Holiday 2011: The dos and don’ts of dinner party etiquette
Former model turned etiquette coach Nathalie Findlay on the dos and don'ts of holiday dinner party manners.
1. Getting carded
Sending cards? "Are you kidding me?" you ask. I hear you. But in the event that you receive seasonal missives–from those mythical beings who have the time to do this–it’s wise to have a few cards on hand so that you can pen a quick reply. If that seems next to impossible, consider making a quick call to thank them for their seasonal good wishes. (Sorry, but a blanket Twitter posting, email, text or BBM doesn’t count.)
Bonus tip: For one-of-a-kind cards, check out etsy.com, or if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, send stylish e-cards from katespade.com or hipstercards.com.
2. Party on!
Three key ingredients to a great holiday dinner party: guests, food/drink and music. On your invitation, don’t forget to highlight the obvious details, like the date, time, dress code and gifting expectations. The last thing you want to do is make your guests feel overdressed or undergifted; nor do you want to be fielding fashion questions over the telephone while you really should be whipping up your salmon mousse. Keep the lighting complementary (dim, that is), and match the music to the mood. For a cocktail vibe with a modern Mad Men sound, try Jill Barber’s new Mischievous Moon; pass on Justin Bieber’s Under the Mistletoe.
Bonus tip: Pour about one centimetre of champagne into each flute before guests arrive. When it’s time to serve, filling will be much easier/faster as the champagne won’t foam as much.
3. Guest practices
• When you receive an invitation, be sure to let the host know if you have food allergies or are on a restricted diet. By diet, I don’t mean Atkins/Dukan/Skinny Bitch or some colon cleanse that no one wants to hear about. Take the night off–trust me, one meal won’t make a difference.
• Arrive at the indicated time. Don’t arrive early, and don’t push the limits on the fashionably late 15-minute grace period.
More dos and don’ts of holiday dinner party etiquette on the next page…
Stick to the dress code.. If it’s casual, don’t reach for your louche
eveningwear from Gucci; if it’s cocktail chic, your Lululemon tights are style no-gos.
• Be prepared to break out of your comfort zone. Mingle with all the guests. Your mantra? Listen more, talk less.
• Enjoy the bubbles, but don’t overdo it. Remember that there’s no such thing as a private party these days-you’re one camera click away from landing on someone’s Facebook page.
• Don’t be indiscreet. Do you want #wickedgossipgirl to be the most common hash tag associated with your name? On the flip side, don’t be the serial twit who’s tweeting in the corner. Turn your phone off and be in the moment.
• Offer to help the host. But be aware that some people are territorial about their kitchen, so feel your way around.
• Don’t be the dreaded guest who refuses to leave.
Bonus tips: Hold your glass in your left hand so that you’ll be ready to shake hands straight away. If there is mistletoe–and mistletoe-worthy guys–have breath mints ready.
4. Gifted class
Regifting: Don’t. Either use it or sell it. The potential fallout from getting caught is simply not worth it.
Pregifting Having a cupboard full of items that could be given away is a brilliant idea for those who are pressed for time. Stock it with things like picture frames, non-perishable gourmet-food items (homemade jams or chutneys or truffle-flavoured salt). Remember: Presentation counts.
Bonus tip: If you receive a gift, always send a thank-you note.