Open thread

by EPI Staff on June 16, 2009

Welcome to Etiquette Daily

This open thread is your space to use as you like.  We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzanne June 16, 2009 at 5:43 am

Has it become acceptable to request guests, who were invited to a graduation party, or birthday party or such an event where one is expected to bring a gift for the honored host, to be asked to also bring a contribution to the menu? This has happened to me 3 times in the past month, and I was under the impression that if a gift is expected, the hosts should be providing food and drink for the guests.
Am I wrong?

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Paula June 16, 2009 at 6:15 am

I don’t believe you are wrong. I was invited to a 3 year olds birthday party a year ago and was asked to bring a side dish. I brought something only because she was a close coworker, but don’t believe it was appropriate to request that. I also bought a gift for the child.

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Paula June 16, 2009 at 5:49 am

My husband and I had a graduation party for his son. I suggested that the gifts of money cards should not be opened until after the party, to which my husband agreed. There was only one actual gift from us, which was opened. Plus, we had an outdoor picnic type party with a 5-game challenge course to keep everyone busy and having fun. I received multiple comments for this “rule” from my husband’s sister and her husband to the point that an argument took place and they walked out. She sees no reason why he couldn’t open the cards. We say, it’s our decision to do as we see fit. There were about 30 guests plus some children. Are we correct or is it simply up to us? Thank you.

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Steve June 17, 2009 at 2:20 am

I think it’s perfectly reasonable to keep money cards sealed until after the party. If the cards are opened at the party, people can see the amounts, which can cause all sorts of hurt feelings and embarrassment. Some people simply prefer not to have everyone else seeing how much they gave. Someone who gives less might feel embarrassed about the perception that they’re not as generous, or that they can’t afford as much. Someone who gives more might not want everyone to know, because they might feel obligated to give the same amount to others on the next gift occasion.

Another reason one might not want to open money cards is that it can be difficult to keep track of the money. One might want to keep track of how much each guest gave, so that the thank-you notes can mention the amount. One might be worried about losing the money itself, which is less likely if the envelopes remain sealed.

Finally, opening a bunch of cards takes time, and the participants might want to spend party time doing something more interesting than watching the guest of honor opening a bunch of cards.

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ann June 16, 2009 at 8:17 am

I had been invited to the high school graduation party of a co-worker. I have never met the graduate and am cordial with this co-worker, but not close. I am not planning on attending the party. Do I send a card? Is a card enough or should I send a monetary gift as well? I am expecting many more graduation invitations like this to come up in the next 1-2 years and am not sure the best way to deal with the situation.

By the way, I would be in agreement that money cards should be opened after the party. Ultimately, I think the decision is yours…

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Paula June 17, 2009 at 7:22 am

Thanks for your reply to my question.

I’ve been invited to a couple of graduations for coworkers in the past. I went to the parties and brought a money card with $20. I did read that if you received just sent an announcement of the graduation, that you didn’t need to send a gift/card. If you received an invitation to a party, then it was appropriate to send or bring a gift/card. Hope this helps.

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Steve June 16, 2009 at 9:20 am

My parents taught me that it was proper to “clean your plate” — to eat everything served unless it was simply too much to finish. Leaving food behind when one can finish it is poor etiquette because it’s wasteful.

My girlfriend insists that one should always leave some scraps of food on the plate; to do otherwise implies that one is poor and hungry. She crumples her napkin and leaves it on top of her plate when she finishes her meals, so it’s clear that she’s not an entirely trustworthy authority on etiquette.

Searching various etiquette web sites, I found that leaving behind food one doesn’t want (particularly garnishes) is polite, but no indication that eating everything is impolite. One site on international manners said that in China one should leave some food behind, and that eating everything implies that the host hasn’t served enough, but I’m curious about US manners, not China.

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Paula June 17, 2009 at 7:31 am

I appreciate your reply to my question. I feel the same way and several people have stated the same reasons that you mention.

For your question, I’m not much help. I’ve never really been a clean plater, but have not seen anything about this topic other than a poster from another message board thought it was a European thing.

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Daniel Post Senning June 17, 2009 at 10:45 am

I want to say how amazing it is to see the conversation that is happening on this blog right now. I really appreciate the tone and level of discourse that everyone is helping to establish here. Somewhere – Emily is smiling!

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Sean-Thomas Flynn June 21, 2009 at 2:13 pm

I do not believe you are “required” to finish everything. The closest I could find in Etiquette was that at a party, unless you have dietary restrictions (e.g. allergies or for medical reasons), you should try a little bit of everything that the host offers. Now, that was for buffet style I believe where one takes what one wants so that you don’t have to take a large portion of anything you do not care for. However, when the meal is served to you and you have no choice what or how much is on your plate, you should still try a bit of everything but I can’t find where you are made to “clean the plate”.

As for putting the napkin on the dirty plate, I find that habit not only very dirty, but rude to the wait staff (who will have to remove it before removing the plates). I find that just laying my napkin next to the plate says the same thing to the waiter – I am done.

Just like your Nurse in the hospital, it’s not wise to upset your waiter.

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Graceandhonor June 24, 2009 at 8:38 am

It was considered a sign of wealth, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, to be corpulent and leave uneaten food on one’s plate, the unspoken equivalent of “I have so much at my disposal, I can waste what I choose.” Obesity set one apart from the mal-nourished, manual laborer, whose budget and caloric requirements forbade food waste.

However, times have changed. One cannot be “too rich or too thin.” Obesity today is viewed as an uneducated lifestyle choice or lack of self discipline or laziness. The thin individual is also often perceived to have more time to pursue fitness than those of us who are tied to a cublcle job, for instance. Now, impressions are often garnered by observing someone’s food choices, amounts eaten, and table manners. And, in these economic times, waste or excess is duly noted.

So, the gracious diner might partake of reasonable amounts, leaving just a bite or two, demonstrating enjoyment and appreciation of the meal, and satiety. This applies universally, not just in China. And, when dining with others at a commercial establishment, its the new chic to ask for a doggie bag, should one not complete one’s entree. However, never ask a private hostess to take home leftovers, unless they are offered first.

Both cloth (and paper) napkins should be loosely folded and deposited to the left of the plate upon finishing the meal, and never deposited atop a soiled plate. This is in consideration of the laundress chained in the cellar laundry, as well as her employer who expended great monies on those snowy linens, which, in turn, are another symbol of wealth, “I can afford them, I know how to use them, and I can pay a laundress.”

Good manners and their accoutrements do indeed oil society’s interactions, but lets not forget their uspoken companion goal of signifying to those on both the giving and receiving ends, “I’ve met my basic human needs; now, I am seeking to make life more pleasant.”

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Daniel Post Senning June 24, 2009 at 9:04 am

Thank you for this incredible reply giving context and historical perspective on the question at hand. Please come again.

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Graceandhonor June 25, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Thank you, Mr. Senning, for your thoughtful comments and most kind invitation.

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Colin Sutherland July 17, 2009 at 5:25 am

I believe that one should thank a waiter for bringing something, but not for clearing away. Confirm please

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Graceandhonor July 21, 2009 at 8:07 pm

I agree; however, upon completion of the meal, upon rising, nod at the server and voice your thanks.

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