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Discussion Forums

The Etiquette Queen Parties

Miscellaneous Questions
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Ask your questions of the Etiquette Queen now.
You may even see your question and answer posted in the space below.


S. Cooper asked:

I recently purchased some everyday flatware and have four different place knives. Three of them I recognize - one baffles me entirely. It looks like an ultra slim pie server it that it is shaped like a wedge. It has a longer handle than the dinner knife. Both sides are blunt. I thought it might be for fish?

The Etiquette Queen says:

You've got me. Without actually seeing all four knives, I can't tell. Call you local stores which carry good flatware and ask them.


Lisa asked:

My husband and I were invited to a supervisor's home for dinner. To reciprocate, we invited them out to dinner. When the check came, the other couple already had taken care of the bill and had brought us gifts. They say it is in gratitude of all the work my husband does. Ultimately, we have done nothing to repay them. Besides a thank you note, what is an appropriate gift or gesture?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Go to you local wine and cheese store and order a basket of cheese, crackers, fruit and bottle of wine. Don't go overboard. Include a note saying how much you appreciate all they have done for you and you welcome their company.


Sana asked:

I am expecting my first baby in the beginning of April. On one occasion my sister-in-law mentioned the baby shower and asked me to let her know when I will decide to do it. Recently a good friend of mine that she would like to do for me. I told her about my sister-in-law's comment and that I will talk to my in laws about the issue...I was sweet enough to give them the priority to do it either by themselves or with my friend's help. My mother-in-law was so rude (unfortunately) and turn the whole story as if I prefer my friend to do it which is Ok with them, and that they are not prepared to do it for their first baby?!!!!. I felt so bad from the way she handle it and that she will tell her daughter that my friend will do it without any explanation for the way she handle it by herself. My sister-in-law is so sensitive and I am sure she will not understand things right. I wish if I can talk to her about the whole situation, but my mother-in-law asked me and my husband n! ! ! not to talk to her daughter about it. It's so weird and bad the way she handled this subject...Please let me know what to do exactly in my situation since my friend will do it for me now???? (by the way my relationship with my mother-in-law is so sensitive and unstable!!!). Thanks

The Etiquette Queen says:

First of all, your mother-in-saw sounds like a mean spirited person. This is your baby and your time to be happy. Call your sister-in-law and tell her what happened. Ask her if she would like your friend to co-host the shower. If not, your friend can have a party for the baby when it comes. As for your relationship with your mother-in-law, you will be surprised at how she'll come around once the baby is born. If she has any feelings for her new grandchild, she will make peace with the baby's mother. Trust me.


Etah asked:

I am giving my Grandmother an 80th birthday party in February(with her blessing). She is still quite active and would like to see her party colored in red/red roses because she loves flowers. The party will be a drop-in at the church she attends. Any really cool ideas regarding decorations or themes, etc???

The Etiquette Queen says:

Get a picture of your grandmother and blow it up poster size and mount it. Have everyone who comes sign it for her. Look at the theme site and surf the various ideas. A lot has to do with your budget. There are a lot of wonderful decorations that are reasonably priced at www.oriental.com. The food will depend upon your theme but be careful with heated and iced things. Maybe a child's party with all the games, food, decorations, you would for someone who is 5 or 6.


Jan asked:

Who usually gives the Engagement Party and when?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Well, there is no "The Engagement Party" just "An Engagement Party". Anyone can give it, relatives, friends, etc.


Adrianna asked:

I need a couple of ideas to celebrate my mom's 50th birthday. We never celebrated her birthday. My mom doesn't look her age she looks younger.(like 38-40) Really! We would like to make her day memorable without making her feel old. Thanks!

The Etiquette Queen says:

Contact your relatives and your mom's friends and ask them to send you photos and a written memory or two and put these in an album for your mom to keep. Each of you children write a private letter to her. Make her day "All About Mom". If possible start with breakfast in bed. I don't know you financial status but if you can do it, get her a "Day of Beauty" at a local spa. Take her to dinner. Take lots of pictures of "Her Day" and add them to the album.


