Hostess Gifts – To Give Or Not To Give

I’ve had a few messages asking about whether or not to give a hostess gift and, if so, what to give. The answer is my least favorite to hear: It depends. Ugh. I know. I’m too type-A for gray areas, but alas, that’s the answer. Allow me to explain! hostess gifts

For a dinner party, flowers are truly ideal. We’ve gotten to giving wine or chocolates, which is perfectly fine for friends, but there’s the dilemma of: do they drink? If so, is this a wine they will like? Do they feel obligated to serve it at this dinner? In my personal opinion, the last question is the biggest. They’ve prepared a meal to which you’ve been invited, and now the hostess feels obligated to serve the wine you brought, regardless of whether or not it “goes” with the meal. So, solution: gift wrap. Easy enough. If the wine (one you know they will like) is given wrapped, the hostess will not feel pressured into serving it that evening. While, theoretically, they shouldn’t feel pressured into serving it, in the back of their mind, they’ll wonder if you also know the proper etiquette. SO! Until Etiquette By Emily can reach everyone, assumptions will be made that not everyone understands social protocol.

If you are the guest of honor for said party, sending flowers ahead is preferred.

Some other options can be themed according to the party: cocktail napkins (cocktail party or housewarming party), gourmet foods, wrapped homemade goods (meant to be consumed at another time).

When should you bring a hostess gift? Preferably, if you are having dinner at someone’s home for the first time, it is quite appreciated. Additionally, if there’s a particular reason they are hosting, it is considered polite (Christmas party). If the dinner or cocktail party is small, but not all are close friends, it’s a good idea.

This is an area Emily Post really doesn’t go over much. I’ve called on other EE’s (etiquette experts). Please let me know your thoughts! Do you appreciate receiving a hostess gift?

Baby Shower, a Controversy

Alright, how about our first controversial post?  I hope everyone will keep things civil (I’m sure y’all will) in the comments. The purpose of this post is to explain more about the “why.” It is NOT to make anyone feel bad or angry.

Ok, now that that’s settled: baby showers. I’m going to explain the WHY behind having only one. Unlike other etiquette lovers, I will give alternatives.

This post will also be followed up with a wedding shower etiquette post. If you can’t tell, I’m hesitant about writing this, as I truly do not want to offend anyone. However, I’ve had a lot of messages asking me to write about this, so since you asked, I will deliver.

Many people simply have never heard you do not have more than one baby shower, per etiquette. Why? Mainly it’s because they mistakenly think the shower is for the baby, so each baby should be equally celebrated. However, the shower is for becoming a parent. But don’t lose hope! There are other opportunities to celebrate a child’s birth, an occasion most deserving of celebrating.

The shower itself, for starters, should always be given by friends, not family. The reason behind this is the same reason as why you only have one: it looks as though you’re simply asking for gifts. Also, the shower should never cost the guests to attend, so consider this when planning one at a restaurant. The hostess(es) should cover the tab. PLEASE keep in mind that regardless of number of babies, if you want to do so, it is ALWAYS appropriate to get a gift for the baby. To help us move away from this trend, I would LOVE to encourage
you to do so. This is definitely an appropriate way to celebrate the baby.

Speaking of gifts, many etiquette experts say to not register, as it’s also asking for gifts. As I’m just a lover of etiquette, not an expert, I disagree on this one. I think it can make selecting a gift easier. Of course, this does NOT mean you have to follow the registry when purchasing a gift, and people should not be offended when someone purchases a gift not from their registry list. Some people love picking out a gift withoutbaby shower the help of a list, and that is just fine. It’s truly the thought behind the gift that matters.

If you want an alternative to a shower, consider a “sprinkle.” This is also debated in etiquette, and I elected to not have one, as this is too similar to a shower for my comfort. Essentially, this would be a get-together for only family and very, very close friends. Think, 10 people. There is usually a theme, such as diapers and wipes. Or some other usable good that you likely do not have left from your first child.

If that doesn’t suit you, a “Sip and See” is also an acceptable alternative for a second child. This would take place after the child’s birth. Generally, tea, coffee and suitable food is served. Everyone has the opportunity to see the new baby and celebrate him or her being born. Most people bring a gift for the baby.

Additionally, groups of friends can also get together and bring several meals for the freezer or go in together for a larger item, no party needed.

Another reason I have decided to write this is I have witnessed and heard murmurings about people having second showers. No, etiquette cannot make someone not have a shower; however it can enlighten you on why people may elect to not attend a second shower, should you have one.

