Easter Sunday (April 16) is almost here, and whether you are hosting family or friends or attending a gathering at someone else’s place, there are certain rules of etiquette you need to keep in mind.
Etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer, founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, offers these tips for Easter Sunday get-togethers:
- Planning & invitations: Careful thought and planning creates a lovely event and avoids chaos. By giving careful consideration to the location, as well as the invitation and guest list, the perfect ambiance and mix of personalities can be created. It is difficult to exclude spouses from holiday gatherings, so plan for each guest to bring a significant other. If you consider hosting an outdoor event, have a “Plan B” lined up so that spring showers do not derail your best laid plans.
- Children: The invitation must clearly indicate whether children are invited. Holidays such as Easter and Passover naturally include the children of family and friends. If the kids are not invited, host an evening event rather than a brunch so your guests have time to hire a babysitter. When you receive an email from a parent requesting a favor because he can’t find a sitter, respond that you understand and will miss him; it is inappropriate for you to allow his daughter to attend, without making an exception for all of the other children. You must be fair and be consistent.
- Beverage variety: Superb hosts maintain a well-stocked bar, with plenty of non-alcoholic beverages on hand. Club soda, ginger-ale, soda, fruit juice, lemonade, sparkling and still water, and iced tea are just a few suggestions. Informal or silver coffee and tea service can be set-up ahead of time with milk, half-and-half, sugar, Stevia and sweeteners so guests may serve themselves.
- Setting a beautiful and proper table: A place setting is a global compass for your dining experience. It is important to understand how to navigate the system, whether simple or multiple courses, and understand the proper placement of the plates, stemware and utensils. Set the table the day before the dinner. With the exception of the cocktail and dessert forks, most forks are set on the left side of the plate. The cocktail fork may be placed on the right side in a soup spoon, or brought out with the cocktail. The dessert fork is placed above the plate. The bread plate and butter spreader are placed on the left of the dinner plate. The stemware is placed on the right of the dinner plate. Place the napkin in a creative way, for examples see Napkin Wizard.
- Prearranging seating with place cards: Pay special attention to the chemistry between your guests and prearrange seating by using artful place cards. You and your children can even create your own place cards as a fun craft activity. It is nice to split couples so they can converse with others. If you know your guests well, you’ll know who will blend well with whom, especially when seating singles and newcomers. The beauty of place cards is that guests are relieved to discover where they are placed, and don’t need to worry about finding a perch. Place each card at the top of the place setting (or dessert fork or spoon).
- Research: Before you RSVP, research and have a basic awareness of the Easter holiday. However, it is rare to find anyone these days who fully understands every holiday, so don’t worry about all of the history.
- RSVP and arrive promptly: Yes, we still RSVP and arrive promptly in 2017, unless it is an open house event. Hosts rely on guests to reply to the invitation promptly for planning, menu preparation, seating and party gifts. Arriving within 5-10 minutes of starting time is appropriate, any later and a call to the hostess is expected to determine if you are interrupting dinner, and should join the guests for coffee and dessert instead.
- Be informed & conversational: We all understand if you have been up to your eye balls in alligators with parental responsibilities, or business, and haven’t kept up with the latest news. Catch-up by scanning the headlines from your favorite news sources. During a social meal, you are also expected to contribute to the conversation with interesting questions like, “What book are you reading?” “Do you have summer travel plans?” “Which movie will you watch next?”
- Dress appropriately: Take the time to clean up if you are going to show up. The host and hostess are going to quite a bit of effort to entertain. Even if the brunch is casual, spruce up a bit and leave the work-out clothes at home. You don’t want to look scruffy in the group photo!
- Hostess gifts & a handwritten thank you note: A thoughtful guest arrives with a small hostess gift such as tea towels, scented candles or a diffuser. If gifting flowers, have them delivered in advance. Sending a personally handwritten thank you note within 48 hours is a beautiful expression of gratitude.