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Sticky Situation: Six Labour Day Party Dos and Don'ts

08/26/2015 08:20 EDT | Updated 08/26/2016 05:59 EDT
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Women arranging tray of snacks for backyard party

Sticky situation:

Only a couple more weekends before Labour Day! Where did the summer go?

You may only have one more chance to make a great impression on family and friends at the last fiesta of the sunny season.

Whether it's a barbecue, brunch, a pool or cocktail party, or a potluck, follow these six modern party do's and don'ts for hosts and guests; plus avoid hearing whispers of: "Oh no, they did it again...Yuck!" Read on for soggy and broken chip solutions. Your new hero is here.

Solution(s):

1. The invitation sets the expectations

Host: In addition to the usual date, time (including the end time is a good idea) and RSVP instructions, give as much information as possible. Are children welcome? What is the level of formality? Do you have a dress code? Are activities planned? Do you want guests to contribute something?

Guest: RSVPing is not an option. Do so as soon as possible! Respect the names on the invitation. If your children are not mentioned, they are not welcome; neither are your pets. When in doubt, find out. You can never go wrong by asking.

Sticky situation: You (the guest) have food allergies or restrictions.

Solution(s):The responsibility is yours. If it's a large affair with lots of food options there is no need to inform your host. You will probably manage. For small gatherings, let your host know when you RSVP. Offer to bring a dish to compensate. A vegetarian asked to a barbecue could you propose grilled vegetable and tofu skewers or scalloped potatoes. Don't make a fuss over dietary fads. Eat what's agreeable and if needed snack before and after.

2. Timing is everything

Host: Make a list of all your duties and food items. Crossing them off is satisfying and will ensure that you have not forgotten anything. Get as much ready as possible, ahead of time. Aim to be ready 30 minutes before your guests are due. Set your table and work your way backwards; cheeses and desserts to hors d'oeuvres and welcome drinks.

Guest: Arrive on time. There is no such thing as being "fashionably late." Of course, there is a 15-minute grace period. Beyond that, make sure to call to let your host know that you are delayed. If you are early, don't ring the doorbell. Drive around the block. Go for a walk or call your mom to tell her that you love her.

Sticky situation:Your guests won't leave.

Solution(s): Use a gradual process:

1) Move to another room; from poolside to the living room.

2) Stop serving alcohol.

3) Offer another round of coffee and tea.

4) Glide the light dimmer up a notch.

5) Bring the volume of the music down a notch.

6) Yawn... Mention how late it is, or how tired you are: "Would you look at the time. It's already midnight!".

7) Lastly, get up, offer to get coats and call for taxis.

3. Manners matter

Host: Greet all guests. Make proper introductions and include little bits of information so they can converse as you move on. Offer something to drink and always include non-alcoholic beverages. Show them where the appropriate washroom is. Thank guests for hosting gifts you may receive and for coming.

Guest: Say thank you as you leave and call, email or text the next day. Bring a host(ess) gift. Avoid bringing a wine bottle; your host has already paired their wine to their meal. If you insist, know that it will not be served. My summer favourites are:

• BBQ seasonings,

• Sauces and/or accessories,

• A sunny rhythmic CD,

• Brightly coloured hand towels,

• A small potted herb garden and

• If the family has children consider bringing a game to keep the little ones busy.

4. Say no to embarrassing chip situations

Host: Save you and your guests from embarrassing dipping moments of abandoned broken chips. It's not just this etiquette expert that says so; Canada thinks so too! According to a Leger web survey of 1,500 Canadians, 75 per cent of Canadians prefer a heartier chip, like Tostitos Rolls!, that won't break in thicker dips or salsa con queso.

Guest: Before enjoying finger foods prepared by your host, wash your hands. Use whatever tools are in place; a plate, a napkin, tongs for the chips, spoon to bring dips from the communal dish to your plate. When there is no spoon for the dip use your tortilla chip to serve the dip onto your plate. Don't stand above the dip to munch on your chips. Dip, dunk or roll with pinkie down. ;-)

5. Safety first

Host: Triple-check ingredients when informed about allergies. Light all pathways and alleys guests may have to enter. Serve alcohol responsibly. When necessary, make safe ride home arrangements, or be prepared to keep a guest overnight.

Guest: Drink in moderation and have a designated driver. Don't take risks, like trying to complete a double flip on the kids' trampoline. If you came with children, monitor them at all times.

6. Keep calm and party on

Host: No matter what happens remain in control. Everyone is looking to you for his or her party poise.

Guest: Participate. Don't be a wallflower. Mingle. Leave your technology behind or place it on "silent," and most importantly have fun!

Sticky situation:Concerned that your guest will be doing the techno FaceTime instead of engaging in conversation, eye to eye?

Solution(s):Have guests put their phones in a basket upon arrival. When they attempt to reach for it they need to entertain others with a song or joke. If amongst close friends and family members, recruit them for the dishes team!

Have fun making memories!

You have a sticky situation at work or at home? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to sticky situations? Go to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or order your autographed copy of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast and beyond, to present customized activities. With Julie's help, farewell faux pas and embarrassment. Hello confidence & credibility!

Note: Julie Blais Comeau is a Tostitos Rolls! spokesperson.

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