVP, which stands for Répondez S’il Vous Plaît (French for “please respond”), means exactly that: respond. And be sure to respond before the deadline on your invitation, not after. It’s ok to send a text or Facebook reply, but it’s absolutely not ok to pull a “no-show.”
  • Contribute – Making a courtesy call to the hostess ahead of time is just that: courteous. Offer to bring an appetizer, salad, or dessert. If the hostess is firm about having the meal under control, then offer to bring wine, Champagne, or a centerpiece. If rebuffed again, be sure to just quietly bring a nice hostess gift, such as a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates, or a jar or artisanal preserves.

Holiday Party Planning   Being a good guest

  • Arrive on Time – Even if you’re tempted to arrive early, don’t. The hostess may still need time for last-minute preprarations. Instead, plan to arrive within 15 minutes of the invited time. If you’re right on time but no one else has arrived yet, offer to help. However, if you’re running late, get lost, or have an emergency, be sure to call immediately and explain.
  • Converse & Enjoy – Get into the party spirit by smiling, mingling, and conversing with the other guests. It’s also important to be a good listener. However, don’t dominate the conversations, especially with your problems, and avoid all bad language, off-color jokes, and controversial topics. Instead of asking overly personal questions (which is a huge no-no), ask more neutral questions instead, such as “How do you know the host?”
  • Eat & Drink Responsibly – Don’t come to the party famished and ready to devour everything in sight. If hors d’oeuvres are being passed, don’t heap your plate with them. Absolutely no double dipping! And of course, do NOT become inebriated.
  • Help Clean Up – Before leaving the party, offer to do the dishes. If the hostess refuses, at the very least, stack dirty plates, throw out empty bottles, and clean up any huge messes.
  • Don’t Overstay – When you see the party starting to wind down and conversations hitting a lag, it’s time to go. Be sure to genuinely compliment the hostess when saying your goodbyes.
  • Send a Thank You Note – Within a few days of the party, always send a note of thanks to the hostess. And despite what your grandmother told you, a Thank You eCard is perfectly fine!
Holiday Party Planning   Being a good guestHoliday Party Planning   Being a good guestHoliday Party Planning   Being a good guestHoliday Party Planning   Being a good guestHoliday Party Planning   Being a good guestHoliday Party Planning   Being a good guest

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Place Setting Etiquette

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, we know you’re busy reviewing your guest list, making centerpieces, and digging deep into your cabinets to pull out Grandma’s very good china.  Whether you’re planning a formal affair, or gathering friends and family together for a casual day of comfort food and football, we thought it would be helpful to share this handy infographic of varying place settings to help you set a festive Thanksgiving table with the “proper” flair.

Place Setting Etiquette

Place Setting Etiquette Place Setting Etiquette Place Setting Etiquette Place Setting Etiquette Place Setting Etiquette Place Setting Etiquette

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WEDDING INVITATION AND RSVP ETIQUETTE

WEDDING INVITATION AND RSVP ETIQUETTE

Invitations, RSVPs Save-the-Date Cards and Wedding Websites

Getting ready to tie the knot can be pretty stressful at times, so anything you can do to eliminate some of the pressure is a welcome relief. Fortunately, wedding invitations have strict etiquette guidelines that can help you navigate through the process. That’s especially true if, while searching for the perfect wedding invitations to share the event of your life, it suddenly dawns on you that you have to figure out how to invite your mom’s two ex-husbands, one of whom is your dad married to someone new, and her current boyfriend. You have to decide if your half-sister whom you haven’t really seen for years, but who is still family should be invited.

Once the “who and how” part of your wedding planning is settled, there’s the question of “when-to-send.” So here are a few tips to help you get past those sticky situations and some general etiquette tips on the invitations, save-a-date cards, and wedding websites! Before you read on, why not grab a cup of hot tea, let out a deep breath and simply relax.

Tip #1: Remember that it is your wedding. That means you get to call the shots and others should have the grace to play by your rules.

WEDDING INVITATION AND RSVP ETIQUETTETip #2: What kind of day do you really want to have? Are you looking for a big extravaganza or a more intimate setting? If it’s the first choice, you can probably invite nearly everyone on your list and give them an open “plus one” option. If it’s the second choice, then you want to be very clear that your intent is for adults only, or close family and friends only. That means you truly keep the invitation list to those you personally have a relationship with.

