Thursday, November 20, 2014

Holiday Dinner Party Etiquette--Public Manners

Minding Your Manners During the Holidays

Using Everyday Manners When They Matter the Most




Ho, ho, ho and don’t even think of photo-bombing my selfie.  In our world of selfies and text as the only form of communication used by many, the holidays have become less about the closeness of family and the excitement of Santa or (whatever one believes in) and more about social media posts and what can be passed off as a gift.  Thus, it appears that the magic has all but disappeared.   

What can save our holiday magic, you ask?  Perhaps some basic, but fair rules.  Get ready and here we go.  Etiquette and good manners to the rescue! 

The only cell at the table should be the one in “celery”.  

Funny thing.  I actually found an “off” button on my cell phone.  No kidding.  It is unfortunate that many haven’t found that button yet, as the constant notification beeps from social network updates and the frequent texts flying in seriously interrupt meaningfully moments.  

The attached-at-the-wrist cell phone is not just a teen problem, although it is widespread.  As an etiquette consultant, many contact me requesting help nixing cell phone use in business meetings.  It is a massive issue with only one solution. 

Rules and Suggestions 

For both business and pleasure, turn the cell phone off or on vibrate when with others.  Avoid the temptation to check the screen at each notification.  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will still be there later.  Those in your presence are most important now. 

In the home, a great rule could be that if a cell phone rings during dinnertime, that cell is off the grid for an entire day.  Let’s hope it’s not yours.  

Hold on; let me capture this moment. 

Making faces at a cell while visiting an upscale restaurant, in front of great works of art...everywhere!  Selfies are commonplace and not going away anytime soon.  While the selfie is not inherently impolite, the timing may be.   

Rules and Suggestions 

Before whipping out the cell, look around.  Consider if your actions are affecting others negatively.  If so, keep it tucked away.  Additionally, unless the host initiates it, never take selfies at a business function or at a dinner party. 

Butt out! 

Most smokers know where it’s polite to light up and where it’s not.  Unfortunately, those clear-cut, understood lines of good manners are a bit blurry with the relatively new E-cigs. What should a well-mannered, socially savvy person do?  

Rules and Suggestions 

Sometimes etiquette rules have to run to keep up with swift changes in our society.  E-cig manners is a great example.  In any case, here are my suggestions. 

The jury is still out on the safety of E-cigarettes’ vapors.  Nevertheless, even if the vapors were as safe as wafting aromas from Mom’s kitchen, many non-smokers feel uncomfortable around them.  Consequently, it is best to abstain in public places and in another’s home.  Additionally, it is not polite to ask if you may use one, as it puts others in a difficult position of policing your behavior.   

Take your manners to the holiday dinner party 

How fondly I remember family dinners at my Italian grandfather’s home.  These dinners were noisy events complemented with copious amounts of yummy goodness.  Great food and memories aside, I cringe at some memories.  Aunts pinching my cheeks black and blue is just one.   

Rules and Suggestions 

A dinner party, whether for family or friends, should be a positive experience.  Therefore, as guests, we shouldn’t drink or eat in excess or make potentially embarrassing comments, like “How’s rehab going?” or “Do you have a boyfriend yet?” Commenting negatively on others manners is impolite as well. Finally, we offer to clean up and then actually do it.   

Stag or a plus one? 

When invited to any type of event, the invitation is usually specific, like “Ms. Rebecca Black is invited to...”   

Rules and Suggestions 

An invitation is not an open door; we never add to the guest list by inviting guests to another’s event. Huge no-no. Moreover, it’s not polite to ask if you can bring someone, as this puts the host in a difficult position—not nice.  

Gifted gift giving. 

For this etiquette consultant, the most asked question this time of year is, “What gift is best for...”.  The answer is easy. 

Rules and Suggestions 

Only give gifts you honestly want to give.  When forced, the gift often reflects it—a thoughtless gift.  Gifts should reflect your relationship with the receiver.  Give what you know that person would want.  Use what you know about that person to make the correct choice. 

Happy holidays!    

Also published in the Davis Enterprise.