Say Yes to the Dress: The Entourage

SYTTD

Image Credit: marrygrams

I recently had the opportunity of going with my cousin to her bridal appointment. To say it was an exciting event is an understatement! On my way to meet her, I started to think of how the appointment would be and what type of interactions and feedback the bride would want from those of us attending. It was my first time attending a bridal appointment so here are the tips and etiquette dos I learned!

  1. Allow the Bride to have the first say on a gown:
    • When you are looking at gowns in the showroom, ask the bride her opinion of a gown before handing it to the consultant or putting it in the bride’s room.
    • When the bride comes out to show you a gown, let the consultant get her in front of the mirror and allow the bride to see herself before making any comments. This will allow her to express her honest thoughts without being swayed by your immediate feedback.
  2. Remember your place:
    • Whether it is spoken or not, we all know there is a “hierarchy” within the attendees.
      • Mom, sister(s), and grandmothers come first – This is an important bonding moment between a mom and a daughter and/or between sisters, allow them to have the most interaction.
      • Maid/Matron of Honor – You are who the bride will lean on most so start practicing your best dress “fluffing” skills and be ready to test out those “Maid/Matron of Honor duties” early!
      • Bridesmaids, extended family, and friends – Take somewhat of a backseat to allow the others listed above to have a moment with the bride and share their feedback before sharing your own.
  3. When it is your turn to speak up, keep the Bride as your focus!
    • Some brides want a lot of feedback, while others are more personal – allow this to dictate how and when you give your feedback.
    • Be thoughtful in the comments you give. While honesty is always the best policy, honest feedback given in a kind manner is the most appreciated.
    • Similarly, some brides want a lot of excitement around their appointment (think matching shirts and big signs) while others do not like to be the center of attention. Ensure whatever you do makes the bride feel comfortable!
      • For example, if you have an understated bride, it may be best to leave the pom-poms, voting paddles, and other accessories at home.
  4. Remember the other elements of the wedding
    • Several factors come into play when picking out the perfect gown. Keep in mind:
      • Location of the wedding: A beach bride will probably be looking for a dress style different than a wedding taking place in a conservative place of worship.
      • Date of the wedding: Time of year plays a big factor in dress design and material.
      • Budget: Always be respectful of the bride’s budget.

Simply remember the end goal is to have a happy bride choose the dress SHE loves for HER big day! If you keep this and the bride in mind, you will be on the right path to ensuring she has the best bridal entourage in the studio!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

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Moving Day, Grab the Crew!

Moving Day

With a large number of individuals relocating during the summer, the ever popular “moving season” is upon us! Moving can be a stressful time with a “To Do” list that seems to grow by the second. To help reduce some of the stress, many people will hire movers to help with the process. How can you use movers to have the best move possible?

  1. Be Organized
    • If you have elected to have your movers pack your belongings, be clear about what you want packed and have those things organized. As the movers are packing the boxes, this is not the time to start throwing things out. Schedule time for yourself to “de-clutter” prior to the day the movers arrive to pack your boxes.
  2. Be Ready
    • If you are packing yourself, have everything packed and staged for the movers prior to their arrival. If the movers arrive and you are still packing boxes, this will delay their work and be an inefficient use of their time.
    • Ensure you provide the moving team with the correct address for both locations. Also, if there are special instructions for parking, loading dock location, or elevator usage, ensure you provide this to the team ahead of time.
  3. Be Courteous
    • Everyone is nervous about moving (mainly hoping nothing breaks), but this does not mean you should hover over your moving crew. If you have boxes or items that are fragile and need special attention or packing instructions, let your movers know this ahead of time and be sure to point out those items on moving day.
    • Have water and/or sports drinks to hand out to the movers, especially if they will be working in the extreme heat of the summer.
  4. Should I tip the moving team?
    • Tipping your movers is much like tipping waitstaff at restaurants, you base it on job performance. If you are happy with the job, tip the team. If you are unhappy and had problems throughout the job, you do not have to tip.
    • How much should I tip the movers?
      • In contrast to tipping waitstaff, it is more popular to tip movers a flat amount rather than a percentage of the moving cost. However, this amount will vary based on the extent of the move.
      • Suggested tip amounts (for each mover) are:
        • Short Move (less than 4 hours): $10 – $15 per mover
        • All Day Move (8 hours): $20 – $30 per mover
        • Extended Move (more than 12 hours): $40 per mover
        • Remember to individually thank and tip each mover! Do not hand an overall sum to one mover.
      • In lieu of tipping your movers, you can treat them to lunch. If you decide to do this, ask them their meal order!

