Social Graces


Incorporate these etiquette tips to impress at your next holiday gathering.

By: Fran Christian | Photos by Karl Lamb

The origin of the word etiquette comes from “etiquets.” Yes, it’s French. Guests of King Louis XIV had no regard for the manicured landscaping at Versailles and kept walking all over the grass. So the gardener placed signs, or etiquets, which read “keep off the grass.” The king decreed that no one could go beyond the bounds of the etiquets. Later, etiquets were given with instructions on how to behave socially at court functions. Imagine a party of 2,000 staying for months or a year consuming food, wine, and champagne in one of the most extravagant palaces in history. There had to be some rules for guests! Today, etiquette is used to define the guidelines for social behavior in our culture. Manners are how one uses the knowledge of etiquette in family, social, and business situations, and encourage kindness, consideration, and respect toward others in our culture.

As you make the rounds at all of the parties, dinners, and other get-togethers this holiday season, or if you host one of your own, keep these etiquette tips in mind. After all, a few simple tips can make the holiday events in your life much more enjoyable!



This means please respond. Make your decision to attend or decline before you respond and always respond before the RSVP deadline date. Avoid saying things like, “I might be able to come” or “Can I let you know later?” It is hard to plan for food and refreshments without a firm commitment from the guest.



If it is a sit-down dinner and you are going to be later than 10 minutes, a call is more polite than a text. This way you know your host received the information in real time. If it turns out that you are going to be really late, when you speak with your host, you might suggest that the host not delay the dinner on your account.



Unless, of course, the host has specifically expressed that you are welcome to do so.



You could bring a bottle of wine (only if you know your host well). If you take flowers, it’s nice to present them in a vase so the hostess doesn’t have to stop and find a vase, arrange flowers, and add water. If you leave your gift in a gift bag for the hostess to find later, be sure to use an enclosure card with your name so the host can properly thank you.


Manners at the Dinner Table:

1. Holiday dinners are always memorable for children growing up and a great time for them to practice their manners and experience “dining.” So first, have patience with everyone including children.

2.  Wait until everyone is at the table before taking your seat.

3.  Place the napkin in your lap, but don’t begin your meal until you see your host begin.

4.  Avoid requesting condiments that are not on the table.

5.  Include the guests to your left and to your right in conversation. Don’t talk over them to the person who is two seats away. You may also speak directly across the table but avoid addressing the entire table of guests unless it’s a toast. Avoid subjects like religion, politics and sad stories. Keep it light!

6.  When toasting, avoid using utensils to tap the rim of the stemware to get everyone’s attention. If it’s crystal stemware, one tap could shatter the wine or champagne glass. Oops!

7.  When the dinner is over, always thank your host and refer to one thing that you especially enjoyed. However, it’s not polite to ask for recipes at this time.

8.  Don’t detain your host at the door with a long conversation when leaving the event. Other guests may be waiting to thank the host before leaving.



Fran Christian: 

Fran Christian has lived in the Atlanta area most of her life. Over the years, Fran has enjoyed hosting private formal charity events for Multiple Sclerosis. A few years ago, a new passion was realized, teaching etiquette classes, so she developed a program and taught through the community school at the high school. Now her business is expanding and more classes are offered. “I want to inspire students and adults to use etiquette knowledge as a tool to develop their own style of refinement so that they will feel naturally comfortable at any social or business event,” she says.

For more information, visit



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here