The Modern Host: Four Etiquette Myths

With each generation, things change – holiday dinners are hosted at a different person’s house, or a meal that was traditionally a sit-down affair evolves into a buffet-style free-for-all. And as tradition shifts, so does hosting etiquette. What still applies to the modern-day gathering? Here, find four classic etiquette myths – and the modern truths behind them:

Myth #1: Traditional holiday menus are a necessity.
Who says the holiday potatoes have to be mashed rather than roasted, baked, or scalloped? You’re the host – so feel free to change up your dishes and recipes. Just be sure to share your menu plans with any traditionalists (or vegetarians, or guests with food allergies) who might protest. If it won’t be a real holiday dinner to your mother-in-law when she can’t have her favorite fig-preserve appetizer, let her bring it.

Myth #2: The bar must be stocked with every kind of alcohol and mixer.
It’s not always feasible to keep a bottle of every liquor known to man. Relieve the pressure by mixing up a signature sangria or cocktail for the event, just like at a wedding reception. Stock the ingredients for that one drink, plus a couple of different beers and both red and white wines. Add a few essentials – vodka, rum, tequila – for guests who like it straight or on the rocks, and you’ll have something to please everyone.

Myth #3: Paper and plasticware should always be shunned.
It is true that linen napkins, matching plates, and attractive silverware are the norm for a fancy dinner. But if you’re hosting family and friends in a more casual setting – especially if children are involved – it’s not uncouth to go disposable and lay down some colorful paper napkins, high-quality paper plates, and those metallic-hued plastic forks. Just stick to your décor’s color palette and give thanks for having fewer dishes to wash.

Myth #4: The more elaborate the better.
Rather than setting the table with every fork and spoon in the set – widely considered an outdated (and confusing) practice – it’s more than okay to start with only enough to get guests through the main course. Cutlery for later courses, like a dessert spoon, can be offered along with the dish. Also, a simple yet thoughtfully designed table can be more functional and just as beautiful as an elaborate setup.

Remember that entertaining has one primary goal: pleasure, for your guests and yourself. Do what is comfortable, fun, and thoughtful – regardless of any supposed “rules” – and you can’t go wrong.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

Have any other classic hosting wisdom you love to ignore? Sound off in the comments below or tweet us at @ruelala.

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November 28, 2012