Whether you serve your Thanksgiving meal family style, buffet, or plated, there is room to add some pizzazz to the table and, therefore, the event.  People notice when you take the time to make something special.  It lifts their spirits and enlivens conversation, making your time together more enjoyable.

Here are some simple ideas to get you started.

Flowers, pumpkins, and gourds, oh my! These are the staples of Thanksgiving decorating and are used several ways. A woven basket of small gourds makes a colorful centerpiece for your table. Just make sure your centerpiece is no higher than 7 inches so guests can still see each other.

Cut the top off a small pumpkin, scoop out the pulp and place flowers inside to create a unique table accessory. It is easier to arrange the flowers in a small jar that sits perfectly in the pumpkin. This also allows you to keep water in it so your arrangement lasts longer.

Tiny vases of baby mums are great to cluster in empty spaces on your table or buffet.  Spread them down the table amongst the pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn, or arrangements of larger flowers.

Consider creating a table runner of several small gourds, pumpkins, and flower arrangements.  Place a large cluster as the centerpiece of the table, then scatter the rest down the table in each direction.  Or, if your table is round, scatter them in a circular area around the centerpiece.

Size matters. As mentioned above, keep your table pieces 7 inches or shorter. This ensures that guests are able to make eye contact and keep their conversations going.  Very important if a fun, lively event is your goal.

Use any large pumpkins, gourds, or flower arrangements in other areas of your home.  On your coffee table, in your entryway, or on the front porch.

Get your family involved. Holiday decorating not only creates a pleasant, colorful atmosphere, it also provides a memorable bonding experience with your children.  Find ways to get them involved.  They might help arrange the items on the table.  If you have more than one child you may give each of them an assignment of decorating a specific area – the table, the living room, the entryway, etc.

Reap the rewards. Your guests and family members enjoy your efforts to make their holiday even more special.  Your children have their confidence bolstered from the compliments they receive on their decorations. Your Thanksgiving holiday is a success!
Pumpkins and Gourds
Pumpkins and gourds make colorful table arrangements
Flowers in a Pumpkin
Flowers arranged in a small pumpkin provide unique table decorations
Using baby mums
Tiny vases of baby mums make lovely space fillers
Roses
Large flower arrangements can be enjoyed in other areas of your home

Test your Thanksgiving Manners with our True/False Etiquette Questions Below

1. As soon as you are seated at the table and have your food, you may begin eating.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

2. If someone asks for the salt, pass them both, the salt and the pepper.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

3. At the beginning of a sit-down, family-style meal, food is first passed to the right.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

4. Cut up all your food before you begin eating.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

5. If a toast is given, but you don’t drink,  just sit and watch everyone else hold up their glass.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

 

6. If you have to get up from the table place your napkin in your chair.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

7. If you have to remove a piece of meat or a bite of food that you can’t chew, discreetly slide it back onto your fork and place it on your plate. Try to cover it up with something else so that it is not visible to others

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

8. Crumble up your napkin and put it in your plate when you are finished with your meal.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

9. If you have to sneeze or cough at the table, always turn your head to the side and cover your mouth with the napkin. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

10. By placing your silverware in the 3:15 or 6:30 position on your plate, it means that you are finished eating.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

Thanksgiving can be a joyful time with family and friends, or it can seem like you the host, have taken on too many responsibilities as the cook, server, and dishwasher. Whether having dinner with new in-laws, old friends, or close family members, there are certain tricks and tips that can make you look like a pro at hosting a thanksgiving feast.

Plan ahead. Make the turkey and side dishes in advance. Set a schedule and lay out exactly how much time you will need.

Accept help. If others offer to bring an item or come early to assist you, always welcome their kind gesture.

Set it pretty. Entertaining is the perfect excuse to pull out all the stops when it comes to your table setting. Use the china, crystal, and silver that you have. Place flowers, candles, and seasonal items down the center of the table to create ambiance. It is well worth the extra minutes and effort.

Shake up the seating arrangements. If possible, separate couples so that they are not sitting across from or next to each other. Seat people according to personality and interests.

