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Always A Lady:  How To Be A Gracious Dinner Guest


Always A Lady: How To Be A Gracious Dinner Guest

always a lady the gracious dinner guestIt’s been some time since I did an Always A Lady post because I’ve been busy trying to raise a lady which can be pretty time consuming.  But, I miss this column a ton and so I thought I’d bring it back with a post that’s been sitting in my drafts for almost a year.  My last Always A Lady post dealt with etiquette tips for hosting a dinner party so on the flip side, I wanted to talk about etiquette tips for being a gracious dinner guest.

Tips To Be A Gracious Dinner Guest

Who’s Invited? - When someone invites you to dinner, they usually have a number of people in mind and even a mood they are trying to create.  Does the invite say Ms. X? Ms. X and guest? Ms. X and Mr. Y and family?  Typically, you want to RSVP with no more guests than were actually invited.  If it’s a close friend, you can always ask if you can bring the kids but don’t be offended if they want to host an adult’s only night.  If it’s a more formal relationship (a work gathering) and “family” is not specified on the invite then I would not bring the kids, and wouldn’t ask if I could bring them.

Don’t Come Empty-Handed  - When I was younger I always remember that whenever we went to someone’s house we always brought something, usually Italian pastries or a cake. If you’re invited to someone’s home for dinner then you should always bring something.  Good standbys are always dessert, wine or flowers.  You can ask if your host if he/she wants you to bring something, or you can bring something that you know they will like.  It’s not the cost of the gift, it’s the thought that’s important.

Dress Appropriately - No matter what the occasion, it’s always important to dress appropriately.  Just because you’re hanging out at someone’s house doesn’t mean you should wear your sweatpants.  If you’re meeting with a close group of friends for an informal dinner at someone’s house then just wear your standard fare.

Don’t Come Late or Not Show Up - Your dinner guest probably has her menu on a time schedule so you should arrive on time.  If you’re going to a close friend’s house and you are always late, then the host has probably factored that in.  But, if you’re going to a more formal dinner then definitely don’t show up late and definitely don’t be a no-show.  If there are exigent circumstances that prevent you from being on time or late then immediately communicate that to the host.  Don’t just show up a half-hour late - it’s extremely rude.

Eat - Hopefully, you’ll like the food your host created (or took out or is serving).  If you don’t like it at all, try your best to make a good effort at eating a decent amount - you don’t want to insult the host.

Compliment the Chef - complimenting the chef doesn’t hurt!  Usually the sound of silence is good because people are eating but it’s always nice to let the host know that you are enjoying the dinner.

Chat it Up - if you’re with a group of close friends then you’ll have no problem being social.  If you’re being introduced to new people then be sure to make the rounds and try to get a little conversation in with some new people.  If the host invited a select group of people then it’s probably because he/she felt that the group would enjoy each other’s company.  Don’t miss out on opportunity to make new friends or network.

Offer to Help Out - Offering to help out the host with some clean-up is always a nice gesture, but not mandatory.  Hosting a dinner is a lot of work and by the end of dinner the host may be tired and it’s always nice to have a team effort on clean-up.

Thank you - Don’t forget to say thank you.  The following day, it’s always nice to send a note thanking the host for dinner.  Handwritten notes are always nice (and carry so much more weight in this e-age we live in).  If it’s a close friend then an email or text will be enough.  If it’s a work even then I would go with a handwritten note, but if you feel that’s too formal then an email will work too.

I hope that helps you navigate the waters of being a gracious dinner guest.  Ultimately, you have to go with what you feel is right for the specific situation. What you would do with close friends isn’t what you would necessarily do with work associates.  You know those relationships best, and I hope I’ve been able to help you sort out what to do in each scenario.

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Always A Lady:  Hosting A Dinner Party


Always A Lady: Hosting A Dinner Party

always a lady hosting a dinner partyOne of my favorite things is hosting dinner parties - it’s one of the signs that you are officially an adult.  I’ve definitely come a long way in my dinner party skills.  When I first started, I’d start cooking when people got there, dinner would last forever, I was in the kitchen the whole night and my guests would leave in a food coma.  Now, my guests still leave with a food coma but I’ve become way more efficient with my prep and my time and I get to enjoy the company of my guests.  Here are a few tips to consider when hosting a dinner party…

The Invitation

  • The formality and occasion for the dinner party will dictate the type of invitation.  Casual dinner among friends? A phone call or email is ok?  A formal gathering?  Something in writing would be nice.  This is your party and you set the tone of the dinner from the start with the way the invite is sent.
  • Be clear about who is invited - is this an adults only event? Or are the kids invited?  Make sure it’s clear on the invite.  If kids are allowed the words “and family” are included, ie, “Joe & Jenn and family”.  If the invite just says “Joe and Jenn” then the kids are probably not invited.
  • When you decide who you are inviting make sure you have a good mix of people.  Is it a group of close friends? Are you trying to connect people together? Don’t invite arch enemies unless you want a food fight!

