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Sticky Situation: Avoid Embarrassment at this Weekend's BBQ

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Yeah! The first long weekend of the summer is here and you need it, to recharge your batteries, unplug the techno and reconnect with loved ones.

In Canada, this first three-day break of the summer generally means a combination of planting, freshening up our homes and an invitation to a barbecue.

Here are five barbecue sticky situations and their solutions:

1. What can I bring as a hostess gift, if I don't drink wine?

Whether you drink wine or no is irrelevant in the offer of a hostess gift. The wine is not for you; it is for your host. What is important is that she appreciates it.

Wine does seem to be Canadians' preferred hostess gift, but it definitely is not the only choice. With so many other original options, I actually discourage it.

In lieu of the traditional nectar, as a summer time hostess gift, I recommend:

* Gourmet, store bought or homemade pantry staples: oils, seasonings and vinegars.
* Celebration accessories like wine charms or a colourful pitcher and glasses set.
* A potted seasonal arrangement of blooming flower bulbs or a fresh herb garden.
* Barbecue accessories like individual steak thermometers or a grill light.
* A family game or chalk and bubbles are great ideas when you are invited with your children and the host also has children. It also had the added bonus of keeping the little ones busy.

When attending a large gathering make sure to accompany your gift with a note.

If you do bring a bottle of wine, do not expect your host to open it. It is a gift. He will drink it at his leisure.

2. How do I inform my host that I am a vegetarian?

When RSVPing inform your host of your dietary restriction and offer to bring a dish, for all to enjoy.

"I would love to come to your barbecue. I should let you know that I am a vegetarian. If you like, I could bring a pasta salad or bocconcini and grilled vegggies brochettes."

It is also a guest's responsibility to inform his host of food allergies, especially fatal ones, like peanuts.

3. My sister and brother-in-law will be visiting from out of town, can I bring them along?

The short answer is: no. Bringing an uninvited guest is simply impolite. It could cause embarrassment to your host who may not have enough food or enough seating around the table.

When RSVPing by phone or email, explain your situation.

"John and I would love to come to your barbecue but unfortunately we will have to decline. My sister and brother-in-law will be visiting us from Toronto, for the long weekend."

Your host then has the choice of extending the invitation to your guests or not.

This rule also applies to children and pets. If they were not mentioned in the invitation, they are not invited.

4. Someone keeps on taking pictures of me, but I am not really sure who he is. I am really not comfortable. What can I do to stop it?

With our smartphone's capacity to take pictures, people have become paparazzis and are clicking at anyone, at anytime, without asking permission. That is simply a lack of respect of people's privacy.

It is perfectly acceptable to introduce yourself and ask where the pictures will be appearing. Then, you may politely request to not be included in the photos.

"I am a pretty private person and I would prefer not being included in the barbecue pictures. Thanks."

On the flip side, when taking pictures at a gathering, ask if all agree being photographed.

5. How do I end a boring conversation?

Luckily for you, the goal of a social gathering, like a barbecue, is to mingle with most people. After spending a bit of time with this person, politely excuse yourself.

"It was lovely meeting, or, catching up with you. Good luck with your renos."


Be careful not to excuse yourself to the washroom or to freshen up your drink; the person may just tag along. To make sure that the cut is definite, add a handshake.

No matter what sticky situation you will find yourself in, when leaving the barbecue, thank your host and double it up the next day with a phone call or an email.

While you are at it focus on face time. Unplug and leave your techno at home. Live in the moment instead of immortalizing the moment.

Have a Sticky Situation yourself, write to julie@etiquettejulie.com and Julie will reply promptly. You can also ask your questions on her Facebook page. Planning a conference? Julie travels coast to coast to give bilingual interactive conferences.