We all want to live a beautiful life, don’t we? Our Ms. Modern Manners Sharon Schweitzer, JD is on the scene to help you liaise the easiest…and the sometimes quite difficult social situations that can arise as the social season gets back in gear.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

Since it’s gala season, I’d love to know if it’s considered rude to start eating before everyone is seated or has arrived… even if the meal has been served?

Ballroom Diner

Dear Ballroomer,

In formal settings, including galas and large events, guest wait for the table host to begin the meal. So, if all the guests are not quite there, the host decides if there is a quorum of at least 80% of the table guests already present. Once the table host signals the dining will begin, through grace, toast or otherwise, it is appropriate to begin. Late arriving table guests join the fun quietly.



 Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

Is it alright to post social media about a private, invite-only event? Do I need permission from my host who just left the country and won’t be back for weeks, taking the fun and immediacy out of the potential post?

Media Lover

Dear Socially Media Savvy,

Yes, it is especially important for a private, invitation-only soirée. You were included for many reasons, including discretion. Inquire with the host before the event about photos and videos. Remember that the host invited you to their exclusive event, not your followers. If you’re unsure about the rules of social media use, a tasteful way to ask the host is to inquire before the event about the custom hashtag. If allowed to use social media here are rules to follow:

  • Follow the host’s lead by allowing them to share key moments first. If allowed to post, wait for the day after. Choose the perfect picture for the modern photo album.
  • Be present and don’t spend the majority of the party thinking of the perfect caption.
  • Avoid unflattering photos and tagging other guests without permission.



Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

How can I make it clear to my guests that I’ve invited for a get-together that I’d like them dressed in a certain way if there’s not a written invitation?

Dress Code Savvy

Dear Coder,

Without a written invitation, the occasion will be informal so contact guests individually with the theme and wardrobe suggestions. Consider sharing what attire you plan to wear. It may also be helpful to kindly request that they not wear specific items, like jeans, etc. It has been helpful to my clients to take a look at wardrobe and attire considerations from a variety of resources, including social media.



Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

This just happened. My husband’s fraternity brother popped into town unexpectedly and stayed a long weekend. We were invited to a gathering – should I have called the host to ask if he could join or let him fend for himself with plans that evening?

Houseguest Host

Dear Best Guest,

As a host, unexpected guests are not only surprising, they also add to the stress of attending or planning events. Hosts need a headcount in advance for catering purposes – food and drinks. Contact the host and decline the invitation, with the specific explanation that it just became impossible for you and your husband to attend due to an unexpected out-of-town guest. Don’t expect an invitation for your new visitor.

If the host invites your new arrival, arrive with an extra hostess gift of tea towels, scented candle, diffuser, or a personal gift your hostess will appreciate.



Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I have a dear friend who is like a sibling. We get along perfectly except that she is a tad long winded. She has a habit of finishing her sentences with either the words blah, blah, blah or yada, yada, yada. We don’t live in a sitcom, so it sounds a tad awkward. How might I encourage her to see that it’s not necessary?

Speaking From The Heart

Dear Heartfelt,

An important part of social graces is never correcting anyone else unless you are paid to do so. However, with a dear friend in a private conversation, gently ask her if she realizes that she says “blah blah blah.” This makes your friend aware of the filler words she is using and help her discontinue use of them. Be aware that she may use filler words at the beginning or end of a sentence not to prolong what she wants to say, but due to social anxiety, indecision, an attempt to fill the ‘dead air,’ lack of confidence, or an attempt to find the right words to communicate.