Set the tone. Most guest will follow the host’s lead. Your mood is critical to set the tone of the dinner.  Always remain positive and keep a smile on your face.  Your attitude can put any guests at ease.

Get dressed and ready early. If you stayed up all night cooking and cleaning, never allow your guests to know you are tired or stressed. It is always best to plan ahead and make sure you are refreshed and ready for any small emergencies that may occur.

Steer the conversation. Stay away from conversations about sex, religion, or politics. These topics have been known to put a damper on the evening. Do your best to direct the conversations so that they don’t lead down a dangerous path.

Have your 10 questions ready to go. If you are acting as host, consider the opposing views of dinner guests. Plan a list of appropriate discussion points ahead of time. Stick to topics suitable and appropriate for all audiences.  Pick 10 questions to get the conversation going – include the weather, pets, movies, books, travel and so on.  Pay attention to local and national news so that you are well informed about things happening around you.

Make it a game. Between courses, if there is a lull in the conversation and guests get that glazed-over look, pull out a game such as Table Topics. Have guests draw a card and answer questions that are posed. Boredom be gone!

Stay neutral. Try not to take sides. Make your guests comfortable by listening to different points of view.  The relationships between guests in your home are far more important than anyone being right or feeling superior.

Being a great host takes planning and patience. Good conversation is as important as good food, wine, and flowers to ensure that everyone will have a great time - including you, the host.

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Smile. Flashing a smile can go a long way towards making someone else’s day brighter. Keep a mental reserve of your happiest, funniest moments that you can recall to put a smile on your face.

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Leave a place in better condition than you found it. Challenge yourself to improve a public space. If you spot a piece of trash on the ground, be the person who takes the time to pick it up and throw it away. It’s an admirable thing to see someone inconvenience themselves in this way for the betterment of the entire community.

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Arrive on time.If punctuality doesn’t come naturally, give yourself an additional 10-minute “emergency gap” to allow for last-minute activities. Create a playlist for your morning routine that is exactly as long as you have to get ready – it’s a fun way to keep yourself on track. But if you know you’re going to be late ahead of time, communicate this to your friends, coworkers, or host through a quick, apologetic call.

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Make your commute a pleasant time.In Atlanta, we are all too familiar with traffic. It can be uninteresting as a routine part of your day, and downright enraging when unexpected traffic makes you late. Make the time a positive one for yourself. Find a podcast to listen to during the ride about a subject that interests you. Sing along with the radio and relieve your stress. Don’t forget to make the monotonous crawl a little bit better for others – let someone into your lane during your commute, give someone a wave or a smile, and be patient with slower drivers.

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Express your compliments. If your waitress has a great hairstyle, make sure to tell her. If a man standing in line in front of you at the grocery store looks great in that shade of blue let him know. We all have these thoughts, but many of us neglect to share them. An impromptu compliment from a stranger is really memorable.

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Improve your communicative style. Listen to others, and pay attention to your communication habits. If you tend to dominate the conversation, strive to ask your partner questions about themselves. If you find making small talk difficult, challenge yourself to hold quick chats with strangers during your day-to-day life.

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See how current your Etiquette IQ is with our True/False Questions Below

1. Elbows are sometimes permitted on the table.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

2. Proposing a toast can be done anytime during the meal.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

3. Political discussions should always be avoided during a meal.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

4. At a buffet, start eating as soon as half of the people have returned to the table. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

5. If you are eating a messy meal (ex: spare ribs), it is perfectly all right to tuck your napkin under your chin. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

6. When introducing two people of the same age but different sex, it really doesn’t matter whose name is stated first. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

7. In business or social situations, it is always correct for a woman to shake hands.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

8. The nature of e-mailing is informal, but business e-mails should still be communicated formally. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

9. Fold-over note cards are used by men and women. 

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

10. It is acceptable for a “thank-you” text message to replace a handwritten thank-you note.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]FALSE[/toggle]

11. There are exceptions, but one usually doesn’t give out his/her business card unless another asks for it.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

12. One who overlooks etiquette rarely has it called to his/ her attention.

[toggle title="Answer" variation=""]TRUE[/toggle]

Some people find Valentine's Day annoying.  And, no, it's not just single people who may feel this way.

