When I took an etiquette class in college, I was coming from zero knowledge. Nothing broke me out into hives more than too many forks and a bowl of water on my plate.
Luckily a few well-meaning friends and that etiquette class helped me to be more confident at fancy dinners, cocktail parties and professional events. One lesson was to leave enough room on your plate to balance your glass in case you need a free hand. Let’s just say this was a practiced skill for me. It was definitely not my forte.
Another lesson I learned was if you didn’t know what to do, follow everyone else’s lead. This is also good advice at a hoe-down, a cultural event you’re not familiar with, or at Comic-Con.
And when that doesn’t work, just shrug and ask, “What do you want me to do with this hot cloth? Wipe off the honey glaze I just dipped my sleeve in?” An ignorance-claiming question along with a sly smile and Southern drawl will get you far in life.
Something else that resonated with me in class was the fact that etiquette is not meant to make one feel uncomfortable. This was definitely news to me, but I quickly learned it’s not meant to be used as a weapon of cattiness or snobbery. The purpose of having shared etiquette is not to make someone’s meal less enjoyable or make them feel inadequate. If you use etiquette this way, shame on you.
You get an F, and I will not be joining your Christmas holiday fete a la tacky sweater awkwardness.
Lesson One: The host should make their guest feel comfortable and at ease regardless.
Remember that scene in Pretty Woman? The one where they meet for a business dinner and she’s being beautiful and charming—then she looks down, sees escargot and completely does a mind blank? She attempts to follow her host’s lead and ends up almost taking someone’s eye out.
It’s only after the older man across from her makes a comment about not knowing what to do with the forks that she is put instantly at ease and they enjoy their meal – until Richard Gere states he’s about to dismantle the other guys’ family business like a suburban garage sale, but whatever. Point made.
And when you’re hosting that fancy dinner or holiday party: Expect things to go wrong.
Things will get spilled. Things will break. Things will burn. Guests will be late. Your house will not be clean enough. Your hidden junk drawer will be discovered. Your husband will get a little too tipsy on the holiday egg nog and decide it’s too hot to wear his reindeer sweater…but not too hot to don the decorative Santa hat all night. It’s OK.
The key to remember is to enjoy each other’s company. Even if you accidently eat off the charger plate or your guest requests that her red wine be chilled, graciously smile and wish each other a merry Christmas. Besides, after the third glass of wine, the shoes come off and etiquette takes a holiday anyway.
With the utmost respect and sincerity,
- Holiday Party Etiquette Tips (shellygfitness.wordpress.com)
- Convention Etiquette (loriwriter.com)
- What NOT To Do At the Office Holiday Party (amibeingcatty.wordpress.com)