Regardless of it’s a shower or a gift dropped off at the house, any gift should be accepted graciously and considered just that: a gift. Also, anything you receive is worthy of a thank you note!

 

The sorority side of things.

Most of my favorite college memories (aside from meeting my husband) involved Kappa Delta, the sorority I joined. There were strict rules on how to act when in public, most I think everyone could benefit from. Some example of the rules we had are: no wet hair in public, no pajama pants in public, etc. The vast majormakeupity of these rules stemmed from respect – respect for yourself and for others. To this day, I try to have a little make up on when I leave the house. It’s truly not vanity. It’s a way of telling others they’re worth making an effort for.

The town I live in has a farmer’s market each Saturday morning. As it’s outside, it’s clearly a casual affair. However, I’ve made a more conscious effort at being pulled together while still casual. I wore slingback flats, a soft, black fitted t-shirt that said, “Momma” and a gray and white striped skirt. This skirt is cotton and in no way, shape or form a formal skirt. Still, it was amazing how much more compete I looked (and felt) in this outfit instead of a t-shirt and shorts. In fact, I could not tell you the number of compliments I received that day. Several women asked where the skirt was from and mentioned missing women dressing up, even on a Saturday.

Now, I work outside of the home and many Saturdays I would love nothing more than lying on the couch in my jammies. However, when I leave the house, a skirt, for me, takes the same amount of time as pajama pants, something I really wish people would only wear inside the house…

Here’s to expanding the definition of “etiquette.”

 

Napkin Folding (and Unfolding)

To begin this segment, I want to elaborate on a point I made in the previous napkin post. I said that as soon as you sit down, you should place your napkin in your lap. This is because everyone should sit down at the same time. On the occasion the host has not sat down at the same time you have, it’s best to wait until they have sat down. They lead the dinner. But I digress.

When you sit down to dinner, your napkin may look like a crown foldrectangle or a swan. If you’re hosting, get as “flourishy” as you want. I’ve even attached a link at the bottom of the post for a good napkin-folding website, which has a fold I attempted for the first time tonight, the crown fold. How royal.

A couple of things to keep in mind. The most formal (think: dinners we’ll likely never attend, unless you plan to meet the queen) would never have the napkin on the table; it is placed on the plate or charger. Fun fact: these formalest of formal (yes, I know it’s not a real word) dinners also do not have bread plates. The bread is placed on the tablecloth or runner to the left of the plate. Yum…the practical reason behind placing your napkin in your lap when you sit down can be seen in this scenario. If you don’t remove it, how will you eat?

fold 1

Even black tie affairs (white tail being the most formal) may have napkins on the plate, if that’s the host’s preference. Otherwise, it’s to the left of the plate, underneath the silverware. If the napkin is monogrammed, regardless of the fold, the monogram is in the bottom left in the case of a rectangle fold or the center in case of a diamond fold. When there is no monogram, the fold is closest to the plate. To be 100% honest, this is an area of etiquette that is not commonly practiced much any longer. The primary goal should be to have all of the napkins facing the same direction.

To remove your napkin, simply pick up the silverware with one hand, remove the napkin to your lap, then replace the silverware. Once it is under the table, open it to cover your lap (or leg).

I, unfortunately, do not have napkin rings. However, fold 2if you set your table with them and don’t want to roll the napkin, the pointed side is towards the diner. Just place the napkin ring to the top left of the place setting. Once the meal is finished, return the napkin to the ring with the pointed side toward the table.

 

If you have any other napkin questions, please ask away! Who knew there would be so much to learn about a piece of cloth (or paper)?

Fun Folds: http://bumblebeelinens.com/napkinFolding.php

A Napkin Can Say So Much

A napkin can say so much. Knowing how and when to use it can not only save your lap, it can save your seat!

place setting1

napkin1

When I first got interested in etiquette, dinners were what I naturally gravitated towards. I loved setting the table, putting out the special china and serving our favorite foods. Now, let it be known I do not advocate hiring out help unless you need it/can afford it, despite what the other Emily says…you know, Emily Post. However, I love a cloth napkin and feel they make any dinner special. Fun fact: napkin rings were created to let each person know which napkin belonged to them; they were kept on the table throughout the day for all meals. Appetizing, I know.

crumbled napkin1

No matter if it’s cloth or paper, as soon as you sit down, the first rule of napkin etiquette is to place your napkin on your lap. Ladies, this would be over your entire lap. Men, this is over your left leg. There your napkin will remain until you get up. If you want to return, place your napkin on your chair; this lets everyone know you’ll be back (Schwarzenegger impression). If you are leaving for good, place it to the left of your plate. That’s it. It’s that simple.