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CONTEMPORARY COURTESIES

Etiquette column: Don’t rush to assign guests dishes for Thanksgiving

Wait for them to offer, but it’s OK to ask if you really need help.

Friday, November 16, 2012 - 12:01 am

Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at www.news-sentinel.com.

Q. I am hosting Thanksgiving for our family and some close friends. Is it OK to ask guests to bring something?

A. The Thanksgiving meal is probably one of the most time-consuming meals a hostess makes during the year. Along with the meal itself, many people make it a priority to have everyone seated at a table with all of their best accoutrements. So, the prep and setting up before the big day can be very time-consuming as well.

If it is your tradition to have family members bring something to your meal, then asking them to bring something specific is OK. Or even asking them to make their specialty would be fine, too. However, if you are having someone new to your gathering, I'd wait for him or her to offer to bring something before assigning a dish. And be honest if you really want some help.

Some other things to keep in mind as a host:

•Greet your guests and make sure newcomers are introduced to others.

•Set the time for the meal and try to stick to it. Let people know if you are planning on drinks ahead of the actual dinner time.

•Be ready when your guests arrive. There are a lot of last-minute things to be done for a Thanksgiving meal, but the more you do ahead the more you will be able to enjoy the day.

•Plan a well-balanced meal taking into consideration any dietary preferences or restrictions of your guests.

•Clear dishes as necessary, but don't disappear into the kitchen to wash everything as soon as someone puts a fork down.

As a guest:

•Be on time.

•Dress appropriately.

•Make sure your contribution to the meal is what you were assigned and make sure it is ready to put on the table.

•Don't ask for things that are not offered.

•If you have very rigid dietary preferences, let your hostess know ahead of time and be prepared to contribute to the meal.

•Bring something, even if your hostess says she doesn't need anything. Wine or a small gift will be appreciated.

•Send flowers ahead of time or bring an arrangement so the hostess doesn't have to fuss with cut flowers at the time guests are arriving.

•Sit where you are directed.

•Be respectful of your host's traditions

•Don't bring any extra guests.

•Offer to help, but wait for the hostess to direct you.

•Be sure to show your appreciation for the meal.

•Send a thank-you note.

Thanksgiving is such a special time to connect with family and friends and to be together. This year consider making your meal an “Unplugged Thanksgiving.” Turn off your cellphone and other electronic devices, (including the TV,) while at the table. You may be surprised at what happens.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email clarson@news- sentinel.com, and we’ll forward it to her.