Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Death of Father-in-law


My Father-in-law recently passed away.  I am very close to my wife's brothers and sisters.  Although I have done a lot of organizing, doing errands, cleaning up, etc. for the family during the last week, I haven't done anything very personal for the immediate members of the family.  Would it be proper to give them gifts?  And if so, do I then give something to my wife?

Dear Brett:

You have already given the best gift that you can give to your family members at this difficult time and that is pitching in with chores and errands that make their lives easier right now. There is no better way to demonstrate your love, support and concern.

"Go-out-and-buy-something" gifts are not required right now.  Instead, when you have time to assemble your thoughts about your father-in-law, you might consider writing letters in which you share your personal and special memories of the man whom your family has lost.  Write one version of the letter for your wife and another version for her brothers and sisters. You will have a different perspective on the man and of family times together than others in the group, and collecting as many memories about their father as they can will help your wife and her siblings to honor their father. If you have photos from the times you spent with your father-in-law, you could collect them into an album that is your personal tribute to him and will be added to the collection of memorabilia that will help the family to cope. There are many online services for creating these photo books, and text can be included.

My condolences to you and your family.

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Nancy Mitchell


Social etiquette; Business etiquette; Entertaining etiquette; Wedding etiquette; Protocol, domestic (US) and international; Flag etiquette; Dining etiquette; Restaurant etiquette; Spa etiquette; Travel etiquette


Nancy R. Mitchell is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol consultant and trainer with more than 30 years of experience in the field. She owns the firm The Etiquette Advocate and is an owner and founding partner of the firm Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at The George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses in the School of Business and the Career Center, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was director of special events and protocol at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other distinguished visitors, galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, Mitchell served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, embassies, academia and corporations.

Protocol and Diplomacy - International Protocol Association

Mitchell is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by CNN, ABC Nightline, Martha Stewart Living Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Washington Business Journal, the Associated Press and Washingtonian magazine, has been featured on ABC Good Morning America, Fox News and National Public Radio, and is an etiquette columnist for, etiquette consultant to Alexandria Woman and to Engaged! magazine, and technical editor of Wedding Etiquette for Dummies (Wiley, 2010).

B.S., University of Utah, 1969

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