 

To everyone moving this summer, enjoy your new homes!

Sparkle On!

Alexandra

Hey there stranger!

and

Hey y’all!

After moving into a new position with USO-Metro, I thought I would take a little time off to focus on the new role. Well… That hiatus ended up taking on a year (plus) life of its own. I have FINALLY had some time to work on new and creative pieces which I am excited to share with y’all.

As I continue to work on new material and pull from the experiences I have had, I am also looking to collect more ideas from my readers. What questions do y’all have and what do y’all want to know more about in the world of protocol and etiquette? Send me your questions and suggestions! You can submit them to my “Contact Me” page or comment directly on this post. I love being able to write posts directly focused on my readers and I look forward to seeing what y’all are interested in knowing more about!

Keep your eyes out for a new post next week!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Formal Etiquette: Time to Get Gala Ready!

Today, I am taking a bit of “writer’s freedom” and subscribing to the #ThrowbackThursday movement.

At work, we are preparing for Project Cinderella (click to read about last year’s program)! With everything from a protocol and etiquette seminar to a dress boutique, this is a wonderful program which helps female military spouses and female service members prepare to attend balls/galas, formal ceremonies, and other high-visibility military events.

In conjunction with this event prep, I am re-sharing my 2 articles on Military Ball/Gala protocol and etiquette:

Additionally, there is a way for YOU to get involved! As a part of Project Cinderella, each attendee visits the Dress Boutique and is able to take home a gown! To grow our dress boutique, USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore is collecting new and “like-new” dresses/gowns, shoes, and accessories for cocktail, formal, and black tie events. If you have a gown (or a few!) to contribute, please do so at your closest USO-Metro center/lounge!

Project Cinderella - Dress and Accessory Collection

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

The Contents of a Great Email

Email Etiquette

Photo Credit: Inspired by This

In today’s day and age, email keeps us far more connected than ever before. Rather than picking up the phone or walking across the office building, we continuously send emails to our colleagues, friends, and family regarding matters from business to social plans and everything in between. So, how do you know if your email gets read or better yet, how do you know if your email actually served its purpose?

To ensure your emails are getting the attention they deserve, and by that I mean the right kind of attention, here are my tips for the contents of a great email:

  1. Subject Line
    • Use the Important Information Only. I once was working with a hospital director’s executive assistant on multiple visits for distinguished visitors and the aide asked, “For visit requests, please put Date of Visit, Name/Title of Visitor, and Meet Time in the subject line so I can see the main points quickly. Once I see that, I will know exactly what I am looking for in regards to planning and level of importance.”
    • Do Not Write the Message in the Subject Line. The subject line serves as a preview to the contents of the email, it should not read like a sentence or go on past the viewing pane.
    • Stick to the SubjectIf you need to discuss multiple topics that are unrelated with the recipient, I highly suggest doing so in different emails. This (1) ensures all your topics will be seen equally and (2) reduces confusion when answering questions by eliminating bunching responses together. If you do decide to include everything in 1 email, use an overarching subject line.
  2. Reply vs. Reply All
    • If you are placed on a group email thread and need to ask just the sender a question, reply only to the sender. There is no need to clutter everyone else’s inbox.
    • If you are sent a group invitation for an event, party, etc., submit your R.s.v.p. to the sender only. If you would like to know if other people are going, simply ask them yourself.
    • Only “Reply All” when all those on the message traffic will benefit from you sharing the information and it is pertinent to them. If you are the only person on the “To” line and the other people copied all need the information or are waiting for your direction then a “reply all” is appropriate.
  3. “To,” “CC,” and “BCC.” Always pay attention to which line your name is placed on in the email.
    • “To:” This means the email is directly to you and it is your responsibility to reply to the sender.
    • “Cc:” You are copied on the email for your awareness, but it is not your responsibility to take action. Allow the person on the “to” line to take action and send the first reply. If you need to comment or add information, do so after he/she sends the first reply.
    • “Bcc:” You are blind copied on this email, meaning it is only for your awareness. You should not reply, especially reply all, because the other recipients do not know you were included. If you need to discuss something from the email with the sender, seek out that individual only, most likely in person.
  4. Marking Something with “High Importance”
    • Only use this flag if your email is truly of high importance and needs someone’s attention quickly. Overuse of this flag will result in people skipping your emails because they will believe nothing is actually “highly important.”
    • If something is truly important and you do not receive a response in an appropriate amount of time, call the person rather than sending him/her another email.
  5. Greeting
    • Always include a greeting to the recipient at the beginning of your email. The type of greeting you use will vary based on the email being sent (formal, professional, personal/informal), but no matter what a greeting is always important! Here are a few examples:
      • Formal: “Dear,” always followed by the proper form address (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Military Rank, etc.).
      • Professional: “Good Morning, Good Afternoon, or Good Evening” always followed by the proper form address (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Military Rank, etc.).
      • Personal/Informal: “Hey, Hi, Hey there, etc.” followed by however you address the person in your personal life.
  6. Closing / Signature Block. Yes, you need one! Do not ever send an email without signing it!
    • Use a proper closing that reflects the relationship/type of email you are writing:
      • Formal: “Sincerely,” “Very Respectfully,” “Respectfully,”
      • Professional: You can close with something that reflects your personality yet is still appropriate. For example, “Best Wishes,” “Cheers!,” “Many Thanks,” etc.
      • Personal/Informal: This type of closing is completely up to you and the relationship you have with the recipient!
    • Clearly identify yourself. Use your full name, title/position, and company affiliation in your signature block.
    • Include your contact information. Your signature block should include your office phone number, email address, and company/organization web address. Be sure the signature block template is company/office-wide!
  7. Review your email before hitting send!
    • Check your email for grammar and missing words (when you type fast, it is bound to happen).
    • Remove any uncommon abbreviations or text message lingo/short words.
    • Be cautious when using emoticons. Emoji’s are appropriate in informal emails or internal correspondence (between coworkers), but should not be used for professional or formal correspondence.
    • Ensure the email is addressed to the appropriate people on the appropriate recipient lines.
    • If you stated in the email you included an attachment, be sure it is attached before sending.