Carrie asked:

My fiancÚ and I have both been married twice before. I am now planning our wedding. We were wondering are there any rules of etiquette I need to be aware of in relation to guests that I invite. Example, Is it okay to invite friends or family from an ex-marriage? Thank you.

The Etiquette Queen says:

If you are still friendly with them, why not. Personally, I am still very close with my ex-sister-in-law. I visit with her when I am in her city. I didn't divorce her, just her brother. Ask you fiancÚ if he would be comfortable with this.


Mary asked:

In planning a 50th wedding party for our parents, we need to have appropriate ideas for guests party favors. Also, anything that would make it an extra special occasion?

The Etiquette Queen says:

The traditional gift for 50 is gold so you might want to keep that in mind. Surf some of the themes from partygirl/themes and that can help you make some initial decisions such as: budget, casual or dressy, time, place, budget, decorations, etc. Once you have done that, if you still have questions, please write back. Give you folks my regards. Quite an accomplishment today!


Heather asked:

As a follow-up to my last question to where a steak knife is placed at a formal dinner setting. Your answer was to place the steak knife to the right of the plate. Does this mean you place the two knifes side by side if you also have a regular knife set out?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Yes, the steak knife is closest to the plate.


Ludi asked:

I am planning my wedding and am considering some dates in October. However, October includes Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Will either of these Jewish holidays prevent my Jewish friends from traveling and attending my wedding?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I would not schedule the wedding until after Yom Kippur. That is the most holy day in the Jewish calendar. Sukkot would only interfere if the guest was orthodox or very conservative.


Heather asked:

Comments = Where is a steak knife placed at a formal dinner table setting.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Knives always go on the right. The easiest way to remember placement of utensils is that you lay them out in their order of use; steak knife next to plate on right.


Valerie asked:

What type of center piece should I use for a males high school grad party?

The Etiquette Queen says:

One idea would be to use a miter board and diploma theme. You can order the hats from www.oriental.com. and roll paper and tie with a ribbon yourself. Put these together with some balloons in the school colors and sprinkle some glitter.


Marlene asked:

At a table setting for dinner -- where is the water glass placed? Is it placed at the knife tip with the wine glasses below or is the water glass first and then the wine glasses?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Water glass first and then wine.


Bluebelle asked:

Hi! I have a couple of questions. The first one is: What is a finishing school and what exactly is taught there? The second question is: Is there an age limit for going to such a school? Thank you for your time and trouble.

The Etiquette Queen says:

It used to be that "finishing school" was a fancy name for a private school attended by society ladies. The same things were taught there as in regular school. Today we just call them private schools. The only difference between public and private school is the price and the class sizes. Private schools also may offer extra things like riding.


Peggy asked:

Hello,  My father-in-law is turning 60 this month. My husband wants to do something big for his dad, and has been working on ideas. One of his ideas was to invite some of his old buddies and go to a restaurant that is central to everyone who is coming (we are all at different ends of L.A. County). The restaurant is a very nice restaurant, and a long-time favorite of his dad's. My husband and I thought that it would be OK to tell the guests up front that everyone is to buy their own meal. We'd pay for his dad's of course :) However, he has received negative feedback when he brought this idea up to his dad's new wife. She said "You have to pay for everyone if you do something like that." Which we cannot afford. We are now considering trashing that idea entirely...but before we do, I thought I'd check with you on this. Obviously we cannot afford to pick up everyone's tab - but it IS his 60th and we want to do something nice. I feel that if you're up front with people, they wouldn't consider! ! ! it tacky to have to pay their own way. Or would they?  Any suggestions/advice will be most appreciated! Thank you and happy new year :)  Peggy

The Etiquette Queen says:

I feel that if you tell them in the invitation that they will pay for their own meal then you have done the right thing. You might consider a buffet; it's usually less expensive than a "plated" dinner. You pick up the tab for the bar and offer beer, wine and soft drinks. See if you can afford hard liquor. Let the guests know exactly how much it will cost and they can then decide whether to come or not. I would not be insulted. Or you can plan a couple of choices and put their various prices down and let the guest choose. As for your father-in-law's wife, she should just stick to being a guest and enjoying herself.


