Mrs. McVeigh's Manners
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Common mistakes of children dinner guests

 As a mother of three boys, and a manners teacher, I see a lot of the same mistakes that are made by children when a dinner guest in someone’s house. Here are suggestions on what to remind your child about before he is a dinner guest at someone’s house.

Sit down at the table after the hostess does.
Remind your children that they do not sit down before the hostess. If there is not a lady of the house, then wait for the host to sit down before they are seated.
Start to eat after the hostess does.
No one should start eating until the hostess takes her first bite.
Eat what is served.
Try all new foods. Nothing is more insulting to the person who cooked the meal if it is not eaten.  Even if it is not your favorite food, at least try a few bites. Refrain from making bad faces or comments if it turns out to not taste good to you.  Try to look like you are enjoying the meal.
Keep the elbows off the table.
It is comfortable for whatever reason to rest your elbows on the table, but it is considered rude. Hands belong on your utensils, or in your lap or at your sides when not eating.
Say thank you after a meal.
Thank the host or hostess for the meal (even if it is your own mom or dad).  It takes a lot of time and preparation to cook a dinner for a family and even more for guests.  Show your gratitude of being included by thanking the cook for including you.
Leave with a good-bye and thank you.
Thank the host and/or hostess for having you over when you leave.  If you did not have a good time, you do not need to lie and say that you did. A simple thank you will suffice. A follow-up thank you note is always a nice gesture as well.

Expensive Wine and the Restaurant Bill

 An expensive bottle of wine is a given for a lot of people when they go out to dinner.  Other people obviously do not like wine, or do not care to spend a lot of money on it. When you have mixed feelings about expensive wine at the same restaurant table, the question is when it comes time to pay the bill, should the bill be split evenly, or should the expensive bottle(s) of wine be taken into consideration? 

Men are known to split everything down the middle, and women tend to get what everyone owes down to the penny.  Either way, when you have an item such as wine, the person who ordered it should take responsibility for the cost of it unless he or she knows for a fact that the other people at the table share the same appreciation for it, and are willing to spend the money.  If someone in the group does not drink it, the person/people who ordered the wine should offer to pay more of the bill.   Another option is to ask if the wine can be put on a separate bill before you order it.

If you are the person who did not participate in drinking the wine, and the offer to split the bill is not made, there are ways to tactfully take control of the situation.  Ask to see the bill, figure out your portion, and politely announce what your share of the bill is.  If someone at the table beats you to the bill and tells everyone to pay the same amount, you can still politely speak up.  Ask to see the bill, and then tactfully say something like, “I am going to pay XYZ since I did not drink any wine.  I hope that is okay with everyone.”  Another example is to say, “Bill and Robert, why don’t you guys get the tip since you drank the bottle(s) of wine, and we will call it even.”  If this proves to be uncomfortable, in the future when dining out with the same group, take the waiter aside discreetly and ask for separate checks.  

Wedding Etiquette – What to Wear

 What to wear to a wedding has changed somewhat over the years.  Now it comes down to common sense.  Here are a few pointers on how to feel confident that you are dressed appropriately.

            Start with the time of day the wedding and reception are, what part of the country you are in, and how formal the wedding will be.  Years ago I attended my cousin’s wedding in Buffalo, NY, and no one bothered to tell me that the church ceremony was during the day, and the reception not until later that evening.  I was dressed in a daytime suit, with a hat, and felt very out of place at the reception where the guests were dressed in formal wear.  I have learned since then to grill the appropriate people for details.   Black dresses used to be frowned upon, but they are now fine – especially for an evening reception.  For males, khakis and a button down for a more informal wedding, and a coat and tie for a more formal one is appropriate. 

            If it is okay to wear white is a common question, and once again use your common sense.  I have two friends who said when they were getting married their mothers were the ones wanting to be the center of attention, and both mothers wore a white dress to the wedding and reception.  It sounded like the mothers looked ridiculous, and it made the brides very angry. 

            Lastly, wear something pretty and tasteful, and not too sexy or revealing, or something that will cause attention.  Remember the attention should be on the bride and groom, because the day belongs to them.

Feel Confident when Tipping

             A friend told me about an uncomfortable situation that she encountered.  When she went to her nail salon, she ended up having two different manicurists work on her, as well as a pedicurist. She gave three $5.00 tips that day, instead of her usual two.  My friend then returned two weeks later to the salon, and the same thing happened.  This time she gave just two tips, instead of three.  After relaying the story to me to get my opinion, I told her that I think the whole incident was unusual, and two tips were fine.

            We often encounter uncomfortable situations like this where a service is involved.  If you are ever unsure of what to do, then feel free to discreetly ask someone when you check out at the front desk, or even the person giving the service.  For example, a nurse practitioner at my dermatologist once told me that you should not tip at a doctor’s office, so I was not leaving a tip at my chiropractor for my massage therapist.  My husband goes to the same chiropractor, and one day on his way to get a massage, he asked me if I had a $20.00 to give as a tip to the massage therapist.  When I questioned him, he told me his friend who goes there gives one too.  I ended up getting friendly with the massage therapist, and just outright asked her.  She said that people do tip her, but was very gracious about it, and said it was not necessary. 

            I have been asked the questions before if you should tip a Sommelier (wine steward), or a server in training at a restaurant.  (The answer is you should leave an appropriate tip with the bill, and the main server divides the tip accordingly with anyone else who serves your table.) In the case of a restaurant, the hostess would be a good person to ask this question to, or even your server in private, if possible. 

            People in any service industry are typically very honest and gracious about tipping situations.  If is typically uncomfortable or inappropriate to directly ask the person who is working with you, so discreetly ask a cashier or manager the appropriate amount to tip when in doubt.  The business will be grateful that you want to tip at all.

Local Dad Shows Good Sportsmanship

            Recently I had an experience with a parent having good sportsmanship, who is a dad in our neighborhood named Mike Corwin.  My son’s basketball team played his team about two weeks prior to the playoffs. They beat us, and after the game I saw him in the parking lot.  He obviously noticed I was a parent on the other team, and he said “good game.”  His nice gesture made a big impression on me.

We then had a rematch in the end of the season tournament.  The score was close the whole time, and both teams played their hearts out.  One of our players lined up for a free throw, and then missed.  One of the little boys on the other team clapped at his error.  Coach Corwin turned around and told nicely him this was not good sportsmanship.  I do not see that happen nearly enough. 

            On the sidelines Coach Corwin encouraged his players in a calm and positive way throughout the whole game, (and every game that I have seen him coach).  I never see him yell or get too frustrated, though I can tell he is competitive.  At the end of this very close game, my son’s team won.  Coach Corwin lined up with his players and shook the hand of all of our players, and congratulated them.  

I always say it is much easier to be a gracious winner that a gracious loser, and Mike Corwin is gracious in both cases.  He is not only a great example for the kids that he coaches and that compete against his team, but for the other parent coaches in his league.     

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