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Etiquette and manners: How to handle extra guests at dinner parties


We all can use some help in the manners department now and then, especially when we entertain out of town guests. Etiquette expert Kristen Graff helps us learn how to behave and prevent social gaffes in this month’s version of Oh, Behave!

Advice and etiquette, the business of being polite
Manners in Mind chief Kristen Graff

On how to save grace during dinner parties

Question: One of the guests I invited to a recent party at my home asked to bring along a friend of hers who was in town at the time. Although I already had a full guest list, I said it would be fine, assuming that her friend would fit in with my friends. Unfortunately, they made no effort to mingle, choosing instead to sit on the balcony outdoors and smoke – without even asking permission! This has left me irritated, and inclined to strike my guest off the list for future parties. Two questions arise: (a) how to handle requests to bring along additional guests; and (b) what to do when people light up in a smoke-free home, albeit on the balcony.

Answer: This is a great question, as so often guests are in town for long stays that can affect our social plans.

If you have the space, invite the additional guest to the party. Otherwise, your friend may not be able to attend since she won’t want to abandon her own guest. Any time you have guests that aren’t mixing and mingling with the crowd, try to engage them by asking questions. Here, you could ask how the two guests met or what plans they’ve made during the out-of-town guest’s stay. Any questions of common ground should help to keep the group more connected and involved. If you are the one bringing an extra guest, do your best to introduce them to friends at the party. Also, don’t forget a hostess gift.

With regard to the smoking, this is up to you and your own house rules. Guests should never presume it’s acceptable to smoke in another’s home, even on the balcony. Some folks have a real sensitivity to smoke or have health issues. If smoking doesn’t bother you, set out an ashtray and let the smokers know where you put it. If you don’t want people to smoke on your balcony, let them know. “I’m sorry, my daughter has asthma, so we can’t have smoking anywhere near our house. You can go to the garden off the main lobby though.” If you are a smoker, speak with the hostess before lighting up.

Manners in Mind provides modern-day advice and classes for children and adults on cultural, social and corporate etiquette.