Bridal Party Chat: Ask the Etiquette Expert

Some rules were made to be followed. But which ones?

If the devil is in the details, then you might call Nancy Mitchell the angel of weddings. As founder of the Etiquette Advocate, Nancy advises and trains everyone from brides to corporations and government agencies on the rules of protocol and etiquette. After spending 23 years as the Library of Congress’s chief protocol adviser and director of special events and public programs, Nancy headed off to use that experience in her own etiquette consulting business. She brings her lessons in protocol to George Washington University and Stratford University as an adjunct professor, and she’s been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, NPR, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

What’s the most important thing for brides to know when it comes to etiquette? “Use it as a helpful tool in wedding planning, not as an enemy of creativity,” she says. Etiquette rules serve as a foundation for wedding planning, but they don’t need to hinder a unique and truly personal celebration. “Instead of being rigid or inhibiting, etiquette rules and traditions help to ensure that everyone is speaking the same language, misunderstandings are avoided, and difficult situations are handled diplomatically.”

Throughout the next year, Nancy will be putting her own advice to work at home. Her daughter, Sallie, got engaged in September. “Because I am an event planner and an etiquette adviser, she’s including me in the planning, which is delightful,” Nancy says. “I have a challenging role of advising her as a daughter and a client. Maybe my dual role will prevent me from turning into a momzilla.”

Nancy has a wealth of advice, and she’s coming to The Washingtonian to share her knowledge of all the weddings dos and don’ts. Every Washington bride knows there are rules—but which ones have to be followed and which ones can be bent? Write personal thank-you notes in a timely fashion? Yes, please. Ask for money in lieu of gifts? Um, no. Submit all your etiquette questions now, and Nancy will answer them from 11 AM to noon in Thursday’s live chat.


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