ALL IN GOOD TASTE

Even though it’s summer, good manners are appropriate for any temperature, according to our savvy etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer, JD, who has the answers to even the toughest of life’s etiquette puzzlements.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

We love to entertain and to invite different types of guests who may not know each other that we think might enjoy the opportunity. What is the perfect time to have guests over for cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres? Before they go out to dinner, or afterward?  Is 7:30 p.m. a good time, or what do you recommend?

Cocktails, Anyone?

Dear Cocktail Host,

Cocktail hours vary geographically, by culture, and can be tricky to time, especially given that guests tend to linger as the conversation becomes more engaging. Inviting guests for light hors d’oeuvres between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. provides a chance to mingle before dinner at 8 elsewhere. Dessert and coffee after an early, light dinner is lovely too.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

What is the proper gift to give for a summer destination wedding? We’ve already flown half way around the world to be a part of the festivities and want to further share our love for the couple.  What do you recommend we give?

Destination: Wedded Bliss

Dear Blissful Traveler

Whether it’s your sister, your boyfriend’s brother, or your very best friend, a wedding gift is always expected – destination wedding or not. Use the wedding registry to get select gifts from the couple’s list that they truly need and will use. Feel free to be generous, but you don’t need to break the bank.

Buy a gift that matches your relationship with the couple. You will naturally spend more on your brother than on your distant childhood babysitter. Friends of the bride and groom will know just where the couple is registered, or if they are seeking funding for the down payment on a new home or other large purchase. Stay within your financial constraints and budget.

Although it’s tempting to present the happy couple with their gift face-to-face, it’s more appropriate to arrange for gift delivery to the couple’s home. This saves the bride and groom from shipping the gift back home and the risk of breakage.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

We are from the U.S., doing business in Mexico and will be attending a business dinner in Monterrey at my colleague’s splendid home. I plan to bring business and hostess gifts; what are culturally appropriate gifts to bring to their office, and to their home when we go to the dinner?

Guest In Mexico

Dear Mexico Adventurer,

Although gift giving in Mexico is not necessary, it is appreciated. When visiting a home it is appropriate to bring flowers, but avoid yellow or purple arrangements, as they are associated with death and funerals. Instead opt for flowers with white petals. Small gifts for the children such as sweets & candies from your home country, small crafts, and small toys are appropriate. Avoid expensive gifts if there is no established friendship. Avoid silver and gifts displaying your company’s logo. Business gift ideas include high quality desk accessories, home country coffee table books, home country office accessories, pen & pencil sets. Never give cash or gifts to government officials; your generous intentions may be misinterpreted.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I am always trying to pack more efficiently for business travel. For lengthy business trips I usually carry a laptop bag, a carry-on and a suitcase to be checked. How do you recommend I pack to reduce clutter?

Travelin’ Light

Dear Light and Breezy,

In order to maintain professionalism while traveling, organize all gadgets, chargers, and cables in a tech organizer for easy retrieval at security. Invest in wrinkle-free, lightweight clothing of a similar color palette for layering, mixing and matching. For example, pack navy colors with splashes of coordinating colors. Try rolling your clothing instead of folding; it saves space and prevents creases. After rolling, use air-compression plastic bags to vacuum out the extra air.

Efficiently pack the heaviest items at the bottom of your suitcase. Wrap belts around the suitcase edges to cradle clothing. Fill with lightest clothing at the top. With a shoe affection, it’s hard to stop at three pairs of travel shoes: professional, casual, and evening shoes. Shoes are packed in shoe bags heel-to-toe, before heavy items, at the very bottom. Many experts advise wearing the heaviest pair on travel day to keep suitcase weight low. Then, you’re off on your new business voyage.

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Rossana Leeper

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