Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Part Two of Beyond Place Settings and Receiving Lines: Ten Things the Commander's Wife Wishes She Could Tell You

A revised version...
On the set of Army Wives, LTG Holden (Brian McNamara) explaining to Chas and I how much generals appreciate being invited to a party! He is a really great guy and he does look a little like Bill.
 (A slight bending of rule #8!)

5.  COMMANDERS ARE PEOPLE TOO...your commander and spouse may not always be available to socialize but they do appreciate being invited to parties and neighborhood get togethers.   People don't always feel they can be themselves when the commander is around so my advice to the commander is not to stay too long! Join the fun for a little while and then let the rest of the party goers do their thing. (as to not break rule # 10!!)
Love a creatively wrapped gift!
4. THANK YOU NOTES and HOSTESS GIFTS.... thank you notes, YES, always write them! They should be prompt and formally addressed to your host and hostess even if you're on a first name basis. Technically, they should be written after the function even if you brought a hostess gift.
When you're invited to an event in someone's quarters bringing a small hostess gift is a thoughtful gesture.  Bring something appropriate for the time of day and event.  Sometimes the invitation will read, "No Hostess Gifts", this request should always be respected.
There are formal protocol events that are held in the home of general officers which do not require you bring hostess gifts. You can check with your local protocol office for guidance.
A note about coffee groups, the commander's spouse should always bring a gift to the hostess on behalf of the entire coffee group.
Chandelier and clocks hanging in La Bella Luce, one of my favorite stores and future blogs!
3.  TO BE OR NOT TO BE (Late, Early, or On Time)...NEVER,  please NEVER, arrive earlier than the invitation states.  Don't ring the bell and say you're there to help, if the hostess needed help she would have asked for it.  Don't make an excuse for coming early because this is something you control...pass the time by waiting in your car or walking around the block.
Do arrive ON TIME or within 15 minutes of the designated time. If you're going to be too much later, especially if there is a dinner involved, please call and let your hostess know you're running late. Don't email and don't text at the last minute.
You must be ON TIME, never late, to an event that has a designated time block as you are only allotted a certain amount of time for the visit. Watch your time and say your good-byes according to the time on your invitation.

Army wives coffee, circa 1960, back in the day when your husband could be reprimanded for your lack of decorum.  I'm glad those days are behind us. (My lovely mother-in-law in standing in the dark dress!)
2. WHAT SHOULD I WEAR... Today, there are all sorts of new"dress codes" with quirky names like casual elegance, cowboy formal (huh?), informal but formally known as casual.  Seriously, it is no wonder nobody knows how to dress for anything! My first piece of advice is if you'd wear it to bed then you probably shouldn't wear it to a ball,  a redeployment ceremony, an FRG meeting, or the commissary...just to name a few.  That goes for pajama variations and all other assortments of skimpy and ill-fitting outfits.
When it comes to military functions, I believe in leading by example. But the bottom line is, as seasoned spouses, we can't make other spouses wear what we think is appropriate.  What you wear shows your respect, or LACK of respect, for the  military uniform that your spouse wears.  He or she wears that uniform proudly and your dress should compliment your spouse and reflect their commitment to their unit, service, and our country. Remember, no matter who you are someone is watching you. You are always an example for someone...so be a good one in your actions and appearance.
A timeless quote from a Facebook posting by my beautiful and fashionable friend, Gaby.
1.  RSVP, RSVP, RSVP!!!!!  RSVP means "repondez s'il vous plait" which basically translates "I INVITED YOU SO TELL ME IF YOU'RE COMING OR NOT"! (Ok, so that's not the literal translation!)  If someone is kind enough to send you an invitation be kind enough to respond.  You really don't want to get a call from the commander's office asking if you're coming to an event because you or your spouse have forgotten to RSVP.  And for heaven's sake, if you do forget, DON'T show up thinking it will be ok. You will only embarrass yourself and your hostess who will have assumed by that time you aren't coming...and you don't care.  Please call and apologize or explain.
If you RSVP "yes" for a paying event and then find out you can't make it YOU ARE STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYING unless you've made appropriate arrangements with the sponsor of the event. This goes for formals, welcomes, farewells, ect.
If you don't remember anything else about protocol, please, at least remember to RSVP…and don't arrive early!
Photo of our guest book taken by our PAO at Fort Riley.
If you'd like more tips on protocol and military etiquette, I highly recommend the online document "Basics From the Barracks" written by the spouses of the Army War College class of 2010-2011.
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'Til next time...
Duty First!


  1. Thank you for writing this-- especially the "dress code". I remember the dress at parties always being listed as "dressy casual" and we would all giggle about it because no one really knew what that was Ü it's still a funny at our house!!

  2. What a wonderful post! Thank you for articulating these points. I'm definitely sharing with all of my milspouse friends - new AND old!

  3. Hi there,
    I came across your blog as I was doing a google search for Army Wives Coffee archival photos, and I noticed you have some wonderful ones from the 1960s. I am currently working on a television show about Army Wives and searching for a few photos that I can use to reference the history of these coffees. Would you be open to speaking further about licensing these photos?
    Warm Regards, Jen

  4. Jen,
    The photos belong to my mother in law and I'm sure that, with more information about your project, she would not mind sharing them. Is your show a documentary or something similar to the Lifetime show "Army Wives"?
    Shand :)

    1. Wonderful! I just sent an email to you to explain further (thought I would post that here in case it goes to your spam)

      Thanks so much :)