Shirley asked:

What is the proper use of a "Charger" plate, and what is the placement of the wine glass in relation to the water goblet? Thanks

The Etiquette Queen says:

The charger is put on the table before the guests arrive and the dinner plate is placed on top. It is strictly for looks and should be removed before any food is served. I have seen wine glasses placed on both sides but I have always put them at the 1:00 position and the water glass at the 1:30 position. That way if someone refuses wine, the glass is not in the way.


Sonya asked:

What is the traditional or modern colors for the 30th wedding anniversary. We want to use that color for decorations at the party.

The Etiquette Queen says:

There are no traditional colors for a 30th. The traditional gift is the pearl and you could go with that as a theme and part of a color scheme.


Loretta asked:

The 5 siblings are planning a 50th wedding anniversary catered dinner at a hotel out of town. My question is: Are the 5 siblings responsible for paying for the banquet or is it right to put how much the meal is per person on the invitations. The meal must be paid for in advance. Thank you.

The Etiquette Queen says:

You must decide between hosting a party (you 5 pay for everyone) and organizing a party (everyone pays for themselves). You will probably have a smaller turnout if they have to pay themselves. You could serve soft drinks and wine and have a cash bar if you are paying for dinner. If you do that, be sure to put that on the invitation. If you are going to have everyone pay for themselves, you should probably offer a choice (meat and fish) and put the price.


Beverly asked:

We're planning our 7th yr. anniversary party to take place June,2000. This is our second marriage and we're doing this because we married privately in Ocean City, MD., without our kids, family & friends. We want to renew our wedding vows but not turn this into a "wedding" per se., i.e.., church, gown, etc. I would like it to be a dressy affair - can I somehow, at the hotel banquet room, renew our vows in front of our guests with a preacher or isn't it proper to blend this act at the reception? any ideas?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I don't see why not. Plenty of couples renew their vows at various times in their married lives. Do it.


Shirley asked:

I will be attending a Mayoral Inaugural Ceremony on the 1-1-2000. I need to know if I am to bring a gift and how to dress for such an affair. She is my good friend.

The Etiquette Queen says:

No gift is necessary, You might want to write her a letter or note. I would say, not knowing the details of the occasion, that a nice dress or pants suit would be just fine.


Jenni asked:

Just a few days ago, for Christmas, I gave my new boyfriend's parents a small tin of homemade goodies. A few days later, I was at their house for lunch and was given a Christmas Gift (an Aromatic Candle). Do I send a thank you note for the gift? I don't want to be perceived as a suck-up, but would like to express gratitude for remembering me at Christmas. What should I do?

The Etiquette Queen says:

As I told the previous writer, I believe that any gift should be acknowledged with a thank you note. It's not sucking up, it good manners.


Frances asked:

My Sorority wants to have a reception for a sister sorority. We want something exceptionally nice. There will be about 18 women. Please help. Thank you

The Etiquette Queen says:

Look at the theme site of partygirl for some suggestions. And look at gamegirl also.


Robert asked:

My grandmother just passed away and our family has received many sympathy cards. What is the proper etiquette regarding acknowledgement of the cards? Are we required to send thank you notes? Thank you.

The Etiquette Queen says:

You only need to send a note if the sender made any sort of donation. Other than that, just thank them in person the next time you see them.


Mary asked:

Is it appropriate to wear a rather large (2 carat) cocktail ring during the day. Would it be acceptable to wear it as an "everyday" piece of jewelry???

The Etiquette Queen says:

I wouldn't wear it during the day for a few reasons. First of all, too dressy. Second of all, those around you will get the wrong impression (either think it's fake or ostentatious). Third, what purpose would it serve other than showing off. Save it for special occasions.


William asked:

When serving a meal that has several courses such as 10. What order should the courses arrive?

