Belfast Telegraph

Nuala McKeever: If you’re dolled up at a posh do, at least try to speak properly

Listen. “Good eev-ning, hiar is the nyoos”. If you can hear that in a terribly terribly BBC 1940s’ radio announcer voice, then we're off to the right start this week because I want to talk about etiquette. Or rather, I should like to talk about etiquette.

The impending RW (Royal Wedding) has stirred debate in the media about who you do and don't invite if you're getting spliced. It's set me thinking that the whole idea of etiquette is fast disappearing.

Etiquette is the “correct” behaviour, the right way to do things, the proper approach when life throws up a choice.

But whose etiquette is it anyway? Haven't all the rules been thrown out with the raising of hemlines and the lowering of decency thresholds? Isn't it a case now of one man or woman's “correct” is another's “totally naff”?

Take the RW. Recently I was joking with a well-known NI person (famous for something unconnected to royalty) about whether or not he'd been invited to the big do. He laughed and said no he hadn't, but he had been phoned and asked if he would care to go to Hillsborough Castle to watch the event on TV with lots of other NI “celebs”.

An invitation to die for, or something that'd make you reach for a bucket? You decide.

He was happy to report that he'd be on holiday at the time and so wouldn't be available, thus avoiding having to say outright “No, I'd rather stick hot needles in my eyes, thanks”.

I imagine the RW experience will be rather like the RGP (Royal Garden Party) experience for a lot of people.

From what I've heard, you have to turn up early, stand around in the uncomfortably high heels you've bought specially for the occasion (women) and overly warm suit jackets (men), making small talk over glasses of bubbly while waiting, sometimes for hours, to catch a glimpse of an individual you probably wouldn't want to spend five minutes with down the pub. As days out go, it wouldn't give Alton Towers a run for its money.

But there are obviously those for whom watching the RW in HC would be exciting. The sort of people encountered by another male friend some years ago. He turned up at a wedding in London to find all the other male guests wearing morning suits. Upon enquiring of his acquaintances: “But how did you know it was morning suits, it didn't say on the invitation?” he was informed sagely, “My dear chap, one just knows”.

Perhaps I betray my plebian roots, but I'm happy to say I'm in the “one just doesn't know” camp. Mind you, I'm such a hypocrite really, cos I've been delighted to be given an invitation to the Black Tie gala opening of a new theatre in Belfast soon.

I like to hob-nob with the best of them in the worlds that appeal to me.

My one disappointment with formal do's is that people rarely speak in a manner that matches their garb. My etiquette book would have a rule saying: “You're not allowed to behave or speak like an ignorant grunt, when you're dolled up to the nines”.

Few things are less attractive than a woman in a beautiful evening dress, with tattoos, applying fresh lippy in the Ladies and “I seen-ing” and “I done-ing” all over the place.

Decorum, please ...

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