The noun “etiquette” describes the requirements of behaviors according to conventions of society. It includes the proper conduct that is established by a community for various occasions, including ceremonies, court, formal events and everyday life. ~ Robin Bickerstaff Glover
Australian Glib Book of Etiquette is a very slim volume. ~ Paul Theroux
Well, there is etiquette and then there are manners. Not the same thing at all.
Think of etiquette as the collection of principles for why one uses manners: courtesy, respect, kindness. If one seeks to treat others kindly and put them at ease, one will rarely go wrong in a big way, and will likely be forgiven for a lapse in manners such as using the wrong knife in a formal setting.
However, I like to think about etiquette and manners as means to control minds and hearts…no rusty tin can lids required!
At finishing school one is taught the niceties of manners, but the main emphasis is on creating an impression of oneself in the minds of others. Consider this your invitation to Glib Finishing School.
You are invited to a dinner party. Along with the usual details, the hostess has indicated that it is not a formal affair and gives an impression that it’s really more a gathering akin to an open house with no set end time.
You promptly reply that you are delighted to be invited and will attend.
You ask the standard question all Glibs of good breeding ask: What may I bring?
The hostess replies, “Thank you for asking, but there is no need for you to bring anything.”
What do you do?
A) Take your hostess at her word and not bring anything
B) Bring the dish known as your specialty
C) Bring flowers from the grocery store around the corner
D) Bring a small thoughtful gift
It depends on your relationship with the hostess.
In the long ago, olden times, one would of course bring a small thoughtful gift in spite of the request not to do so, unless the hostess was a close family member. It was considered very bad manners to arrive empty-handed. Remember hostess gifts?
However, things have changed. It is now perfectly acceptable to take your hostess at her word and bring nothing but a positive attitude and anticipation of an enjoyable event.
Remember that I said this is a chance to create a positive impression of oneself? If the hostess is a business acquaintance, valued member of your social network, or someone new whom you would like to cultivate, taking something that is small and useful, that creates no work for the hostess, is a good plan.
A bottle of decent wine (no Two Buck Chuck); a pretty floral arrangement already in a vase (this can even be flowers from your garden); a small pot of herb plants or a spice blend in a pretty jar; a selection of nice cheeses or nuts.
Just be cognizant that the hostess may or may not use your offering during that event. If there is already a set menu or wines selected to go with the menu, don’t be offended that your gift isn’t put into immediate use. Remember, you are trying to create a favorable impression.
Be gracious. Once you have given a gift, what happens with it is completely up to the recipient.
What not to bring:
A dish that needs oven or refrigerator/freezer space; flowers in a plastic wrap from the grocery store; several bottles of ingredients for your specialty cocktail; a CD of your favorite “dinner music” by Kraftwerk; finger foods that need some kind of preparation beyond plating.
If you know the hostess is crazy about her pet, bringing a small, token gift for the pet may win you even more points than something for the hostess herself!
All of the preceding regarding what to bring can be disregarded if you are on a Family Rules status with the hostess. You know the level of formality likely to be involved, you know the likes and dislikes and habits of the hostess, and probably most of the other guests.
So feel free to grab that six-pack of PBR and some stale chips and generic salsa. She already knows the kind of low class person you are.
Don’t forget that it’s always thoughtful to send a thank you note, email, or text after the event, no matter your relationship with the hostess. If it’s like some of the previous Chez OMWC/SP parties, you might want to also include a playful, “Oops, my bad” when you text us from the county lockup.