Dear Carson: I am having Thanksgiving dinner in our home this year. There will be about 17 and possibly 21 guests, including family and in-laws, some of whom do not get along. I am undecided about whether to have a buffet and let guests serve themselves and sit any place they like or whether to set up tables with place cards. - Peace on Earth, Please
Dear Peace: Serve beverages for the first 30 minutes while everyone gathers. I suggest wine, juice and soft drinks. Set up a buffet, and have tables scattered about with enough space for all your guests to sit. When there are more than six guests, it is proper to use place cards. If you know which guests have animus against other guests, separate them by strategically situating the place cards. Keep your demeanor happy and welcoming: Their differences are not your problem. Who knows, this may even be an occasion for healing.
Dear Carson: I attended a business banquet last month where we were seated at round tables. Not knowing which beverage was mine or the person's next to me, I waited until they reached for the iced tea glass and then I picked up the other one. That way I avoided any obvious goofs, but then I started eating too early. Also, what does a person do with the napkin when being excused? - Evening Embarrassment
Dear EE: What is above your knife and spoon is yours to drink; in other words, to your upper right-hand side. Your bread and butter and perhaps your salad are to the left of your place setting. As for when to begin your meal, there are various rules for banquet dining and for dining in a private home. For a public type of large banquet, wait until the six people nearest you have been served. In a private home it is improper to begin eating until your host or hostess has begun eating. If you must excuse yourself during a meal, hang your napkin over the back of your chair or on the seat of your chair. A meal is officially over when the host or hostess places his or her napkin to the left of their place setting.
Dear Carson: I attended a wedding recently, and when the bride and her father came down the aisle, my husband and I stood. Someone sitting beside me in the pew tugged on my jacket and shook her head, whereupon my husband and I sat back down. I looked around the church and observed that some guests were standing while others remained seated. Who was right? - Sitting or Standing
Dear S&S: Wedding guests take their cue from the mother of the bride. If she rises, they rise. If she remains seated, they remain seated.