Tip #3: If your parents are divorced, ask them to work out any differences that might need to be addressed before the wedding. After all, they both love you and they both want to be there.  They can work out any sense of awkwardness. If there’s more than one ex-spouse for one of your parents, invite only the ones you have a relationship with. This is not about your parents; this event is all about you.

Tip #4: Thought it’s typical to send invitations six to eight weeks before the wedding, you should send “destination wedding” invitations at least three months in advance of the date. RSVP cards should have return dates that are two to three weeks before your event to allow enough time to notify your caterer of your final number of guests and to plan your seating chart.

Tip #5: Prior to sending out the actual wedding invitations, you might consider sending “save-the-date” cards to everyone about 6 to 8 months ahead of your all-important date. This gives all your guests (especially those who live some distance away), plenty of time to clear their schedules, think about travel plans, hotel stays, etc.) Your “save-the-date” card is also a great way to include the address of your wedding website (see below). You can view sample “save-the-date” cards at http://www.theknot.com/weddings/photos/save-the-dates
WEDDING INVITATION AND RSVP ETIQUETTETip #6: Set up a temporary website with
all the details of your wedding, including directions to the church from the airport
or other main routes, area hotels for those who might need to book one, the dinner menu in case anyone has special dietary needs, the dress code, and the gift registries. (By the way, this is the only place where gift registries should be mentioned. They should not be included in your invitation or “save-the-date” card. ) Make your website as detailed as you want and include a photo
of you and your fiancé. You can view sample wedding websites and set one up, too, at http://uw.theknot.com/admin/choosedesign.

Tip #7: If someone special to you cannot attend the wedding, be sure to send them an extra note expressing your regret. Tell them you’ll post wedding photos on the website that they can see later.

Tip #8: You’ll probably have your Thank You notes printed at the same time as your Wedding Invitations. Remember to mention each gift specifically when you send your thank you notes after the wedding and should be sent out within two months of your big day.

For more help with wedding invitation etiquette, take a look at these sites:

http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/wedding-invitations/articles/wedding-invitations-etiquette.aspx

http://www.realsimple.com/holidays-entertaining/wedding-invitation-etiquette-00000000009458/

Wishing you the most memorable day of your life!

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A THANK YOU NOTE: How to Write

A THANK YOU NOTE: How to Write

“THANK YOU.”  Most everyone says this daily and it feels perfectly natural to say it.
But for special situations, when we want to put our gratitude in print, it’s different and, sometimes, even difficult. So once you’ve got a great card or some nice stationery, what comes next in thanking someone for a gift, an interview, a thoughtful gesture? Perhaps
the tips below can help you write a thank you note that’s not only sincere, but appropriate as well.

Handwritten Thank You Note

First, know that a handwritten thank you note is always appreciated. With email being such a common form of communication, personal notes are more valued than ever. And taking the time to acknowledge someone’s kindness or time will mean the world to them. Simply the fact that you’re writing a note sets you up for success.

Be Timely

Next, try to be timely. A thank you note is best sent within a week. For a large event, like
a shower or wedding, up to three months is acceptable, but “sooner” is preferred than “later.”  If time gets away from you, just offer a humble apology, but don’t dwell on your delay. The note shouldn’t sound like it was a burden to write.

For more formal or business thank yous, such as after an interview, a thank you email can be sent immediately if there is a sense of urgency (say in placing an order or filling a position,) but it should still be followed up with a thank you note or letter sent shortly after the event–within 2 to 3 days. (See links below for more information.)

A few ideas for business thank yous…

  • I’m so happy you recommended our company to one of your friends…many thanks for your thoughtfulness. 
  • Or: We were so happy with your____________, we just wanted you to know we’ll recommend you to all our friends.
  • Thank you for the time you spent showing me…
  • Thank you for showing us what “above and beyond” really means…
  • I know your time is valuable, so I just wanted to thank you for making room in your schedule for me.