The Etiquette Queen says:

If there are more than one appetizer, the fish one goes second. Then if there is a soup course. The order the main dishes is optional depending upon what is being served. Then comes the salad. If there is a sorbet, it comes after the appetizer. Dessert and coffee and a brandy or another after dinner drink is last


K Penrod asked:

WE are giving a "sort of" last minute New Years party at our home. WE are on a budget and have three small children. The people we will be inviting are all pretty much the same as us (small children, small budget). What are some good things that are cheap to do with the guests and children? Is it appropriate to ask the guests to bring some of the food (in a potluck fashion) Is it appropriate to ask the guests with children to help pay for the babysitter who will be there helping out with the kids? How late should a party with children last? This is my first "grown up" party I have ever given! I am nervous and could use any help you have!

The Etiquette Queen says:

Yes, everyone should chip in for the babysitter, the more kids, the more money. You could play some kid games (even adults love duck,duck,goose and musical chairs) Have do-it-yourself sundaes after pizza, food all ages love. Look at the gamegirl site for some other ideas.


Christi asked:

Should I send out thank you's to family members who we spent Christmas with and opened gifts there? We thanked and hugged on our way out the door like we always do. Should I just send thank you's to the relatives who live far away who sent gifts? Who should get the thank you's for Christmas gifts?

The Etiquette Queen says:

If you can't say thank you in person, you should definitely send a note. As to the others, I always send a note when getting a gift. Shows that "special" something and is usually appreciated.


m asked:

What is the proper place setting arrangement for a dinner party?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I assume you mean the silverware, glassware and plates. Set the silver with the forks on the left and the knives on the right closest to the plate and then the spoons next to the knives. If using a butter knife, put it at the 12 o'clock position of the plate. Lay the silverware out in the order it will be used with the first fork on the outside and work it in. As for the plates, if using a charger it goes under the plate. Glasses at the 10 o'clock position. Serve from the left and remove from the right.


Nicole asked:

I am interested in how a true gentleman would go about being "chivalric" these days. How would he act with doors(car, elevator,etc.), bill, how he escorts a lady in public and when and where he escorts her. Can you please enlighten me as to what I should expect from a well behaved man these days?

The Etiquette Queen says:

A gentleman usually opens doors for a lady and lets her enter and exit first (unless his hands are full and then she should do it). He should remove his hat indoors. When walking down the street, an old-fashioned idea is that he is always on the outside (comes from the days of horse and buggy, he takes the mud splash). If he has asked the lady for a date, he pays the bills, unless it is previously understood that some other arrangement is necessary. As to how and when and where he escorts her, that is an individual and mutual decision. Some women are very independent and don't like all the fuss but I know most do.


Babs asked:

I work in a studio where there are three separate businesses that share the same office space and name. At our office Christmas party, the three business owners gave gifts to all the assistants, even the ones in other offices. My question is: Is it correct or incorrect to give thank-you notes even though a verbal thank-you was given at the party as soon as the gifts were opened?

The Etiquette Queen says:

I feel that a thank-you note is always that extra step that makes the giver feel special. It is also a good reflection on the writer.


Nia asked:

Where is the proper place to inscribe a book?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Usually people pick the first right hand page or the inside of the cover on the left.


Jennifer asked:

I am helping plan a gathering for a university. Faculty, staff and especially students are invited. We are hoping for a group of 300-400 people. It's an evening of dinner and dancing for a millennial event. Would you call it a gala, party, ball? It begins at 8:00 p.m. Is a sit-down dinner OK? My mother thinks it's too late for dinner; she says heavy hors d'oeuvres (rolls, meat cut by staff, finger stuff). I've heard of a family style sit-down dinner where two entrees are served on platters (of course with a starch and veggie) and the food is passed around like at a family dinner table. Is this popular? How is received compared to a buffet/sit-down dinner?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Family style is too cumbersome for that many people and that time of night. I like stations (lots of mini buffets) for large parties. That way the guests can eat what they like. You might have a pasta bar with different sauces and pasta and toppings; a station with cheese, crackers, veggies and dip; one with things like chicken/tuna/salmon/egg salad with cocktail size bread and fresh fruit; one with presliced beef/ham/chicken with a couple of hot sides such as a potato and a veggie; and a dessert station.


