Bite-Sized Etiquette Advice

Mon dieu! My blogging has been nearly nonexistent in 2012, owing to exciting changes both at home and at work. Still, manners are never far from my mind, so I thought I’d answer a few etiquette letters in one fast-paced post. Hope you’re having a charmed summer!

Graciously Yours,



I was invited to a summer luncheon hosted by the governor of Ohio’s wife. I read your blog post from 2010 for how to visit the governor’s residence, and found it very helpful. However, I was wondering how I should dress for a luncheon vs. a dinner. Is black acceptable for a daytime event? Pumps vs. flats? Clutch vs. purse? Pantyhose vs. bare legs? What about my husband? Should he wear a jacket and tie, or something more casual? 

Thank you for any assistance or advice.

This may be a daytime event, but it’s still lunch at the governor’s mansion. To me, that’s a prime opportunity to look divine! A chic LBD (little black dress) is always appropriate, though you can also wear a dress, skirt and blouse, or even a summer suit if that’s your style. Avoid fabrics that are too casual (no American Apparel-style knits) and dresses that are too skimpy. Instead, look for something tailored and crisp that makes you feel fantastic. Heels are a must, but don’t feel you have to wear pantyhose unless they put you at ease. Daytime clutches are fine, but don’t bring anything sequined or satin that looks like an evening bag. And your husband should most certainly wear a jacket and tie.


I have a couple of questions about serving salad at my at home casual dinner parties. First, if the salad is to be eaten with the meal, rather than before or after, and served directly on the dinner plate, am I correct in thinking that salad forks should not be placed on the table? In this situation, can guests eat their salad with the same fork they use to eat the rest of the meal?

Second, on the occasions when I do set the table with a separate salad plate (when the entree contains gravy), can I just set a large bowl of salad on the dinner table along with the entree and let guests help themselves to salad? Should I have their salad already served when they sit down at the table? Do I need to remove the salad plates from the table before we begin to eat the main course?

Excellent question. Yes, when you’re serving the salad with the rest of a casual meal, it’s fine to bypass salad forks and salad plates. Still, sometimes salad plates are more a matter of logistics than formality. If it looks like people’s dinner plates might get crowded, you can always offer salad plates without serving a separate course.

For more formal dinners, you can plate salads in advance (which is fun and restaurant-y) or allow guests to serve themselves. I like placing salad plates on top of dinner plates so you can whisk them away between courses. Bon appetit!


Hi Annabel,

I am giving a 59th anniversary party for my parents and want to ask the guests to pitch in for a trip for them vs buying stuff they don’t have room for. My husband and I have a timeshare we are going to let them use, but they don’t have money for travel expenses/fun money as they live on a fixed income. Any ideas for wording on that?

Ordinarily I don’t advocate mentioning gifts or registries on any invitations, but this case sounds like a logical exception. When you send the invitations, include a discreet paper insert that reads,

“In lieu of gifts, we’re sending Mom and Dad on fabulous trip to Hawaii! If you’d like to contribute, please contact [your email address]. See you at the soiree!”

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