Our world of modern social interaction has recently been challenged with everything we knew before it. Luckily, our Ms. Etiquette Expert, Sharon M. Schweitzer, J.D., is here to the rescue to solve the challenges that are happening at this very moment

Dear Ms. Etiquette Expert,

We have been reading so many different opinions. Just what is social distancing, and can I attend an outdoor event with eight people if it’s in the park with a breeze and lots of fresh air? What about after this situation resolves and we move to a new normal?

                                                                                                                                                       Confused in Texas

Dear Texas Curious,

Experts in the infectious disease community have defined these pandemic terms, and we follow their clear guidance. Even after the pandemic, experts predict that the new normal may require some adjusting to because individuals will continue to social distance until a certain comfort level returns. 


Social distancing means creating physical distance between individuals that don’t reside together. In society, it involves the closure of primary and secondary education facilities, non-essential businesses, and postponing large scale musical and artistic events. When in any public space, people must stay six feet apart and avoid all physical contact with people  whom they do not live.


Avoid the confusion about whether it’s okay to gather outdoors with less than ten people. Currently, everyone should limit close contact, indoors and outdoors, to family members only. Unfortunately, this translates to no birthday soirees, no dinner parties, and no playdates. When invited, graciously decline with:  While we would be delighted to attend, we are playing it safe until the current situation resolves, and we can all celebrate without social distancing. Thanks for your kind invitation, but we must decline.


Dear Ms. Etiquette Expert,

We received an updated invitation to a password protected video wedding for a well-known philanthropist. We’re just not sure how to respond. It’s still scheduled for August 2020, only not at the original venue. How do we handle this change with social savvy?

                                                                                                                                                         Wondering Wedding Guest

Dear Well-Prepared Guest,

It appears as though the prospective partners have the best interests of their guests at heart. At times, the nuptials must go on. Is there an elderly grandparent, aunt, or uncle who wants to witness the ceremony? Perhaps the best man or matron of honor is undergoing medical treatment or chemotherapy, and end-of-life is near.


We never know what others are enduring, do we? Handle the change with grace by confirming your video presence, purchasing a gift from their registry, or contributing to their wedding fund. Best wishes and congratulations!


Dear Ms. Etiquette Expert,

We’re traveling to England to stay at the estate of friends of friends once all the travel restrictions are lifted. For someone who has everything, what in the world should we bring, or send, as a host gift as a gesture of thanks for their grand hospitality?

                                                                                                                                                             Travelin’ Light


Dear Light Traveler,

Social graces require house guests to learn and know the personal preferences of their hosts. As citizen ambassadors, give appropriate and thoughtful items that are made in the U.S. Elegant gifts for the home, especially from your favorite premium boutique, are always in good taste.


If your hosts enjoy spirits, bring a U.S. brand that they will recognize and appreciate, from a black, blue, red, or gold label. Avoid giving a gift made in England or the U.K. since they can purchase this themselves.