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Holiday Etiquette: How To Be A Good Thanksgiving Guest

Monday, November 19, 2012

 

With the holidays fast approaching, we can all use a refresher crash course in guest etiquette. Your host expects you to be a good guest and in return they'll do their best to give you an extraordinary holiday. Make him or her feel special as well and you'll be invited back next Thanksgiving—and maybe even for Christmas and New Years. 

DO: Reply to the host's invitation immediately.

If you haven't yet contacted your host to say you're coming, do so now to avoid any misunderstanding about whether you're coming or not. Don't assume the host is expecting you just because you've been invited for Thanksgiving dinner. The dinner table may be filling up quickly. Commit one way or the other NOW. 

Remember, now is also the time to ask if you can bring your partner or pet—and not the morning of Thanksgiving. You wouldn't want to show up with your latest match only to find that there's no chair or place setting for her at the dinner table—or that they've invited her fabulous newly-divorced sister to meet you. Unless he's included in the invitation, don't arrive with your labrador—only to discover that your host's daughter is severely allergic to dogs.

DO: Ask your hostess, "What can I bring?"

If you like to cook, suggest one seasonal dish—that you do well—to bring with you. Or pick up a nice wine, a bag of ice, fresh bread or pie from the bakery, ice cream, candles, flowers, a box of chocolates, nuts, olives, or an amazing novel or CD. Do NOT arrive empty-handed. Most important, if you've told the host you're bringing a pumpkin pie, bring it. Otherwise there might not be any pumpkin pie since they're counting on yours.

DON'T: Pop in casually.

Dress up and be well-groomed out of respect for your host and the holiday. Arrive on time with something in your hand and imediately thank your host for inviting you. 

Then ask, "What can I do to help?" Open wine, set the table, fill the water glasses with ice, light candles, help serve, help clear, take out the garbage, make a fire. Pitch in and help. If there is nothing for you to do just then, let the host know you're willing and able to do anything that has to be done—and to just ask. There is nothing more memorable than a helpful guest.

DON'T: Play with your smartphone. At all.

Remember, to turn off your smartphone when you arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. Leave it in your car or overcoat pocket so that you're not tempted. Thanksgiving comes but once a year, which means you want to focus on friends and family and not be captivated by any mobile device. Look at it this way, if you're texting people on Thanksgiving, they'll think that you're all alone and have nothing better to do. 

DO: Be an awesome guest.

Have a brief conversation with each person and spend time with the elderly as well as the young. Remember to circulate and not monopolize one person. Pace your consumption of alcohol. When seated at the table talk equally to the person on your right and on your left. Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful for what you have and not to drown yourself in an alcoholic daze because you're feeling sorry for yourself.

DON'T: Be the last guest to leave.

Take home your empty, washed container after leaving the remnants and helping to clean up. Thank your host for an amazing dinner with a big hug. You never want to arrive too early or be the last to leave.

Do: Send a thank-you note within two days.

Remember to thank the host the following day—either with a brief telephone call, email, or text. Or better yet, send the host a handwritten thank-you note. Mention what you liked best about the Thanksgiving celebration. Even if it was the pecan pie—and not the company.

Didi Lorillard researches shifting etiquette at NewportManners.com by answering questions on relationship dilemmas, wedding etiquette, business etiquette, entertaining, dress codes and manners. Or find Didi on Facebook,TwitterLinkedIn, or Pinterest after reading her GoLocal columns every Wednesday.

 

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