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How to follow good Thanksgiving etiquette

2016: Students use Thanksgiving feast to learn adult lessons

Fifth-graders in the Adams Elementary Ladies and Gentlemen Club had a lesson in etiquette while having a Thanksgiving meal at nearby St. Mark's Church. (Video by Travis Heying / The Wichita Eagle / Nov. 23, 2016)
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Fifth-graders in the Adams Elementary Ladies and Gentlemen Club had a lesson in etiquette while having a Thanksgiving meal at nearby St. Mark's Church. (Video by Travis Heying / The Wichita Eagle / Nov. 23, 2016)

I have had a lot of etiquette and manners questions regarding Thanksgiving Day, which we will celebrate this Thursday; therefore, today’s column will concentrate on Thanksgiving Day etiquette and manners.

Q: If you ask the hostess if you can bring something and she tells you “no”, do you still have to bring something and if so, what?

A: Yes, you need to bring something. Suggestions include:

Flowers, either a small, low, table arrangement, or vased flowers. If you have them delivered the day before, the hostess will not be rushed into finding a place for them. She will then have the option of using the arrangement on her dining table as a centerpiece or adding them to her coffee table or mantle. If you send vased flowers in advance, she will also have more time to find just the right place for them.

A good bottle of wine which when given should be accompanied by the comment: “I thought you might enjoy this on a day when you can relax.” After all, if she is serving wine with her meal, she will already have made her wine selection(s) and what you bring may not be what she would want to serve with this particular meal.

A “box of chocolates” which she can also “save for later.”



Q: As a hostess, can I ask all my guests to please place their cellphones on vibrate when we sit down to eat and preferably not answer any calls?
A: Yes, definitely.


Q: As a hostess, is it proper for me to ask everyone to not only join in prayer before the meal, but ask them to mention something they are thankful for following the prayer?
A: Yes, you certainly may do this. You might, however, want to consider making a brief announcement to everyone about your plan approximately 15 minutes before asking them to be seated to allow them to think about what they would like to say; rather than placing them off-guard and possibly uncomfortable by waiting until you ask them to bow their heads for the prayer.


Q: Does the host or hostess always have to be the ones who give the prayer before the meal? I would like to ask my nephew who just returned from serving our country overseas.
A: No, the host or hostess does not need to feel obligated to say Grace or give the prayer before a meal in their home. Common courtesy would dictate your asking your nephew at least the day before to allow him the time to prepare himself, and avoid putting him on the spot in front of the rest of your family and/or other guests.


Q: I’ve seen my uncle carve the turkey when I’ve been invited to their house before. Can I ask him to carve mine?
A: Since he is a guest, I would let him enjoy not having that responsibility.


Q: My plan is for us to actually eat about 2 pm. I’m planning on serving wine with the meal, but can I also offer everyone a glass shortly after they arrive?
A: Yes.


Q: How do you know who is supposed to take their seat first at the dining table?
A: The eldest lady is normally afforded the respect of being seated first.


Q: How long should a guest stay after eating?
A: Depending on what time the meal is served, a guest should remain at least an hour. If at that time, you are encouraged to stay longer, you may do so.


Q: I have two Thanksgiving Day dinner invitations. One is for 1 o’clock and the other is at 4 o’clock. It’s an hour’s drive in between the two. Should I do both?
A: You should be able to do so. Lots of people get more than one invitation for dinner on Thanksgiving. Let’s just hope the first meal is on time and the second one not early. It would be appropriate to apprise each hostess of your plan before you arrive.



Q: Should a guest (male or female) offer to help with the dishes or clean-up after the meal?
A: Yes


Q: Can a hostess wait an hour or so after the meal to serve dessert? Can the guests all be asked to return to their same seats at the dining table and can they use their same napkin? Or should I have all clean ones?
A: Yes to all questions except the napkin question: I personally would replace all the napkins with fresh ones. It revitalizes your table and makes it look more inviting and elegant again, but it is not mandatory. The new napkins do not have to necessarily match your tablecloth. They could be a different complementing color and fabric.
Happy Thanksgiving!
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