The Guests

  • Seating is important!  As the host you should try to steer guests to their seats to promote maximum conversation and enjoyment.  If you really want to be fancy you can make place cards but just letting people know verbally where to sit is also fine.
  • As the hostess, it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone’s glass is full,  keep the conversation going and make sure no one is left out.

The Meal

  • When people RSVP (and make sure if you are invited you RSVP!) ask your guests if they have any food allergies or food restrictions.  The last thing you want to do is serve prawns when one of your guests has a shellfish allergy or serve pork to someone who keeps halal or kosher.
  • It’s always nice to cook the meal yourself or have a potluck but if cooking isn’t your thing that doesn’t mean you can’t have a dinner party.  You can have it catered, order in, or purchase prepared food.  Ultimately, the source of the food doesn’t matter - it’s the company enjoying a meal together.
  • More expensive does not always equal better.  You could put together a fabulous meal on a budget.  Pasta is always a great choice - I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t like pasta, it’s inexpensive and it goes a long way.
  • Whether you cook or you buy - always make at least 1-2 servings extra.  You don’t want to run out of food!  Some people have big appetites.
  • Make sure you time the meal correctly.  Usually guests come and you offer drinks and appetizers.  Dinner should soon follow and then dessert/coffee.  Dessert time is when you can really draw it out if your guests are inclined to hang out longer.  But give guests the option.  You don’t want to have dinner last five hours if your guests are expecting something along the lines of 2-3 hours.
  • If you are cooking the food, do everything that you can in advance.  Try to choose recipes that you can do most of the preparation in advance and just add finishing touches or reheating before serving.

These tips should help you host a great dinner party.  It’s a bit of work, but with planning and preparation, it should go smoothly.  Just don’t forget to enjoy yourself too!

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M.I.S.S x Mama “Always A Lady” adidas Fina

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M.I.S.S x Mama “Always A Lady” adidas Fina

Project: M.I.S.S x Mama “Always A Lady” adidas Fina
Role: Co-designer
Notes: The “Always A Lady” adidas Fina was inspired by all the elements of dressing like a lady: Cuban heel fully fashioned stockings, handkerchief, crocodile shoes and bag and lace.

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Always A Lady:  Répondez S’il Vous Plaît

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Always A Lady: Répondez S’il Vous Plaît

always a lady: rsvpR-S-V-P. We’ve all heard it, in fact, we’ve probably all done it.  We see it at the bottom of our invitations and we know what to do - but what does it really mean?  The acronym actually stands for répondez s’il vous plaît, and means “reply please” or “please respond” in French.

If you receive an invitation that asks you to kindly répondez s’il vous plaît - then you should always do so.  There is usually a contact listed for the R.S.V.P. and you let your host know if you will be attending by contacting them via the method listed on the invite.

It may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don’t follow common courtesy and R.S.V.P.  First off, the host needs to know how many people they are accommodating - if you don’t R.S.V.P - then they can’t get an accurate count.  If you force the host to get in touch with you to confirm, you’re adding to their list of things they need to do.  If you don’t R.S.V.P. and show up anyway - well that’s just plain rude.

It seems like a basic thing to do but some people take it for granted.  Consider your host - they are putting an event to together and are coordinating lots of people.  All you have to do is show up, have fun and R.S.V.P. s’il vous plaît. It’s the first step in being a gracious guest.

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Always A Lady: How To Sit Like A Lady

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Always A Lady: How To Sit Like A Lady

Always A Lady: How To Sit Like A Lady

Always A Lady: How To Sit Like A Lady

It’s a scene I see almost every night on late night television: A Hollywood starlet is getting interviewed and she’s wearing the mini-dress du jour. She sits on the coach, crosses her legs at the knees, not knowing that the cameras are angled so that she’s probably revealing a bit more than she intends to. Sitting seems like something really basic - we spend a good deal of the day sitting - but it’s astonishing how few women know how to sit like a lady.

My mother taught me how to sit like a lady and the lessons started pretty early. One of my memories from school is sitting on stage for an award ceremony. My mother was in the audience and I looked at her and smiled. She smiled back and took her two fingers and crossed them (the way my legs were crossed at the knee) and uncrossed them. I don’t know how I understood this primitive form of sign language, but I knew immediately that she meant for me to uncross my legs at the knee.

You’re probably wondering, “How do you sit like a lady? Can I never cross my legs at the knee?” The answer is - it all depends on the length of your skirt. If you’re wearing a knee length skirt/dress or longer, then you can safely cross your legs at the knee. If you’re wearing anything shorter, crossing your legs at the knee may mean you’re revealing a bit more than you intend to. Instead, cross your legs at the ankle.

How do you cross your legs at the ankle? Easy.

1. Sit down with your legs straight in front of you.
2. Angle your knees to either side, left or right, whatever your preference.
3. Criss-cross your ankles.

And the most important part? Regardless of whether you’re crossing your legs at the knee or the ankle, posture is the icing on the cake that will transform you from one of those girls, to a lady.

Always A Lady: Crossing Legs at the Ankles

Always A Lady: The model is illustrating step 2. Next, cross your legs at the ankles.

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