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09.28.200: Etiquette Schmetiquette
common-sense manners
for real-world living
1 2 

Q: Recently my boy and I became the proud owners of our very first home. Last weekend we threw our first party in the new house, and CLEARLY announced in our invitations that this would be a housewarming party. We bought HUNDREDS of dollars worth of food and liquor, and I spent an ENTIRE Saturday morning and afternoon getting all Martha Stewart in the kitchen. Itís not that we threw the party with the motivation of wanting to get gifts, but I was a little surprised that not only did NO ONE bring so much as a potholder to congratulate us on our first house, they didnít even have the courtesy to bring a couple of beers or anything. To top it all off, somebody spilled red wine all over my new cream carpet. Without saying a word to me. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed. Am I wrong to be disappointed in our friends?

A: "Itís not that we threw the party with the primary motivation of wanting to get gifts " Ė come on now, of course you did. Itís why you made it a point to call it a housewarming party, not just your garden-variety, yíall-come-over-and-drink-at-my-pad shindig. Iíve got a confession to make: I'm not a big fan of housewarming parties. Or bridal showers, baby showers, and pretty much any party where guests are invited with the explicitly understood stipulation that their presence must be accompanied by material goods. Yeah, I know the gift-giving is never mandatory, but anytime anyone sends out an invite for any of the aforementioned events, thereís that unwritten rule that guests are somehow meant to infer from between the lines: Thou Shalt Arrive Bearing Gifts. Or else be deemed Hopelessly Ill-mannered by the Propriety Police.

So were your guests inconsiderate? Sure. Itís always good guest etiquette to bring at least enough beverage as you think youíll imbibe. Thatís just common courtesy. But is there any point in feeling snippy towards them? In matters of gift-receiving, my feeling is this: be glad when it happens, but never expect. As for the rug, while knowingly spilling wine on someoneís carpet without profuse apologies and a sincere effort to help remedy the gaffe would be, Iíll agree, rude and highly vexing, itís entirely possible that in the mayhem of your swinging soiree, someone bumped into a table, knocked over the wine, and never realized it. Simple as that.

Personally, Iím of the opinion that throwing a party -- any party -- should never be viewed as a financial investment strategy, but rather a big announcement to all invited that the eveningís festivities are provided courtesy of you, the kind and generous host(ess). Your obligation as host(ess) is to provide food, drink, music, and fun. Their obligations? To enjoy, and give you a big thank you upon exit.

dinner party quandaries 

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