Etiquette: Do not ask guests to remove their shoes

For the News-DemocratNovember 25, 2013 

Q. We had our carpets cleaned a couple of weeks ago. Then our Thanksgiving Day plans changed so, instead of of going out of town, we are hosting a group of friends at our house. Not sure what the weather is going to be like, but would it be inhospitable if we were to ask everyone to remove his shoes at the door if the weather is rainy?

A. You have a good question, one which has been debated by many etiquette experts recently within the International Business Etiquette and Protocol Group to which I belong. Some feel, as I do, that to ask my guests, who are "dressed up" to remove their shoes and walk around in stockings or socks for the rest of the day, is definitely inhospitable and rude.

This is my opinion because if I were to put myself in their shoes (no pun intended), I would not want to be asked to remove my shoes or dressy boots and be in my stocking feet. Not only would I feel dumb because I would feel somewhat "undressed" without my shoes, but my feet might get cold. And with just stockings on hardwood floors or tile, I could encounter a a slippery situation.

There could even be one of those guests who goes sans hoisery all year long even when it is 20 degrees. The question then becomes: Would you want to look at someone's bare feet the rest of the day or would she feel comfortable being barefooted? Brings back the memories of when you are a little kid, at home with your siblings: if one of you removed your socks, the other one would surely say: "Oooeee, I smell stinky feet!"

Another suggestion by some etiquette experts: Have slippers at the door for everyone. My response would be: Well, what kind, what size, what color? And again, guests would very likely feel uncomfortable and embarrassed to be asked to remove their shoes. Furthermore, are these new slippers or have they been worn by others? You can readily understand that many would object to wearing someone else's slippers.

Another thought: Should we ask everyone to bring his own pair of slippers? My response to that is: You need to "lay the groundwork" first when you extend the invitation for them to come or, in this case, when you confirm the invitation.

For example: "We would love to have you come to our house for Thanksgiving Day dinner. We've decided it will be a very relaxing, casual day, so feel free to wear comfy, casual clothes and bring your favorite slippers." There. You have extended the invitation and provided the details without the possibility of causing them to feel like little kids if you had said, "Because we have just had our carpeting cleaned, you'll have to remove your shoes and boots at the front door, so bring along a pair of slippers or other shoes."

When your guests arrive on Thanksgiving Day, without slippers, do not ask anyone to remove his or her shoes or boots. Instead, if the weather is rainy, have an extra rug placed on top of your usual entrance rug or carpeting. Bite your tongue if the you feel like saying, "I hope your feet are clean because we have just had our carpets cleaned." Do not say it. Realize instead, that when your guests see the extra rug, they will be extra careful to double wipe their shoes, or even offer to remove them until they dry.

My answer for your particular situation would be to call your already invited guests and reconfirm the time or something and then explain you are having a "very casual and relaxing day" and to feel free to bring their slippers.

Or hope for dry weather.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

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. Or email to pkuhl@bnd.com

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