Bob asked:

Is it proper for a nephew not to attend his aunt's funeral where the funeral is in a distant city (requiring an airplane flight)?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Yes, but be sure to send a personal note and maybe make a phone call.


Beth Ann asked:

Help! Party etiquette is desperately needed for my child's 7th grade classmates. How do I know this? Well, Etiquette Queen, hang on to your crown . . .  On asking my daughter what she wanted for her main Christmas gift she responded, "A Christmas party for my class". Oh, what a sweet gesture.  We readied the house and yard by decorating "to the hilt". We planned and prepared wonderful finger-foods and appropriate beverages, and created some fun games with prizes. The invitations were distributed to each of the 51 classmates, each clearly stating the need for a response to our phone number. The goody bags were under the tree, sparkling in their cellophane wrappers; these were to be gifts that my daughter would distribute to each party guest as he/she left.  So how did the 12-13 year olds behave. NOT. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm no prude. I like to have a loud, good time. I like being goofy with Jenna and her friends. Silliness is par for the course with preteens. Oh, and to watch the "courting" begin---it is such a hoot. However, the destruction of my home should not have been a part of the evening's events.  There was the little boy who stood over the seafood platter and double-dipped shrimp after shrimp into the cocktail sauce. Mints from silver dishes were used as ammunition, the banister was viewed as a slide. Heart-pine floors are permanently scarred---gouged, actually---by the rearranging of our furniture. A pair of folded socks was used in an aggressive game of "catch" from the upstairs balcony/landing to the bottom of the staircase. (Did someone actually go into my son's sock drawer?) Because the beds were used as trampolines, my daughter's beautifully-carved black-walnut bed, one that has been passed down from mother to daughter for 5 generations, now has a broken footboard. Some guests helped themselves to goody bags from under the tree, and to top it all off, one young "lady" kicked out the screen in an upstairs dormer window, then preceded out on the roof to retrieve it---all this while parents are driving up to pick up their children! When I finally got up to ! ! ! the room, she was sitting in the window seat with her legs dangling out of the 2nd story window with a hey-look-at-me kind of expression on her face.  Now, I wasn't expecting them to act like adults, but, fool that I was, I did expect more than this. One might say there wasn't enough adult supervision. There were 7 adults in attendance, and still a handful of kids out of 24 managed to reek havoc.  Well, what's my question? Here goes. Would you mind pointing me to a manners/etiquette resource that I might pass along to the principal at our children's' private school. In our busy lives, we as parents evidently have not made the time to teach our children the necessary social skills for events such as the one we hosted in our home. I don't consider this solely a reflection on parents, but perhaps much of it is a result of the "busy-ness" of our culture, the "visual over-stimulation" our kids get, among other factors. Anyway, kids shouldn't act like brats.  We have a caring, sensitive principal who wants to take part in the equipping of our children for life. These wonderful kids deserve to know better, for there own sakes . . . and for the sake of my home. In spite of it all, I would like to have them over again next year. Hopefully a year of maturing, and some good instruction in etiquette, will make a big difference.  Thanks in advance for your help.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Beth, did you read your letter before you sent it? I can't believe so. First of all, why was this behavior allowed to go as far as it did? Why wasn't it stopped before it got so out of hand? Upstairs should have been off limits and the party should have been in a rec room in the basement. At that age, you need to confine them. Shrimp for that age? What happened to pizza. I know you wanted to have a "nice" party for your daughter, but your expectation level wasn't realistic. It only takes one or two to start them up. As for not blaming the parents, you don't blame anyone. If not the parents, then who. Do you think these parents would condone this behavior in their houses? I think not! Unfortunately, the very kids whose behavior was the worst probably have the least involved parents. It's not up to the school to enforce good behavior. I'm sure these kids knew the right thing, they just chose not to do it. As for the girl hanging out the window, did you tell her parents? I would have. As for 7 adults for a party that large, you were outgunned. Should have had many more. As for doing it again next year, I would: 1) Plan an outdoor affair for the summer and not allow anyone in, or, 2) Keep them in the basement and have enough adults, or, 3) Let someone else have it.


