Time for a refresher course…

The holiday party season is almost here so it’s the perfect time for a refresher course on how to behave at social gatherings.  When invited to gathering, the first thing you must do is respond to the invitation.  If you receive an invitation on which the words RSVP appear, you must call or write the hostess with your response.  Formal dinner invitations should be responded to in writing.  You should not wait to see if you get a better offer, or “feel” like attending.  Look at your calendar, check with your partner, and make a decision. 

Is it o.k. to ask who else was invited?  Yes, but you must accept before you ask!!  So you would say it like this, “I’d be delighted to join you for lunch.  May I ask who else is invited?”  If you are unable to attend, and must decline the invitation, you would say, “I regret that I will be unable to attend/join you.  Thank you for the invitation.”  You do not need to give personal information or details as to why you can not attend.

If you’re the one planning the dinner party, Emily Post recommends a specific blend of guests to achieve the perfect dinner party:

  • two “sparklies” from different professions or backgrounds
  • four solid listeners who are skilled at drawing information from others
  • one charity case (just a term…not a reality)
  • one mystery guest who will make guests wonder who they are and where they come from and why they are included

Even though your guests come from different backgrounds, you should never invite people who have no reason to know each other.  For cocktail parties are perfect for paying back invitations and inviting guests who have no reason to know each other.

When to Arrive?  Eight (8) minutes late is ideal–twelve, max.  Fifteen is late. The hostess will be at the door greeting her/his guests until 12 after.  It would be rude to make them come back to the door and leave her guests to greet you.  If guests appear at your door early, put them to work!  They can check that there’s toilet paper in each bathroom, vacuum, dust, etc.  It’s best never to go early to a party because your hostess may put you to work and might be scrambling to handle last minute details.

Approaching the Door—Always use the sidewalk!  Never cut through someone’s yard to get to the front door.  Never use a side door, back door, or hop the fence.  Always use the front door and knock.  Even if the door is open, knock.

Gifts are expected by the host of a dinner party but not by a host of a cocktail party or buffet.  Disposable hostess gifts such as hand soaps, wine, chocolate, or flowers in a vase are great ideas.

Seek out guests who seem lonely or isolated and start a conversation; your host will be so appreciative.  The only proper way to start a conversation with someone you’ve just met is to ask a question or ask for advice.  Stay away from the topics of politics, religion, and sex.  Don’t ask too personal of questions. Stick to light and airy banter.

If you need to circulate and are stuck in a conversation, wait for the person to pause (or breathe) and say, “Well, it was lovely to talk to you.  Would you excuse me?”

Pay attention to the party dynamics and recognize when it’s time to go home–and go!  Never be the last to leave and be ready to leave at least 15-30 before the party is scheduled to end.  When you leave, find the host, whisper, “I’ve had a lovely evening.  Thank you for having me.” and leave.

You’re all set to sparkle and shine during the holiday season!

About allthingsetiquette

Lynley Jones presents Behave! All things Etiquette, an interactive and hilarious undertaking that will help you how to navigate your world with style and confidence. All Things Etiquette is an endeavor to further society's niceties, build self-esteem, self-respect, and respect for others.
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