Q. A rather close family member has invited us to a New Year's Day Champagne Open House. The invitation says it's from 11 a.m until 8 p.m. How long are we expected to be there? My husband says we need to be there the entire time to help out, like we have in the past when they have had other gatherings. (Like he's the one to help out! He'll find an open chair in front of a TV and watch football, while I do dishes and refill food items.)
I could ask my sister what the plan is, but I thought I would ask you what an open house is all about and what is expected. Also, should we take a bottle of champagne as a hostess gift?
A. A nine-hour open house is quite an open house. Normally an open house is held for two to five hours.
The purpose of an "open house" is to:
* provide an opportunity for invited guests to drop in any time, or at the best time for them, during the stated times on the invitation.
* provide a venue for the hosts wherein they can invite more guests than they could normally accommodate because guests will be dropping in to greet the hosts, wishing them and other guests a 'Happy New Year' in this case, having a glass of champagne or punch, sampling a few of the food items, then leaving.
* allow hosts to entertain and socialize with a lot of guests without all the required time and effort of serving a sit-down meal, or being expected to serve enough food to suffice as a full meal.
The normal length of time for guests to stay is somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour, especially if there is a large crowd. However, if the hosts ask you to stay longer, and space is not an issue and you would like to stay longer, you may do so.
The hosts should hire sufficient staff to handle the serving and cleanup tasks, in order for them to spend their time with their guests. Family and close friends should not be expected to provide this service unless they offer to do so.
I always feel a hostess gift is appropriate when someone cares enough about me to invite me into his home. Not all etiquette experts would agree because they feel an open house is a very informal form of entertaining. and therefore, a hostess gift is not obligatory. How nice and thoughtful, though, if you have a bottle of the hosts' favorite wine or champagne, or have homemade cookies, fudge or bread, which you can easily wrap and bring for them to enjoy later.
Q. How do you to respond to someone rude enough to ask, "What did you have to pay for that?" for a Christmas gift which was just opened by someone sitting next to him across the room from you? I was completely dumbfounded. I said something about finding it on sale. Then the reply was, "I hope you found something like that on sale for me."
It was all I could do not to say something I would later regret, so all I said was, "Santa got a very special gift just for you which we all hope you will like and appreciate." I think she got the message because she seemed to the gift from me she opened later.
A. You handled a very rude and uncomfortable situation very well. Hopefully, you received or will receive a written apology, along with the written thank-you for your gift.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.