LL asked:

My 7 y.o. daughter played piano for church. A few days later she received a complimentary note in the mail telling her how well she did and how they appreciated it. Should she send them a thank you note for that note, or is it ok to thank them in person next week?

The Etiquette Queen says:

No note is needed, a personal, spoken thank you is just fine. What nice people to take the time to send a note. Doesn't happen often today.


Bob asked:

We are hosting a New Years Eve party. Are there any specific colors for table cloths, napkins etc.. for the Millennium celebration?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Nothing official. Usually silver, white and glittery stuff come to mind.


JoLee asked:

Ok, here's the deal. My fiancÚ and I were going to have an engagement party, and I wanted to throw him a surprise B-day party and I just got a new job. Could I just throw a general party with all our friends to celebrate all three events or would that be tacky? I don't have the time, money or interest in hosting 3 parties.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Call it a "Happy Everything" party and have a great time.


Caryl asked:

When serving a sit-down dinner from which side do you give the plate and which order do you take them away (i.e. women first)?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Serve from the left, remove from the right. Generally you remove starting with the lady but usually it depends upon who is finished.


Mike asked:

What is the protocol for Christmas caroler's who come to sing at my house? For example, applaud after every song, invite them to come into my home, offer them something before they leave? Please let me know as soon as possible as I expect them any day now! Thanks for your help.

The Etiquette Queen says:

It depends. If you know the people, you could invite them in for refreshments. Otherwise, I would just applaud and say thank you.


Norma asked:

We had a company x-mas party in my home for about 45 people. We hired a catering service.  Is it proper to tip the catering service?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Usually the catering bill includes a "service" charge which covers the tip. Check the bill or ask the caterer. If it doesn't, then by all means tip the service, but make sure they really get the money.


LL asked:

My 7 y.o. daughter played piano for church. A few days later she received a complimentary note in the mail telling her how well she did and how they appreciated it. Should she send them a thank you note for that note, or is it ok to thank them in person next week?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Just thank them in person and feel very lucky to know people like that. It is very rare in today's world for anyone to take the time to give a compliment, let alone, write a note. Share this info with others to let them know how special these people are.


Jennifer asked:

How many different desserts should I have for a "dessert only" party of forty guests?

The Etiquette Queen says:

You need at least one or two cakes (usually one chocolate). Tarts and Petit Fours are good for one or two bite food. Fresh fruit for those watching their weight. Trays of cookies and brownies are great for grazing. A couple types of pie, maybe one fruit and one with a graham cracker crust and maybe something like lemon meringue. I would have at least 10-12 choices with various colors, textures, etc. You might even have a do-it-yourself sundae bar set in the kitchen where it's easier to contain the mess.


beverly asked:

At a recent birthday party I gave for my husband, one couple FORGOT to come. They called the next day to apologize etc. My question is, should they still send him a gift? Everyone else brought gifts. It was a fancy party in a hotel. It cost me quite a bit to have them no show.

The Etiquette Queen says:

Beverly, when you give a party, you do it for the honoree. If someone forgets to come, it's their loss. As far as what it cost you, you just have to forget it. And as far as a gift if concerned, I don't believe that anyone should ever expect a gift. When one comes, it should be viewed as a great surprise and acknowledged as such. But I don't give a present every time I get invited to a party.


JohnZ asked:

What is the proper way to insert a card, greeting, invitation, or other into its envelope?

The Etiquette Queen says:

The open side of a folded invitation goes in first. If is a single card, the bottom goes in first.


Linda asked:

I was invited to a baby shower about 5 months ago for an acquaintance - I went - gave a nice gift and received a timely thank you note. However, I was never notified of the baby's birth (I did hear 3 months after the fact from someone else). What is the etiquette here?

The Etiquette Queen says:

Many people don't send birth announcements because they feel that it would be like asking for a gift. Most people find out about a new birth from friends and family. I can't believe that none of your mutual friends told you earlier.


Steve asked:

My simple question is: What's the correct way to put an invitation or greeting card into the envelope? Which way should it face?

The Etiquette Queen says:

The open part of the folded invite goes in first. If it is just a card, it should come out of the envelope as it reads, top first.

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