Etiquette Questions Answered

Forks on the left, elbows off the table, cell phone stowed away and a gift in tow? There's so much to remember when hosting or attending a party. Here, etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts answers some commonly asked etiquette questions from hostesses and guests.

Woman setting dinner table

Hostess etiquette

Q: How should I handle unannounced guests or guests who didn't RSVP? Graciously! If you're throwing a cocktail party, you're in the clear. If it's a sit down dinner, time to shuffle place settings to accommodate the unannounced guest.

Q: I'm hosting a cocktail party. Is it okay to ask guests to bring a bottle of wine or an appetizer to share? The word 'host' implies it's your party. One way to get around it is to host a 'potluck' at your home. Try offering up the main course and have the other guests bring side dishes (including wine).

Q: Is it okay to throw my own birthday bash? My friends just don't have the same party planning panache that I have. Absolutely, especially for the decade birthdays complete with party favors.

Q: How can I politely inform guests that their children are not welcome at my decidedly grown-up affair? Some of my friends bring their tots everywhere. If the invitation states evening, this implies no children. If, however you are worried about a particular guest, send a follow-up email to all guests reminding everyone to book their sitters.

Q: I'm throwing a housewarming party; can I mention gift preferences on an invitation? The only gift should be the presence of your guests. They will bring along hostess gifts as a thank you for hosting the party. It's nice to say 'no gifts please' so others will not feel obligated to add to the money tree.

Q: What's the biggest party faux pas that you've personally witnessed? Party crashers, and I don't mean at the White House. Black tie, sit down dinner crashers!

Q: How can I politely remind guests that they need to turn off their cell phones before dinner, or I'll trample their texting fingers? Pray that a phone goes off during dinner so you can make your big speech.

You've done your job, ready to see what etiquette your guests should be following? Go to the next page.

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Comments on "Party etiquette Q&A"

Bruce May 09, 2012 | 11:14 AM

I am able to pull off wearing jeans to a formal cocktail or dinner party. One of my favorite outfits is dark jeans, a cashmere turtle neck, black sport jacket and fancy dress shoes. I compliment this attire with a liberal dab of my finest cologne and aftershave. This sartorial combination has never attracted negative stares at a formal occasion - in fact, quite the opposite.

Sonny July 24, 2011 | 8:09 AM

We were invited to a luncheon & asked to help the hostess cook for the luncheon. Upon a few guests arrival, the host was still working from home & hosting a pool party for the kids at the same time. We did the cooking as asked but then one guest was asked to do all the cooking for the kids. This other guest made comments to other guests but the hostess felt it was such a blessing to have others to take over while she began to prepare for the luncheon. The guest that was asked to cook kept saying, "doesnt' your job know you are having peopel over? The guest asked to cook for the kids hasn't contacted the host by any form since that day. The rest of the guests are now being grilled as to "why" the guest that had to cook for the kids hasn't contacted the host since that point. What is the appropriate etiquette for this informal luncheon and a host who places their responsibilities ont their guests shoulders.

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