She looks so comfortable in the photo, calming lighting candles preparing for a dinner party. For several years Jackie went to a "finishing school," where she was taught etiquette such as how to be the perfect hostess, so it is understandable how she appears so relaxed.
My heart in teaching these etiquette lessons is to make you feel more comfortable in whatever social situation you find yourself. I believe that many people want to have good manners, but they aren't quite sure what to do since they were never taught. The etiquette I focus on is centered on consideration for others, which is the foundation for good manners.
Below are five tips each on how to be a gracious Thanksgiving Day host or guest, in honor of the gratitude celebration that we will be partaking in later this week.
Let us begin with the Host/Hostess since they are the ones leading the occasion:
1. Have a small gift for each guest to welcome them around your Thanksgiving table. This does not have to be expensive. What I do is make a place card for each person that Charles and I will be spending Thanksgiving with. On this card I write down reasons why we are thankful for them, and then I put it on their plate.
2. Ask all your guests about any dietary restrictions they may have and then do your best to accommodate them. In this age of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and a host of allergies, it can be very intimidating to host a dinner. Depending on the severity of the food intolerance it may be best to order a special meal for those individuals who have to be extraordinarily careful about their diet.
3. "Always tell you guests what is expected of them," was a favorite phrase of the lady who schooled me in etiquette. Specifically, what time you want them to arrive and leave (and there is nothing impolite with having an end time to the festivities), and if there are any activities planned. For example, if an outdoor game of football is going to be played, let your guests know so those who want to participate can bring a casual change of clothes.
4. Have a PTO (planned technology outage) with all your devices. Depending on the situation, a host/hostess may need to keep their cell close to them if a guest is coming to their home for the first time, as they may get lost. But as the host you set the example, and once your guests arrive turn off all devices and ask your guests to do the same.
5. Allow yourself to be helped with clearing the table, but reserve the clean-up until after all your guests have gone. All those dishes and silverware can wait; concentrate on and enjoy your guests.
Now let's turn to how to be a gracious guest:
1. Offer to bring some food to contribute to the meal, but within your boundaries. For example, for those who cannot cook or bake you can say, "I'm not a cook or baker, but I'm happy to pick up something pre-made, such as whatever pie you prefer."
2. Have a small gift for the host/hostess. In the British etiquette tradition, bringing flowers is actually considered rude because it requires the host to leave their guests, find a vase, cut the stems, arrange the flowers, and then find a place for it. Thankfully in America we are more relaxed about our custom of flowers as gifts. But if the host is expecting a lot of people (with lots of ringing doorbells to interrupt time with flowers), it may be better to be British with this one and bring a small candle, box of sweets, or bottle of wine/sparkling cider.
3. Write your host/hostess a thank you note within two days. That gives you until Saturday, the day after the Black Friday madness.
4. Before you even walk through the door, turn off all your devices for PTO. No exceptions or excuses. If you use your cell phone for taking pictures, turn it to airplane mode. (Common sense reminder: If there is something that is a true emergency, such as a very ill relative, leave your phone on vibrate and explain the situation to your host. If you must answer your phone, do so as privately as possible.)
5. "Arrive on time and leave politely," was another one of her favorite sayings. If your host/hostess set a time for the evening to end, make note of the hour and then politely suggest you head home. If everyone is still celebrating, and the host asks you and other guests to stay for longer, then remain if you like.
I hope these tips make you feel very comfortable as you navigate this Thanksgiving. And I hope everyone has a fabulous time equal to whatever dinner party Jackie Kennedy was hosting in that picture.
(Photo credit given to Mr. Orlando Suero)