Christmas Etiquette on Global News Vancouver

Decoding your office holiday party invitation

holiday cocktails

Festive? Cocktail? Or festive cocktail? The language of party invitations is key to cracking the dress code, well, code. Following are some cues to heed in your choice of attire. And heed away. There is a return to an interest in dressing with intent (thanks in part to a movement against ‘Casual Fridays’ getting too casual). Taking pleasure in dressing for a sense of occasion has triumphed over huffing about having to fuss with a suit or cocktail dress. Wear the hell out of that formal wear.

If you’re fortunate enough to be invited to an event that calls for black tie, why not fully embrace it? Wearing your best can be a point of pride, as well as a nod of respect to your host.

While you open your closet, consider falling nicely in the middle of the sartorial spectrum. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you don’t want to be the flashiest person in the room, but you don’t want to be the most underdressed.

Black tie|
Men

  • Black tuxedo jacket and trousers
  • Crisp white formal shirt with button studs and cuff links
  • Bow tie (or formal long tie, smart tie clip optional, as is pocket square)
  • Cummerbund or vest
  • Black patent shoes and black dress socks

Women

  • Floor length evening gown, or dressy cocktail dress
  • Evening heels or shoes (fabric over leather, often)
  • Formal accessories (not the handbag you schlep to the office, for example) and hair very done

Semiformal or Cocktail

Men

  • Dark suit
  • Crisp, pressed dress shirt
  • Tie, cuff links, tie pin if you’re feeling it
  • Leather dress shoes and dark dress socks

Women

  • Cocktail dress, top and skirt combination or smart pantsuit in an evening fabric
  • As dolled up in accessories as you like: jewellery, handbag and shoes
 
Business Formal – a slightly less smart or formal version of the above for both men and women
Festive Cocktail
Men
  • Relaxed cocktail attire, but a bit more ease. A vest over a dress shirt. Reindeer sweater is not required (be relaxed, but not costumey)
Women
Business Casual

Are jeans ok for business casual? If the function and occasion are more casual than business, then yes, but opt for your darkest, pristine denim.

Men
  • Blazer or sport coat in a seasonally appropriate fabric
  • Casual dress shirt (tie is optional) or collared polo
  • Loafers (if wearing socks, they should be good socks, not white gym socks. And hipsters may bare ankle as they see fit).

Women

  • Casual dress (nothing strapless or too precious) or a shirt with skirt or pant
  • Keep the business in “business casual” – nothing too slinky or bombshell
  • Wedges, modest heels or a smart flat (look no further than Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge for a study in casual)

The Art of Hosting

The Art Of HostingBy Karen Cleveland
Photography by James Pattyn

 

There is something undeniably satisfying about feeding people you love. If your go-to dinner party plan consists of ordering take-out and eating on the couch, step up your game with these hosting guidelines.SET THE TABLE: Place dinner plates in the middle of the setting. Glasses go on the right side of the plate–first the water glass, then the wine glass. Place side or salad plates to the left of dinner plates.
Forks go to the left of plates; knives, then spoons, go to the right. Just to make things complicated, small cocktail forks go to the outermost right. Blades of knives face in towards the plate, and napkins go to the left of the forks.

NOW SET THE TONE: Anticipate your guests’ needs. Be ready to stash jackets, wet umbrellas and anything else they need to unload, and welcome them into a clean, tidy, cozily lit place. Washrooms should be spotless and fully stocked with provisions like toilet paper, soap, clean towels and a scented candle. Immediately popping a welcome cocktail into your guests’ hands won’t hurt, either.

 

LIBATIONS: Aperitifs are meant to open up and stimulate the appetite. (Cocktail trivia: the Latin word aperio means “to open.”) For a refreshing start to the meal, offer a Campari and soda (with a twist of orange) or a glass of champagne. Avoid anything too intense that could singe the palette. After dinner you can serve digestifs, such as scotch, brandy or port. Darker and typically higher in alcohol than aperitifs, these nightcaps are meant to help digestion.

HOW TO SERVE AND CLEAR: Serve your guests from their left and clear from their right. Typically women are served first, starting with the eldest through to the youngest. Once the ladies have been served, dole out to the gents, starting with the most senior. Or, if there is a guest of honor, begin with him or her and serve clockwise from there. Alternatively, you can serve family-style: place serving dishes on the table and let guests help themselves.

KEEP A HAWK-EYED POST: Keep an eye on your guests to ensure they have what they need. Keep their wine and water glasses topped up and ensure that dishes, sauces and condiments make their way around the table to everyone. Offer guests second (or third) helpings and revel in their enjoyment. When everyone is finished the main course, clear everything from the table, except what’s needed for the dessert course, and tuck it out of sight in the kitchen. Then you’re ready for the grand finale of dessert, digestifs and coffee. At the end of the evening, make sure your guests are able to get themselves home safely.

(Originally published on 2 For Life Magazine, August 2013)

 

Host an “Oh, it’s no big deal” Summer Party

As promised, here’s the second in a little series as a guest contributor for This Beautiful Day.

Host an “Oh, it’s no big deal” Summer Party

We’re helping you have the BEST summer evaaaaa with Etiquette ExpertKaren Cleveland who will be sharing her gems all summer along. This is the second in our three-part series. Missed the first one? Catch it over here!

Summer weekends are prime real estate in social calendars, booking up well in advanced. Between cottage weekends, weddings, showers and vacations, I’m lucky if I’ll be able to round up all of my dearest and dearest before Thanksgiving! When weekend dinner plans aren’t in the cards, midweek entertaining is the answer. Even an intimidated host can pull together a Thursday night dinner party with ease and it is a fantastic respite to break up the work week.

Barque-BBQ

The dog days of summer, with fresh produce, late sunsets and BBQs, beckon for unfussy dinners. Invite friends a week or so out, then use that window of time to set mini deadlines. Plan the menu one night, shop for beer, wine and shelf-stable ingredients the next night. Buy flowers and ice, do some chopping and before you know it, everything will practically be done.

If your space (and menu) is conducive to it, make the most of your BBQ. You can tend to it within chatting distance of your guests and it minimizes clean-up. Bonus! Grill everything you possibly can: some bread to serve with a salad to start, fish, meat, veggies or pizza for mains, then some hard fruit for dessert (grilled peaches with a brush of bourbon? Pineapple with a super easy rum sauce? Yes, please). Add in some beer and wine on ice at arm’s reach, an abundance of white candles and a fun soundtrack — recipe for a nice midweek for the night and you’re set. Best part of grilling your entire meal? Very few dishes to wash up.

(Originally published on This Beautful Life, July 2013)

Ask An Expert: To Remove Shoes Or Not?

There are ample sartorial conundrums out there – can you show your bra straps or how short is too short for a wear-to-work skirt? But one of the biggest issues we’ll all face at some point involves footwear, specifically to remove or not remove at a party?

To help us answer this conundrum (and to ensure you do the fashionably forward thing at your next house party), we contacted our resident etiquette expert Karen Cleveland of Finishing School.

The mark of a good host is whether or not they allow guests leave their shoes on? To think of all the time wasted, mixing drinks, whipping up food and introducing guests to each other. Pity. There is no right or wrong answer to this conundrum. But there is a place for common sense. Are these shoes freshly in from an icy or sopping wet walk on an April day? Or are they sandals that have been meticulously wiped on the front door, practically spotless, on a dry June evening.

More variables: is your carpet white or made of the skin of an exotic animal? Is your flooring fairly low maintenance hardwood that cleans up with a quick wipe? Despite all of these things to consider, it’s the host’s call, though they risk bristling a guest that differs in shoe placement opinion.

Hosts: there is a tacit liability that when you invite guest over, they might unintentionally get your things dirty. If you have an area rug that is really precious, roll that white animal skin rug up and put it away for the night. Don’t serve exclusively red wine, particularly if the crowd or occasion is bound to get raucous. If you prefer guests keep their shoes off, enlist the help of your trusted friends. Ask them to arrive a bit early and stage their shoes just so, so that other guests will hopefully get their cue.

Guests: if there is a stack of shoes at the entrance to a party, that is a clear signal to take off your shoes and add them to the pile. Get a vodka soda or other transparent beverage and start dancing on the nearest white animal skin rug.

Questions, comments and conundrums are most welcome at twitter.com/schoolfinishing or formspring.me/KarenCleveland.

(Originally published on Stylelist Canada, April, 2013)