Be Yourself and Be Specific

Now, just be yourself…but be specific. Address the recipient in the way that’s comfortable for both of you, and then focus on your reason for writing. There’s no need for a long lead-in as you might do in a letter. Let the recipient know right away what you’re thanking them for, and describe it thoughtfully. Saying the gift is incredibly useful, the dinner was delicious, or their act of kindness was enormously helpful are personal touches that mean
a lot.

Add Some Details

Don’t hesitate to add more details to genuinely express your gratitude. For example, if you’ll think of the gift giver whenever you use their present, tell them so. If you felt the dinner guests were a great group of people, let the host know it. If thinking about what someone did still makes you smile, that’s something they’d like to know. Elaborating on the reasons for your gratitude helps people see themselves positively from your point of view—and doubles the joy of the gesture.

End With a Compliment

Finally, finish the note with a sincere compliment that will leave a lasting effect. Whether they’re a one-of-a-kind wonderful friend, an amazing cook, a prospective employer, or you appreciate the time they took out of their busy schedule, now is the time to tell them you noticed—and it will make them feel extra special.

Remember, the thank you note itself, although expected, can often be a pleasant surprise. And everyone wants to feel appreciated. So, the few minutes you take to tell someone you’re thankful could brighten their whole day…and yours!

A few ideas for social thank yous…

  • You always know the perfect thing to (do, say, give, etc.)
  • Your kindess during a difficult time was sincerely appreciated.
  • I feel doubly blessed…first for what you did, but mostly, for what
    you mean to me.

More Ideas on What to Write

To see many more ideas for things you can write in thank you notes or for other occasions, please see our various “What to Write…” blogs:

http://www.bluemountain.com/blog/2012/12/what-to-write-in-a-thank-you-note/
http://www.bluemountain.com/blog/2013/02/what-to-write-offering-words-of-encouragment/
http://www.bluemountain.com/blog/2013/01/what-to-write-in-a-valentine/
 

Also, browse bluemountain.com for a wonderful assortment of thank you ecards, postcards and stationery you can easily personalize.

Business Thank You links:

http://www.career.vt.edu/Interviewing/AfterThanksFollowUp.html
http://jobsearch.about.com/od/thankyouletters/a/thankyouemail.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A THANK YOU NOTE: How to Write A THANK YOU NOTE: How to Write A THANK YOU NOTE: How to Write A THANK YOU NOTE: How to Write A THANK YOU NOTE: How to Write A THANK YOU NOTE: How to Write

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“WHAT TO WRITE…” Valentine Messages

WHAT TO WRITE...  Valentine MessagesToday, we’re beginning a new series of blogs that will appear monthly. The topic?

What to Write…

And this month’s subject is What to Write in a Valentine. But before we get to that specifically, we wanted to introduce some thoughts that will work for just about any occasion or life event…from the happiest, to the most formal, to even those that are touched by sadness.

Although there are many ways to express your thoughts and wishes, sending a personal note in your own words somehow means more–no matter what the occasion. But it’s not always easy knowing where to begin. That’s why we’re creating this blog…to help you send the perfect card that not only expresses your thoughts, but helps you stay connected to those important people in your life.

Getting Ready…

Take a few minutes to organize your thoughts and to clarify your intent. Do you want to…

  • Send a wish for a specific occasion?
  • Congratulate or compliment someone?
  • Say “thank you?”
  • Simply say, “You’re a great friend?”
Next, think of what you would like someone to say or write to you…
 
  • What would they say to make you feel better or happier?
  • To let you know they care?
  • To tell you they think you’re special?
Well, those are probably the very things they’d like to hear from you!

If you’re still not sure what to talk about, here are a few more ideas:

  • Think of something funny, serious, or cute that only the two of you
  • might know about.
  • Remember special memories you’ve shared together.
  • Write a short (or long!) list of words that describe this
    particular person or occasion or both!

How to Begin…

It’s usually helpful to jot down a few ideas first. Reading them over will sometimes spark a new idea or help you to consider other thoughts you may have forgotten.