By incorporating these extra touches into your emails, it will ensure you have proper email etiquette leading to your email receiving the type of attention and replies you desire.

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

My Experience as a USO Elf

USO_LOGO_Project Elf_Script-01

This article is not related to protocol or etiquette; however, I found this experience so special, I knew I had to share it.

This Holiday Season, I had the privilege of being the Program Manager, or “Head Elf” as some affectionately referred to me, for USO-Metro’s Project Elf. Project USO Elf supports military children of junior enlisted service members, E-1 to E-5, by pairing them with Corporate and Community Wish List Donors who sponsor the children. These Wish List Donors buy the children gifts from their Wish List for the Holiday Season. This year, I am very proud to say USO-Metro supported over 1,200 military children in the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan region!

While this program was quite an undertaking, coordinating 1,200+ Wish Lists between 2 distribution locations from hundreds of Wish List Donors proved to be no small feat, it is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Planning for the program started as “Christmas in July” and gained momentum throughout the Fall. The build-up to the program was amazing!

On October 1st, the “North Pole” began receiving Wish Lists from children. The notes I read honestly made my day several times. One of my personal favorites was for a 6 year old girl, “She is girly and happy go lucky, very artistic, loves play dates and gymnastics! She has asked for: stuffed Hello Kitty doll, silver pageant crown & wand, ribbon baton twirler, Frozen Anna dress, sparkly silver Mary Janes, Melissa and Doug craft projects. She also likes Chick-Fil-A, My Little Ponies, and fun sparkly colors of Zoya (nontoxic) nail polish.” How adorable is that?! That is just one of the over 1,200 Wish Lists I received that reminded me of the pure joy and excitement the Holidays bring to children. Come November, Wish Lists were distributed to Donors and they were set loose to hit the stores while I stayed at the North Pole organizing the program logistics!

As soon as December 1st hit, I spent the first week of the month on “Sleigh Stops” visiting our Corporate Wish List Donors and receiving hundreds of Wish Lists from several companies. The level of excitement I saw in these donors and the giving atmosphere the companies built around my program was incredible. One company even had so many employees want to give to the program, that the employees started buying popular gifts for us to add to other children’s gift bags saying, “the more the merrier!” Once all the Wish Lists were collected, my amazing volunteers set-up and decorated the distribution sites.

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Project USO Elf Distribution Site #1 with over 800 Wish Lists ready for service member pick-up!


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Project USO Elf Distribution Site #2 with more than 400 Wish Lists ready for service member pick-up!

When distribution night arrived, I was instilled with an overwhelming sense of calm. That day, I knew all the hard work and long hours I put in were about to pay off – big time! Seeing the smiles and hearing the words of appreciation from service members who received gifts for their children was the only “Thank You” I needed. Realizing we (I would be remiss if I did not thank my amazing USO-Metro teammate and our HUGE volunteer corps. Without the volunteer hours put in by these dedicated, patriotic individuals, my job would not have been possible) had really made a difference in the lives of others was incredible.

