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Sticky Situation: Hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner

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You've confirmed with your guests who brings what for your potluck dinner. The table is set and it looks amazing! You take off your apron and ask your loved one to turn on the music. Your children are impeccably dressed and you keep them quietly busy by taking out a new puzzle.

You light the candles and give your turkey, one more basting squirt. One last glance in the mirror for a quick lipstick touch-up and you are ready! Ouffff! This will be your first Thanksgiving dinner, in your new home, and you made sure that everything would be perfect. But, hold on, are you ready for any Sticky situation? Here are five sticky situations and their solutions from host and/or guest perspectives.

1. Sticky situation: An extra guest accompanies an invited guest

Host: When hosting a large group, set up an extra place setting, reserved for a mystery guest. If the chair is left empty, you can use it as a conversation starter by asking your guests whom they would like to have dinner with. Get into third gear and discreetly set up another place setting. If your table is getting tight, you may want to add a children's table or serve them first. The extra guest "action plan" should also put your immediate family members into the "I'm not too hungry" mode by reducing their portion sizes.

Guest: When you receive an invitation, only the names of those on the invitation are expected at the event. If you have children, and their names are not on the invitation, even if your host has children of the same age, never assume that they are invited. When you receive an invitation and you have a guest staying with you, on the date of the occasion, RSVP by declining and informing your host of your visitor. It is then up to the host to extend his invitation to that extra person. Not bringing additional invitees also applies to puppy and kitty. Animals are not welcome, unless specified by your host.

2. Sticky situation: A couple is late

Host: To avoid tardy guests, inform them of the meal service time on the original invitation and repeat it when confirming their attendance. At the expected meal time, waiting a polite15 minutes is appropriate, but extending beyond that would be disrespectful to the guests that did show up on time. Start your meal with arrived guests, while holding the place settings and portions of the late comers.

Guest: There is no such thing as fashionably late for a dinner invitation. As soon as you know that you will be late, inform your host of a realistic ETA. Call, don't text. You want to make contact with your host. Don't wait until the start time. Buff it up to account for traffic or possible further delays. When you arrive, apologize to your host without lengthy details and discreetly join the meal in progress, without asking: "What did I miss?'" The next day, further apologize to your host by sending a note or calling.

3. Sticky situation: A guest switched his or her potluck contribution

Host: When organising a potluck meal, always assign two contributions per category. For example, you could prepare a pumpkin pie and ask your aunt to make her famous apple crumble.

Guest: Do not improvise on your contribution. Confirm with your host and show up with what is expected. Bring all serving dishes and utensils. To avoid rushing your host to empty and wash "your stuff," or having to pick them up the next day, purchase additional bowls, tongs or spoons and leave them behind.

Show up ready to serve. Do not plan to use the host's oven unless you have made pre-arrangements. Keep foods hot for a couple of hours by: covering them with foil, wrapping them up in a towel and placing them in a newspaper-lined cooler. I love this Butterball tip! This is how I keep my turkey hot, while I clean up the kitchen. A tent card, to inform guests of your dish and its ingredients, is a nice touch.

4. Sticky situation: A guest has allergies

Host: Although it is the guest's responsibility to inform his host of his allergy it is always smart and responsible to ask your guests about food restrictions. In the case of a potluck dinner, make sure that all your guests are safe by asking all contributors to bring the list of ingredients. You can pre-make tent cards and staple the lists to them, as dishes arrive.

Guest: When RSVPing, inform your host of your dietary restriction. In the case of a meal, not a potluck nor a buffet, offer to bring a dish to compensate. For example: a vegetarian invited to a Thanksgiving dinner could offer to bring scalloped potatoes or a vegetarian stuffing. Informing your host of food constraints does not include your likes, dislikes, nor the practice or your latest diet fad. Eat what you can and do not make a fuss. After all, it is only but one meal. Eat ahead if you have to while picking here and there in your plate.

5. Sticky situation: Guests linger

Host: This is a gradual signaling process. Move the meal to another room, from the dining room to the living room. Stop serving alcohol. Offer another round of coffee or tea. Glide the light dimmer, up a notch, and bring the volume of the music, down a notch. Yawn discreetly and politely. Lastly, get up and offer to get coats or make safe ride arrangements.

Guest: The polite expected time of stay after a meal invitation is about an hour after the meal. As stated above, observe your host's cues and leave by thanking graciously. A call or a thank you note the next day is always an appreciated gesture. Gratitude is the mark of a courteous guest and will certainly get you an invitation to next year's Thanksgiving dinner.

Happy Turkey weekend!

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.

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