  • Use simple, everyday language–write it just like you would say it
    and your message will sound warmer and more personal.
  • Be honest–it’s okay to admit that this is a difficult thing to do or that you’re having trouble finding the right words. After all, you’re taking the time to
    express yourself and that’s a sincere gesture anyone can appreciate.
  • Keep in mind, many of the ideas and phrases we’ll be featuring in the months ahead can be used for many different occasions or situations. They can also be used in many ways–in letters, greeting cards, ecards, or notes.
    Or simply add one above your signature or to an ecard for a quick personal touch!

And now to the main feature…

What to Write in a Valentine

Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to express WHAT TO WRITE...  Valentine Messages
your loving or romantic soul! Which means you don’t have to just have a significant other to shower with hearts and flowers. Think about all the people around you who bring joy to your life. This is the day to send a little extra love their way, too.

If your valentine is going to a sweetheart, spouse or partner, remind them that life wouldn’t be the same without them. Be real, be authentic, be sweet, be loving. Go for the big words…after all, this is the person who keeps your blood pumping!

  • You’re the best part of my life.
  • You fill my heart with everything wonderful.
  • There’ll never be another you!
  • I’d be lost with you.
  • Loving you just comes naturally.
  • Lucky me–having you to love!
  • You’ll always be first in my life and in my heart.
  • You’re the smile at the end of my day.
  • I love you more than life itself!
  • You make my world a better place to be.

If your valentine is going to a friend, a family member, or perhaps your kids, then try a compliment. Let them know they mean the world to you.

  • You’re the best!
  • You rock!
  • You make me smile.
  • You amaze me!
  • I love you a bunch!
  • I love the way you smile (or sing, laugh, cook, dance…)
  • Everyone needs a friend (or sister, special kid, mom…) like you!
  • Your friendship (or smile, happiness…) means the world to me.
  • You’ve touched my life in a special way.
  • You make my world a better place to be. (Some thoughts work for
    more than one situation!)

Be funny if your relationship is new or one where cracking jokes makes you both laugh.
Be sweet if it’s your mom or your little brother. And it’s okay to simply send a “Happy Valentine’s Day to Someone Special” wish. After all, what your gesture is really saying is how much you care about and value the person you’re sending your card to.

So now that you’re in the mood to write, check your thesaurus for more adoring, caring, sultry, sweet, or funny words about love and send them on to the people in your life today. It’s sure to bring on a smile or maybe even a hugfest. Happy Valentine’s Day!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT TO WRITE...  Valentine MessagesWHAT TO WRITE...  Valentine MessagesWHAT TO WRITE...  Valentine MessagesWHAT TO WRITE...  Valentine MessagesWHAT TO WRITE...  Valentine MessagesWHAT TO WRITE...  Valentine Messages

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“WHAT TO WRITE…” Thank You Notes

WHAT TO WRITE... Thank You Notes

Now that the holidays are over, you probably have lots of reasons to be grateful to others. And since it’s the little things in life that make a huge difference, taking the time to write a warm and thoughtful thank you note is always nice. Of course thank yous are appropriate all year round, so we’re including some ideas here to help you get started on any kind of message of thanks.

Reflect on the person and situation you want to address. Is this someone you feel especially close to? Is the thank you for a gift or is this about a person’s generosity or thoughtfulness throughout the year? If it’s the latter, remind them of how often you notice their generous spirit or willingness to do kind things.

Think about what the thank you is for. If for a gift, is it clear to you that they took time to choose it? Was their gift a reminder that you’re special to them? Is this for something nice they did for you or someone you care about? When you start answering some of these questions, it will help you develop some ideas of what to say.

WHAT TO WRITE... Thank You NotesAddress them in a warm and personal way, thanking them for the specific gift or special thing they did. If they’re someone close to you, you can mention that you’re thankful for the gift, etc., but more than that, you’re thankful for their friendship, which you cherish all year through.

Let them know what the gift means to you. Did you eat the cookies they gave you right away or share them with your family? Did you wear the new scarf to work and everyone commented on it? Did their hospitality allow you to truly relax and enjoy yourself? Let them know that this gift has meaning for you.

You can then finish your note with a comment on how their gift or thoughtfulness makes you smile each time you think about it or let them know it added special meaning to your day.

The most important thing to remember is to be sincere…and to be yourself. Whether you go the traditional route or if funny is your thing, your appreciation will show through no matter which words you choose. So relax, and remember, too, that your note of thanks will start the year off right for both of you!

