As you open our doors to loved ones this season, you might find yourself wondering about certain etiquette rules. Gatherings, both formal and casual, usually entail some consideration to etiquette, but we’re also living in a time when so many antiquated rules are being tossed. (And, for the record, we’re all here for that!) However, we believe there’s still a place for etiquette when hosting and entertaining. Since etiquette is really all about communication and consideration, we decided that it might be better to redefine these rules rather than toss them altogether. With that, we’re diving into the topic of special requests, on both the side of the hostess and the guest. From pets and shoes to bringing a dish and more, we’re excited to dig into this loaded area of etiquette!
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From Rules of Etiquette to Guidelines of Consideration
All etiquette questions really come down to one thing: consideration for others. And, who can argue with that reasoning?! We, of course, want to show each other the same consideration and respect we’d want to be treated with. So, when considering etiquette on any topic, the answer is simply whatever would be the most considerate, all things considered and for all parties involved.
But etiquette gets a bit hairy when it’s taken too far. For decades, etiquette has gotten a bad reputation because it’s been misconstrued as antiquated rules that don’t fit present-day standards. Do these rules really even matter anymore? You know us. We are all about throwing rules out the window; but, if we reframe how we look at etiquette, it really is something to still consider.
So, let’s rethink these “rules” and call them what they really are: guidelines. Guidelines that help us to communicate better with loved ones, show the consideration we all deserve, and ultimately, give us stronger relationships.
How to Handle and Ask for Special Requests
Special Requests: Dietary Preferences
Is it rude to let a hostess know that you only eat a vegetarian diet? Does it make sense to mention how you prefer fish over meat? These are questions we ask ourselves if we follow a specific diet in our normal lives. How can you go about making a hostess aware without coming off as overstepping?
So, can you let a hostess know about your personal diet preferences? Of course, you can make a hostess aware of a specific preference, but she may or may not be able to accommodate. If it is truly a preference (as opposed to an allergy or dietary restriction), then consider how important it is to you. Is your preference easy to avoid when you’re out to eat at a restaurant? If so, you can probably manage just fine without saying anything.
…if it’s important to you, just make sure you give the hostess enough time to prepare. Informal occasions might be planned in just the day or two prior, but formal events take time so if it’s a must-do request, say it immediately. And, again, kind words go a long way. Remember, a hostess wants you to be comfortable, so she will probably appreciate the guidance — so long as she has the time to prepare appropriately.
On the other side of this equation, if you’re the hostess and you want to create a menu that works for everyone, charcuterie boards and buffets work really well for this purpose. Allowing guests to choose what ingredients to include on their dish usually alleviates any sort of worry regarding specific diets.
Special Requests: Asking to Bring a Dish
It’s normal to want to bring something to a hostess’ house as a token of your appreciation. While go-tos include a bottle of wine or champagne, you might have a signature dish, such as a dessert, that you’d love to bring. The request is coming from the right place: you want to help the hostess by taking on some work in the kitchen. However, is it rude to ask? Might the hostess take offense? How exactly should I ask?
Of course you can ask! Especially when you’re coming from a place of kindness, there’s no harm in asking; but, there are some things to consider.
Considerations when offering to bring a dish:
- Have I asked the hostess far enough in advance? Asking day-of probably means that a hostess already has the entire menu prepped. It still doesn’t hurt to ask, but she might thank you and decline your offer. Asking a few days in advance will allow both you and the hostess to plan appropriately.
- Do I know how many guests will be present? When you reach out to the hostess, be sure to ask how many guests will be present so that your dish can accommodate the whole group.
- What are the logistics of my dish? Try to avoid offering dishes that require you to reheat once you arrive at the hostess’ home. She might already need the oven or stove top for other menu components, so stick with dishes that don’t require heat or refrigeration once you arrive.
So, is it OK to offer a dish? Absolutely! The hostess might even breathe a sigh of relief knowing there’s one less thing to worry about. However, ask early, get a head count, and remember to choose dishes that don’t need special attention once you arrive. Finally, if a hostess politely declines, simply opt for a traditional hostess gift instead, such as wine or champagne, to show your appreciation.
If guests offer to bring something to contribute to the menu and you have everything covered, you can simply thank them for their offer and ask that they just bring themselves. However, if you would like to accept their offer, share what you will be serving (both food and beverage) and be specific with what they can bring. For example, request their specialty dessert if they’re known for a specific recipe, their favorite beverage, or a cold appetizer such as veggies and dip.
Special Request: Please leave your shoes at the door.
Whether you have little ones crawling around or you simply want to keep your floors clean, you might wonder the etiquette of this question. People you invite into your home are guests, after all.
Does it make sense to possibly make guests uncomfortable by asking them to de-shoe in the foyer?
The simple answer: yes.
If it’s important to you, then yes, it’s OK to ask. If you’re worried about how you might make people feel, remember that being kind or even explaining your reasoning will go far in allowing guests to understand where you’re coming from. Additionally, having a specific location designated for shoes shows that thought and care went into this special request. (Need some guest shoe storage inspo? Check out this stunning entryway table or this simple shoe rack for functional yet stylish storage.)
Special Requests: Pets
This one isn’t so much a “special request” as it is a very specific choice a pet-owner hostess has to make. You love your pets, but will guests appreciate them roaming around while in your home? Will cats jump on tabletops and dogs lick their feet? Is it better to find a space in your home to put them while people are in your home?
There are a few things to consider here.
How well do you know the people coming into your home? If you’re hosting an intimate affair where you know each guest well, then your pets roaming about is probably fine since they likely have already been acquainted with your pets. Just remember that you must dry your kitty with a specific dryer so that you can clean and dry her in the best way possible. However, if you’re hosting a larger gathering where guests are more unfamiliar with you and your home, it might be best to find a suitable place for animals in your home during the gathering. It’s impossible to know if there are any allergies or if there will be guests who are afraid of dogs (it’s more common than you might think!). Ultimately, you know your pets the best; therefore, simply consider the type of gathering and make accommodations ahead of time for your pets, if need be.
More Etiquette Topics
That’s it! Remember, when your request comes from the heart with consideration for all involved, there’s nothing wrong with asking. So, go to connecting with loved ones. Open your doors. And embrace your true #hostfulatheart self.
We hope you’re enjoying our series on etiquette and how we’re redefining it for The Redefined Hostess™. Do you have thoughts on these etiquette rules or guidelines? Let us know!
Hap-Bee Hosting, friend!