Lessons in Etiquette with etiquette instructor Carolyn Davenport

Q) I’ve been invited to a holiday party at the home of my girlfriend’s parents.  I want to make a good impression.  What should I do?First, assume that your invitation ultimately came from your girlfriend’s parents.  Therefore, an RSVP to them, by telephone or in person, is warranted.  If you are unsure of the proper attire for the party, whether it is dressy or smart casual, ask your girlfriend what type of party her parents have planned.

A) Be certain to be on time.  That is, arrive within 10 minutes of the stated start time of the party.  Since the party is being held in their home, you should take a small hostess gift for your girlfriend’s mother.  A box of nice chocolates or maybe a small holiday decoration would be nice.  You do not want to take anything that requires her immediate attention, like fresh flowers, that she would have to leave her guests for to put in a vase.  You may also take a small token of appreciation for your girlfriend’s father as well, if you like.  Maybe something appropriate for his favorite hobby.
If there is a cocktail hour, as there are at most parties, hold your drink in your left hand, keeping your right hand free to greet someone with a handshake.  Most hors d’oeuvres are finger foods, and should be served with a napkin.  Keep the napkin wrapped around your left pinky finger, again freeing your right hand for greetings.
If alcohol is being served, and you are of legal age, drink in moderation.  Do not under any circumstances get drunk.  If you cannot hold your liquor, drink club soda or a soft drink.  Also, if hors d’oeuvres are being passed or dinner is buffet style, do not stalk the servers or pile your plate with the main course.  No one likes a glutton, and you do not want to be piggish.  Use the same moderation for food as you do for drinks.
Conversations should be kept light and non-controversial.  Avoid the usual topics of religion and politics.  Try to stay abreast of current events by reading the newspaper and watching television news broadcasts.  Keep your range of interests varied and wide so you can hold intelligent conversations with anyone.
Follow up the party with a hand-written thank you note.  Send the note within no more than a day or two.  A couple of sincere sentences expressing your genuine appreciation will go a long way.  Have fun!

Follow Carolyn Davenport at AGraciousYou.com.