Finally, here are a few more idea starters that work well for many occasions:

Simply grateful for special people like you.

Your help was such a blessing.

Thankful, appreciative, grateful…that’s me because of you.

Thanks for all your special (caring) ways.

So lucky, so happy, so grateful for you.

Thank you for taking the time to be so thoughtful.

Could you have been any nicer? Don’t see how!

Thanks for thinking of me in such a special way.

Thanks…it was wonderful…just like you!

You’re a real sunshine-bringer!

You totally “out-niced” yourself!

Visit bluemountain.com to see a wide range of styles and designs in thank you ecards
and stationery.

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Christmas Etiquette

Christmas EtiquetteIt’s Christmas…the season of warmth and cheer! You may find holiday gatherings, parties and potlucks a bit overwhelming at this time of year, but it always helps to remember how much a little thoughtfulness and good manners can add to the season.

Here are a few ideas on keeping the season merry and bright:

Christmas Cards

  • Paper cards should be thoughtfully selected for each recipient, signed personally by your own hand, and genuinely sent with a heartfelt wish.
  • Send your family letters only to the select few on your list who really know you and would appreciate hearing about your accomplishments and how tall your children are now.
  • Be sure to personalize your ecards with a simple, but special message to keep them warm and sincere for the holidays. If you don’t know what to say, click here to see our blog on that very subject!
  • Make sure you match your cards (paper and/or ecards) to your recipients– faith-based sentiments should go to those who would appreciate them. It’s best to stick to general sentiments (“Happy Holidays, etc”) for your non-Christian friends.
  • Make sure humor cards are tasteful and will make someone smile or laugh.
  • Remember that the best cards always come with a simple note, even if it’s just the word “Love” followed by your name.

Christmas Gifts

  • Respect your own budget and select or create gifts that you are genuinely happy to give.
  • Never “re-gift” in the same circle of people to avoid giving someone a gift they gave you the year before.
  • Remember that any gift you give with love is valued and appreciated by others. From cookies you bake to hand-made crafts, the whole idea of gift giving is an expression of genuine love and kindness.
  • Remember that it isn’t necessary to match or “out-give” someone else. You simply need to embrace the truth that it is the thought that counts.
  • If you wonder whether you need a gift for someone, err on the safe side, and give something simple like an ornament or a favorite recipe.
  • Always be grateful to others no matter what you receive expressing smiles, thanks and hugs for their generosity to you.

-Christmas Parties

  • Do take a little gift to the hostess of any party you attend. Holidays are busy for everyone and those who choose to open their homes and hearths to you deserve
    a little extra gratitude.
  • Remember to send a warm note of thanks when the holidays are over to all those people who made your season merry and bright. We’ll have some tips for you about what to say in your notes in our upcoming “Thank You” blog on Dec. 28!
  • Be the best guest possible—offer help where you see a need and don’t overdo the alcohol–being a good guest is part of the joy of any celebration.
Christmas Tipping
  • Although holiday tipping is never required, it’s always appreciated and shows that you’re pleased with the service rendered. Obvioiusly, if you don’t feel it’s deserved, then, by all means, don’t tip.
  • When tipping someone you see on a regular basis (housekeeper, caregiver, manicurist, etc.), you should always include a thank you card or note with a personal message.
  • Again, for those you see on a  regular basis, you should tip what would be considered the cost of one “session.” (If you see the same hairdresser once a month, your tip should be equal to the cost of one appointment.) Nannies, housekeepers, etc. generally receive one week’s pay, while the standard for paperboys, trash collectors, etc, is usually between $10-25.
  • Public servants may not accept cash gifts, so your mail carrier or child’s teacher might appreciate a book, gift certificate, chocolates or perhaps a hand-made gift (as long as the value does not exceed $20.)
  • A good rule of thumb is to use your best judgement on what you tip and to whom. If you’re not certain, check with friends or look online to see what’s standard in your community.
However you celebrate Christmas, share it with love and joy. Remind yourself that there’s a spirit of genuine friendship and community at Christmastime that’s even more special at this time of year. Embrace that spirit and join in the fun. After all, it’s part of what makes this such a happy season!
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