This year, the Christmas spirit has not quite “taken hold” of me in my personal life. However, today I realized when over 1,200 military children wake-up tomorrow morning their Christmas wishes will come true thanks to so many generous citizens who wanted to give back and say “thank you” to our service members. Personally, the opportunity to play Santa for these military children has been a privilege and truly an honor. This year, Christmas took on a new meaning for me. I hope to continue to pay it forward to those so deserving of this special program.

“Merry Christmas to all and to all, a Good Night!”

Project USO Elf “Lead Elf”

To learn more about Project USO Elf, please watch Elizabeth Prann’s Fox News coverage of Project USO ElfFor additional photos from Project USO Elf, please visit the USO-Metro Facebook album.

 

Dining Etiquette: Splitting the Bill

Photo Credit: The Economic Times

Photo Credit: The Economic Times

After a wonderful meal with great company, there is no worse way to finish the dining out experience than having confusion over the bill. No matter the circumstance, a business meal, a group of friends, or a celebration in honor of someone, this type of confusion can always make attendees feel uncomfortable (click to watch). In order to avoid any awkward moments, here are my tips for splitting the bill:

  1. Splitting the Bill Can be a Touchy Subject – The following are important to keep in mind as you plan group meals.
    • People do not want to “get stuck” paying for the expensive meals, additional appetizers, or alcoholic beverages of others when they do not consume the same. Not everyone can afford the same thing.
      • Food for Thought: When the bill is split evenly between people who did not actually order things costing the same amount, those who are charged more often deduct from the tip. This is not fair to the servers.
    • If going out as couples, it is often easiest to split the total as an even amount per couple; however, keep the first bullet point in mind!
    • Bringing cash (and a variety of bill amounts) when you know you will be splitting the bill is a good idea. You do not want to owe anyone money after the fact or be responsible for holding up paying.
    • For those who are comfortable with digital payment methods, consider using the apps like Venmo and PayPal.
  2. If You Plan to Split the Bill – Always make the plan known ahead of time!
    • If you are the organizer for a group get together, but you are not the host, you should let attendees know ahead of time the bill will be split. After receiving the R.s.v.p. list, send a confirmation note to all attendees including “reminders” and stating the plan for the bill.
      • For example: “A request to split the total for brunch as individual bills has been made of the restaurant. Brunch will be divided by what you order, not split evenly among everyone, in order to be fair to all. Thank you for understanding!”
    • If you make a reservation for a larger number of people, call the restaurant and ask if separate checks for a large group is possible. Also, ask if gratuity is added for a group of your size. Some establishments are unable to do separate checks; therefore, it is important to let your attendees know in advance if paying in cash will be necessary.
      • For example: “Please bring cash for dinner. We have been told splitting the check between so many credit cards is not possible; therefore, having cash will make it much easier for us to divide the cost ourselves.”
    • Always tell your server you wish to split the bill when he/she first greets you. This way, when you order, your server can enter your drinks and meals as separate checks.
      • It is very frustrating for servers to receive a joint bill back that says, “Put $25.51 on the red card, $34.22 on the blue card, etc..”
  3. Ultimately, Who is Responsible for the Bill?
    • Typically, if your boss/manager is present and extended the invite then it is his/her responsibility to cover the bill.
    • Similarly, with client lunches/dinners or interviews that take place over a meal, the hosting business is responsible for the bill.
    • If you are hosting a meal out for friends, family, etc., the cost of the meal and gratuity is your responsibility. Think of it as hosting at your home – You do not ask guests to pay for their meal in your home when you host; therefore, you should not expect them to pay when you extend the invitation to join you out for a meal.
    • If you are out to celebrate a special occasion for someone (birthday, promotion, etc.), it is customary that his/her bill is covered by the other people at the table. As a guest, be prepared to split the honoree’s tab – bringing cash helps!
    • If you are asked to evenly split a bill for a group whose meals are clearly not equal in cost, speak up in a polite manner. Simply saying, “Excuse me, everyone did not order equal amounts and I think it would be unfair to expect each other to make up for our portions. May we split the bill based on our meals?”

No matter your age or the setting, splitting the bill can always be a difficult situation to navigate. I hope these tips help you find a solution easily and relieve you of some dining out anxiety in the future!

Happy dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra