THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON

THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON

With the holidays upon us, it’s a time of both reflection and forward thinking. Our Etiquette Guy, Jay Remer, is always on hand to steer social conundrums in the correct direction with cheers for a festive season that we can all enjoy together.  

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Since it’s the holidays, can you please refresh my memory of gratuities for household staff and extended support team members like doorkeepers, residential building valets, etc.?

                                                                                                                              Giving Generously

Dear GG,

During the holidays, it is customary to give cash gifts to people who have served us in some capacity during the year. In part, deciding how much to give depends on your relationship with the person and your feelings and ability to be generous. A rule of thumb for household staff is one week’s salary–more if you wish. For others, $100 popping out of an envelope brings a smile to most faces. Many people in the service industry depend on gratuities to make ends meet. If you enjoy a festive holiday meal at a restaurant, I recommend a minimum 20% gratuity. Some patrons use this opportunity over the holidays to be considerably more generous. This generosity is very much appreciated and, in many cases, means the difference between them having a joyous holiday or not. I encourage people to be as generous as possible during these challenging times. The gratitude you will invoke makes the holidays a more delightful time of year.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Do you think I must attend my office holiday party this year? The pandemic is still in our midst, and I already interact with most of these people daily through Zoom or in-person meetings.

                                                                                                                                        Party Pooper

Dear Pooped Out,

You do not need to attend your office holiday party–or any other party. The choice is yours, and if you think otherwise, you have given too much power to others, and you’re not protecting your boundaries. Sometimes we feel like being social, and sometimes we don’t. It’s a personal choice, not one that others should judge or comment upon. This doesn’t stop you from sending cards or exchanging gifts with co-workers on your holiday list. Spread joy and engage with others, but always on your terms.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Is there a polite way to check if someone has received a gift I sent by mail after not hearing from them within ten days?

                                                                                                                                         Postal Santa

Dear Santa’s Helper,

Politeness is often a state of mind. If you inquire as a factual matter, you can tell the person that you have mailed a parcel and want to be sure it has arrived safely. No one should ever seek to solicit a thank you, but this form of questioning creates a shared responsibility with the postal service. They are not perfect, so the question is legitimate. I try to always get a tracking number in case the parcel was misdirected.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Do I always have to contribute to an event or gift at work when I know I won’t be in town that day to partake?

                                                                                                                                           Gift Giving

Dear Gifter,

I am not a fan of pressuring people into participating in voluntary activities. You need not feel any responsibility to contribute if you don’t want to. No guilt trips allowed. People who push others are skating on thin ice–we must respect other people’s choices and boundaries. So, no, you don’t have to, but people will most likely appreciate it if you do. You can be present in spirit if not in person, but the choice is always yours.

MOMENTS THAT MATTER

MOMENTS THAT MATTER

As the world seems to become more complex, we, along with our very own Etiquette Guy, Jay Remer, recommend that we all simplify, simplify, simplify. Here are a few of his sage insights to support your own social conundrums.

Dear Etiquette Guy,

It’s something we all know yet often forget. Can you please remind me of the rules for white and linen worn after Labor Day? Since it’s so warm, could we extend that wear?

Laboring Over It

Dear Lost in Labor,

Traditionally, white and linen were hung up after Labor Day, marking the end of the summer season. Typically, people would close their summer cottages and swap out their summer wardrobe for fall and winter. From a practical perspective, we replaced the whites and linens with our favorite light cottons and autumn hues stashed safely in the cedar closet or mothballs for the summer.

 

However, like many old traditions, new lifestyles demand even more practicality and flexibility as warmer weather extends further into the autumn months. Many of us like wearing summery and floral clothes throughout the year–and that’s just fine. I recommend allowing common sense and your stylish persona to guide your sartorial choices. Creativity reveals our personalities and what better way than fashion to make our inner selves shine?

 

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

When making a toast to a guest of honor at a meal or an event, should it occur at the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Terrifically Toasting

Dear Toast with The Most,

Making toasts at celebratory events is a traditional and essential component of most formal occasions. Such events almost always are in honor of someone. The host should always give the first evening toast, which typically welcomes guests and includes making a toast to the guest of honor. This occurs once all the guests are seated. When dignitaries are guests, plan any toasts according to proper protocol. There is some flexibility, but this is not an opportunity to go out on a limb with creativity. Save that for less programmed events where you want a less formal tone.

 

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Now that gala season is beginning again, is it acceptable to do “Dutch” tables and invite eight other people to an event to share our event table?

Tableaux Taboo

Dear Tabled for Now,

Dutch tables are far more common than you might expect. Charity galas depend on fundraising as a significant budget line item, as we know. Other than corporate sponsors and the uber-wealthy, most people cannot afford the largesse once shared generations ago.

 

Sharing tables makes much sense. First, it allows others to attend an event supporting a favorite charity they may otherwise not afford. Also, since we’ve grown accustomed to enjoying small groups, the Dutch option is easy for carrying on this new tradition. Humility comes into play when weighing the pros and cons of Dutch tables. The goal of attending any gala is for everyone to be comfortable, have a great time on all levels, and support a worthy cause.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

We recently moved into a new area and met our next-door neighbors, who we thought were friendly and engaging. The next day they invited me to their social media account, and I was shocked at their political and social POV on hot-button topics. How should I proceed?

Curious & Apprehensive

Dear Newly Neighbored,

When I meet challenges like this, and they are beyond awkward, I make a real effort not to put any oxygen into the relationship. Being cordial is one thing, but thinking you’ll change their perspective, or they’ll change yours, is a non-starter. I would limit my contact and not engage with them on social media until I get to know them better. Social media can cause havoc in any relationship. We can live side by side with one another and share differing views. Sometimes civil debate can be a healthy way to form relationships, but with the divisiveness that rides roughshod today, such discussions are rare. Please proceed with caution and reserve judgment as you get to know them.

THE EXTRA MILE IS RARELY CROWDED

THE EXTRA MILE IS RARELY CROWDED

In these changing times, we are all minding our P’s and Q’s, thanks to our Etiquette Guy, Jay Remer, who is on the scene to help us through some socially delicate situations that may occur.

Dear Etiquette Guy,

I realize we all must be flexible post COVID, yet are there any new rules to canceling plans last minute not due to a family or personal emergency?

Places To Be

Dear Busy Bee,

We should only cancel plans last minute when necessary. Nothing has changed about that. However, we are not post-COVID yet–don’t be fooled. Many people still treat this virus as a serious health risk. Therefore, if you test positive or have symptoms, let your host know as soon as possible. Some people believe we’ve reached the point where we’ll need to adjust to mingling without masks in large groups, while others are still cautious due to personal health issues. The host will let you know how they feel about your attendance. If your position is you’ll stay home because you’ve been exposed, then that’s a decision they should honor. Allow common sense and your intuition to guide your decisions.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Thanks to the increase in social events, what is the protocol for accepting two invitations on the same evening that are guest-manageable from a timing standpoint? For example, cocktails at one function and dinner (or a gala attendance) at another?

Being There, Doing That

Dear Social Butterfly,

Accepting multiple invitations for the same evening is nothing unusual, busy bee. Typically, invitations rarely arrive on the same day, but either way, send your acceptance to your host as soon as you make your decision. Gala hosts often collaborate with friends to host a pre-gala drinks party, which often adds to the momentum of the evening, creating the magic everyone loves. During the height of any social season, multiple invitations will conflict. Be sure if you accept any invitation, you attend the party. Deciding between events can be a challenge, and sometimes less is more. But when the spirit moves and time allows, fill your boots.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

A great pal from college has begun a new liquor company and has generously offered to supply his product at my wedding, gratis. The trouble is that my fiancé doesn’t like it at all. What do you recommend? 

Groom To Be

Dear Getting Groomed,

Honesty is always the best policy. Your fiancé’s preference trumps your pal’s generous offer when it comes to any wedding plans. Part of starting a new business is generating leads and what better way to do this than at a party? Perhaps you could offer to showcase his new product line on a more informal occasion. You have the upper hand here, so he feels congratulatory and kind, because overriding your fiancé’s wishes could spell disaster. My recommendation is to avoid the avoidable.

 

Dear Etiquette Guy,

Since outdoor entertaining is everywhere now, not all guests offer dishes that the majority would like. How do I gently persuade the guest to bring something else instead that might be more of a fan favorite?

Getting My Grill On

Dear Potluck Host,

Coordination is key to the success of any gathering where food from multiple sources is the flavor of the day. As the host, you can guide everyone’s choices. You will undoubtedly lean on one guest or another for their favorite dessert or potato salad. As the host, you may want to be responsible for one or more of the main courses and invite your guests to fill in around those selections. If someone suggests an anchovy pie, and you know that won’t be a hit, feel free to suggest something else. However, I caution you from being too quick to reject any offerings. You never know who might relish trying a new dish. Not everything needs to please everyone­–it rarely does. The choice is yours as host, and again, I defer to one’s common sense and intuition–they can be your best friends when making these calls.

SETTING THE TONE

SETTING THE TONE

Every host knows that the secret to a successful event is strategically fusing the energy of the guests. If it is a seated affair, it’s even more important that the mix around the table is fun, festive and even, educational, according to our entertaining expert, Jay Remer.

 

PARTY TIME

Enjoying the camaraderie of one’s friends and family around a dinner table is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Dinner parties serve many purposes, and their success hinges on the guests as much as anything. Once the cocktail hour has concluded, where people sit for dinner depends on the occasion. However, when the question arises, Where shall I sit? it is the host, through his or her seating acumen, who can make or break the brilliance of the party. 

At a private home, club, or restaurant, the host can solve this seating puzzle ahead of time. After all, they’ve invited the guests and know best how they will interact. Planning where people will sit requires skill, which, if not learned during cotillion days, will come with experience. Place cards are always helpful. For a large dinner where multiple tables will be used, a dining chart placed strategically near the entrance to the dining room will allow guests to find their seats more efficiently. I find this useful as it also gives them a glimpse into whom their dinner partners will be. Once I know who I am sitting beside, I can focus on chatting with others during cocktails because there will be plenty of time to converse with my tablemates when seated.

Begin with the principle of alternating sexes around the table (woman/man/woman/man) when possible. With a single table, the host and co-host are seated opposite one another at the ends of the table. If there are unequal numbers of each sex, seating two of the same sex together is unavoidable and perfectly acceptable.  

When more than one table is used, be sure there is a ‘host’ for each table whenever possible. This role includes the host, co-host, guests of honor, and family members. Avoid seating alpha personalities at the same table. In fact, I avoid inviting too many of these socially assertive guests to any party as they have a tendency to dominate events they attend, which can upend the most carefully planned party.

MATCHING MATES

Husbands and wives may be seated at different tables, including formal dinners, but try to avoid seating them together unless one of them is painfully shy or there is some extenuating circumstance. After all, they see one another regularly, and interacting with other guests is the purpose of having a fun party. Conventionally, couples who are dating usually are seated beside one another, although, for me, this is a flexible guideline. If there is a male guest of honor, he would be seated to the right of the hostess; a female guest of honor would be seated to the right of the host.

Given modern partnerships, common sense trumps conventional norms. The overriding principles of proper etiquette are flexible enough to accommodate all guests with egalitarian grace. If a host decides they would like a a different mix other than what tradition dictates, they should follow their heart and act accordingly. This perspective removes all sorts of conventions and allows for the originality that so many party planners crave today.

However, do be thoughtful about your seating plan. It’s common sense not seating people together whom you know have a poor history with one another, have little or nothing in common, who are overly shy or overly talkative. Try to seat people next to those whom they would most enjoy–with interesting backgrounds, professional pursuits, or a unique hobby.

To accomplish this task efficiently, write the name of each guest on a small card. Divide the ‘deck’ into male and female decks. Some people may be more interested in politics, others in sports, others in gardening, etc. Think of this gathering as an opportunity for people with common interests to engage in elusive and lively conversations.

WHAT A CARD

After you have the seating chart sorted, write the names on place cards and band them together by table for placing once the table(s) have been set. Once you have placed the cards, the plan is written in stone. Any guest who thinks they can change their seat assignment is sadly mistaken. Some may quite justifiably consider this to be an egregiously poor lapse in judgment and possibly a short cut to elimination from future invitations.

When hosting a dinner party at a restaurant, be sure to arrive at least twenty minutes ahead of the invited start time. Some people may mistakenly arrive early, so either wait for them at the entrance bar (and have a drink) or go directly to the table and wait for your guests. Do not order a drink at the table until guests are seated. And do not touch your napkin. Your guests should arrive at a pristine table. Always try to give your guests the best view, either one facing into the room or out a window over a stunning vista, not facing the kitchen’s swinging door or viewing the restrooms. Know ahead of time exactly where each guest will sit, and as they arrive, simply let them know. For tables of more than six, I recommend place cards. Following these guidelines will ensure things run smoothly and will reflect well on you as a great host for your next gathering and many more to come.

 

 

 

 

 

SETTING THE TONE

SETTING THE TONE

Every host knows that the secret to a successful event is strategically fusing the energy of the guests. If it is a seated affair, it’s even more important that the mix around the table is fun, festive and even, educational, according to our entertaining expert, Jay Remer.

MATCHING MATES

Husbands and wives may be seated at different tables, including formal dinners, but try to avoid seating them together unless one of them is painfully shy or there is some extenuating circumstance. After all, they see one another regularly, and interacting with other guests is the purpose of having a fun party. Conventionally, couples who are dating usually are seated beside one another, although, for me, this is a flexible guideline. If there is a male guest of honor, he would be seated to the right of the hostess; a female guest of honor would be seated to the right of the host.

 

Given modern partnerships, common sense trumps conventional norms. The overriding principles of proper etiquette are flexible enough to accommodate all guests with egalitarian grace. If a host decides they would like a a different mix other than what tradition dictates, they should follow their heart and act accordingly. This perspective removes all sorts of conventions and allows for the originality that so many party planners crave today.

 

However, do be thoughtful about your seating plan. It’s common sense not seating people together whom you know have a poor history with one another, have little or nothing in common, who are overly shy or overly talkative. Try to seat people next to those whom they would most enjoy–with interesting backgrounds, professional pursuits, or a unique hobby.

 

To accomplish this task efficiently, write the name of each guest on a small card. Divide the ‘deck’ into male and female decks. Some people may be more interested in politics, others in sports, others in gardening, etc. Think of this gathering as an opportunity for people with common interests to engage in elusive and lively conversations.

 

WHAT A CARD

After you have the seating chart sorted, write the names on place cards and band them together by table for placing once the table(s) have been set. Once you have placed the cards, the plan is written in stone. Any guest who thinks they can change their seat assignment is sadly mistaken. Some may quite justifiably consider this to be an egregiously poor lapse in judgment and possibly a short cut to elimination from future invitations.

 

When hosting a dinner party at a restaurant, be sure to arrive at least twenty minutes ahead of the invited start time. Some people may mistakenly arrive early, so either wait for them at the entrance bar (and have a drink) or go directly to the table and wait for your guests. Do not order a drink at the table until guests are seated. And do not touch your napkin. Your guests should arrive at a pristine table. Always try to give your guests the best view, either one facing into the room or out a window over a stunning vista, not facing the kitchen’s swinging door or viewing the restrooms. Know ahead of time exactly where each guest will sit, and as they arrive, simply let them know. For tables of more than six, I recommend place cards. Following these guidelines will ensure things run smoothly and will reflect well on you as a great host for your next gathering and many more to come.

 

 

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