BBQs. They are meant for family gatherings, friend get-togethers and to share good food and create some memories. But a few wrong moves and you can spoil the evening if you don’t show your host proper etiquette. Backyard dining, while less formal, doesn’t give you reason to lose your manners. There are a few commandments to go by to ensure you are always invited back to the next event. Here are just a few tips to know what to discuss, what to avoid and what to highlight at the dinner table.
COMMANDMENT 1 – DRINK IN MODERATION
Drinking too much alcohol can loosen lips. Saying something you might regret the next day is not easily fixed. Don’t take the chance, drink in moderation and avoid the temptation to overdo the emotion either good or bad. Alcohol promotes inhibition and that means you could end up making declarations of love or revealing pent up resentments and the other guests are not interested in the awkwardness of either. Safety is always a concern so remember, if you are drinking, have a designated driver or a way home that does not involved inconveniencing your host.
COMMANDMENT 2 – RSVP – IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
If someone is taking the time to invite a number of people to their home you know they have to clean, shop and plan a menu for everyone. If you cannot attend, let your host know. If you are attending, advise your host of any guests you are bringing with you so that food and seating are accounted for. Any dietary restrictions, advise ahead of time so that your host has no surprises.
COMMANDMENT 3 – KEEP YOUR LIPS SEALED
Don’t like the dinner you are being served? Either indiscreetly avoid the dish you do not like or take a very small amount to be polite. Telling your host you don’t like a dish they prepared is in poor taste. If they ask you what you think, give your approval but you can be honest and say you like one of their other dishes better and would love to have more of that. Criticism at an event is never welcomed.
COMMANDMENT 4 – POLITICS AND RELIGION, NO!
Stay clear of anything controversial at a gathering of people. You are there for a good time. not to express your opinions or force them upon others. Your political or religious views are just that, yours, do not try to impose them on the other guests. There are many things to inspire conversation and keep it light. Favourite vacation spots, places to eat, the kids activities, your memories of past BBQs and what you enjoyed about them.
COMMANDMENT 5 – BE POLITE AND USE PROPER ETIQUETTE
Include people in your conversations and don’t be the one to start gossiping. Gatherings are supposed to be about enjoyment. Ok, so it’s family or friends. You can be relaxed, right? Well, to a certain point. Remember, they are there to enjoy themselves as well and everyone has different comfort levels. Don’t use our fingers to grab food or use them as a knife replacement for putting food on your fork. Unless of course the food fare is finger foods. Be mindful of how others perceive your manners. It might be ok at home to pierce that piece of meat you want from the platter with the fork you are currently using to eat your meal with but it’s distasteful to others. Messy foods? Use napkins, that’s what they are there for and make sure to pile up your used plates, cutlery etc. and dispose of them either in the garbage if they are disposables or help your host carry them to the kitchen for clean up.
COMMANDMENT 6 – KNOW WHEN TO SHUT UP
We all need someone to keep the party going. A good conversationalist can draw people into a discussion and ask them about themselves so people walk away feeling like they had a good time. But go the other way, overpower conversations, force your opinions or be loud and over bearing and it’s in bad taste. A good party is one where everyone gets to share stories, learn and laugh. Be the person that promotes that.
COMMANDMENT 7 – GET THERE ON TIME
Your host has gone through a great deal of planning for the BBQ. Show up within the time frame that is suggested for the party and be respectful during your time there. A good frame of reference before you are considered late is 1-20 minutes from the time the invitation says the party is starting. It goes without saying, but we will say it anyway, don’t overstay your welcome, your host has had a long day, help them tidy a bit before you leave.
COMMANDMENT 8 – MAKE EVERYONE COMFORTABLE
Acknowledging people lets them know they matter to you that meeting them had an impact. Greeting people with a warm hug or a handshake makes them feel comfortable. If you’re the first guest there it helps the host and hostess make their guests feel at ease if you too acknowledge their arrival when they come out to the backyard. If you arrive later make sure to have a big smile on your face when you see the other guests and of course a bottle of wine, or flowers or some small token gift for the hosts is always appreciated.
COMMANDMENT 9 – PLEASE AND THANK YOU
Showing appreciation and gratitude makes you a guest they will want to invite again and again. When your host offers you something, if you’re not interested, acknowledge the offer with a polite thank you and a brief explanation of why you are not having either the drink (you are designated drive or driving) or food – you will wait until the main course or perhaps have some in a few minutes.) A little follow up note after the event thanking your hosts for thinking of you and making your part of their event goes a long way to show your appreciation for their work.
COMMANDMENT 10 – RELAX AND ENJOY
The bottom line is the event is a BBQ intended to gather and relax and enjoy. So a few etiquette reminders in hand, put on something comfortable, grab a host/hostess gift, your favourite beverage and enjoy the weather, the food, the music and the company.