As we begin the new decade ahead, we can all brush up on our skills to make every social situation as seamless as possible. Our Ms. Etiquette Expert, Sharon M. Schweitzer, J.D., is on the scene to lend sage wisdom for any modern conundrum that may arise.


Dear Ms. Etiquette Expert,

My fiancé and I just became engaged.  My mother is insistent that I register for good china, and I know we’ll never use it, making it seem like a waste. How should I proceed, since my parents are also paying for the wedding? 

Bride To Be


Dear Future Bride,

Best wishes and congratulations to you and your fiancé. Consider this advice:

  1. Encourage open communication with both sides of the family early in the engagement, especially with your parents. Set a time to explore your mother’s insistence on registering for china. Highlight the family customs you and your fiancé are honoring in your wedding, clearly explaining your thoughts. Showing parental respect goes a long way, especially when your family is paying for the wedding. Remember, you will be sharing holiday meals for years to come.


  1. Compromise. Graciously coordinate with your family. Respectfully state that although this is your wedding, you plan to honor the important customs of your mother during the wedding. Summon up your best diplomacy skills, compromise, and remember, you can’t please everyone, all of the time.


Dear Ms. Etiquette Expert,

How should my younger children address new adults that they meet? By their last names, like Mr. Van Huntzel, or by their first name, using a prefix, like Miss Caroline? 

Naming Honors

Dear Naming Necessity,

Younger children learn how to acknowledge and address all adults properly when they practice at home with you through role-playing. Use proper titles with your younger children, such as Mr., Mrs., or Dr., and first or last names. In the south and southwest regions, using the first name with a title is common. For example, Ms. Kristin or Mr. Jason. Pretend to be different people and ask your children to respond to an introduction with correct titles and pleasantries such as “Hello, Mr. Thompson. How are you, Ms. Aldrich?” The next time your children meet an adult, encourage them to use the greeting. Some children are hesitant near adults so gently prod with “Courtney, remember Ms. Kristin? Will you say hello, please?”


Dear Ms. Etiquette Expert,

Can you please share your top three, interesting-as-heck, conversation starters that are appropriate for dinner with just-met dinner partners?

Budding Conversationalist

Dear Dining Companion,

A meal is such a wonderful way to spend an evening, and if we are seated next to someone we don’t know, it’s a terrific opportunity to learn more about the world. How about if we go with three categories from which to choose that will enable completely comfortable conversation with just about anyone…



What’s your favorite travel destination?

If you could pick one country to travel to, which would you choose and why?

Do you have travel plans? Will you share your destination?

Would you rather travel during a vacation or have a staycation?

What’s your favorite part about travel?

If you’ve  traveled a lot, has it changed who you are? How?

Are you someone who likes group travel? Or, solo travel?

When you travel, do you follow guidebooks or blaze your own path?



Do you think we as humans will invent anything that makes time travel possible?

What do you think will be the greatest invention in the next 25 years? 10 years?

Do you think technology makes our lives simpler or more complicated?

What discovery do you think has transformed our world the most?

What’s your favorite invention of all time?



What are you currently reading? Who is the author?

What’s the last book that you read, and what did you think of it?

Who’s your favorite author? Why?

Do you read fiction? Or do you prefer nonfiction?

Do you read paper books? Or, use an e-reader, or listen to audiobooks?

Have you built a library in your home? Do you gift books to friends and family?