Like other holidays, Valentine's Day has become known as a consumer trap.  Some people feel duped into buying a gift to prove their love for someone, or to fit in at the office or with friends they find far too sentimental.

Fear of not measuring up, or of not meeting someone's high expectations, can lead to incredible dread.

There's also the annoyance of politically-charged groups and other organizations urging us to show our love for certain causes on Valentine's Day.  It's this type of spin on a day for celebrating romantic love that can make the whole thing seem pointless.

It's Only One Day

Valentine's Day is just that - one day out of the year.  And if there's no way to escape the company of other people on this day, it may be necessary to equip yourself with some coping skills.

Fortunately, etiquette, emotional clarity, and a little organization, can help you get through it:

Show Some Love

It's okay if Valentine's Day isn't your thing.  It's even okay if you let the people closest to you know this.  After all, you need to be you.

But understand that if your someone special loves Valentine's Day, a little compromise will make him or her feel even more appreciated by you.

And if you're single, there's nothing better than taking this day to show a little love to yourself by indulging in something that will make you feel special.

Written By Candace Smith
Candace Smith is a Dual Certified Graduate of The American School of Protocol's Etiquette Certification Training and the owner of Etiquette for the Business of Life 

Have you ever wanted to say this to someone?

A terrible handshake can leave you saying “yuck”, “eeewww” and “ouch”.  It may even make you immediately want to wash your hands.

Everyone and we mean everyone has experienced a bad handshake.

Awkward, limp, Aggressive: One of these three words is the stereotypical description of a bad handshake. Whether too powerful or too feeble, a lousy handshake is just terrible.

Cringeworthy Handshakes 

The Bone Breaker

The Clammy Clamp

The Paw

The Dead Fish

The Won't Stop Shaking

What Your Handshake Says

Lifeless and Limp = Insecure

Overpowering = Aggressive

Forced = Desperate

Prolonged Shaking = Anxious

Sweaty = Nervous

Our current culture recognizes a firm, confident handshake as the accepted form of both greeting and goodbye. We use it to convey everything from congratulations to the close of a business deal. 

When shaking hands keep the adage Less is More in mind. 

Most of all, if your handshaking partner commits one of the cardinal sins above, be kind and courteous and learn from their mistake.

How to Correctly Shake Hands

1. Extend your open hand in front of you with your thumb widely separated from your other fingers.

2. When the other person clasps your hand in the same way, KEEP YOUR HAND OPEN until your thumbs lock.

3. Then close your grip and shake FIRMLY once up and down.

- Be firm and make moderate contact.

- Never try to establish dominance.

- Keep it simple and professional by using only one hand.

- Be prepared for sweaty palms.

#1 Bring a gift for the host. 

#2 Offer to help to the host.

#3 Participate in the holiday traditions.

#4 Ask the host where you should sit at the dining table.

#5 Wait for the host to begin the meal. A blessing or a few words will often be shared to thank everyone for being there.

#6 Eat slowly and engage in conversation with others during the meal.

#7 Say something nice about the food and thank those who helped make all the preparations.

#8 After the meal is over, see how you can help clean up.

#9 Don't overstay your welcome.

#10 Send a thank-you note to the host expressing your gratitude and appreciation for the meal.

 

In the aviation world, these three words are considered a common approach to flying situations. 

Aviation studies have discovered that during emergencies pilots can get so focused on solving the problem that they forget to actually fly the airplane.

Being prepared and knowing exactly what you will do before you do it serves us well in all aspects of life. This tactic can also be employed to help you feel more comfortable when dining with others. 

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[one_half_last]You won’t be panicked because you accidently used someone else’s bread plate or so frazzled that you forget to eat.

Here are a few tips that will ensure you land once you have taken off!

Prepare For Take Off 

Avoid Turbulence

Final Approach

The Landing

The takeoff is important just like the landing and everything in-between, but the most important part is how you walk away feeling after the experience and how you made those around you feel.

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Although just about anything goes with regard to tying the knot, some basic factors still govern wedding gift etiquette.

As a rule, a guest should always consider the couple’s wishes, their relationship with them, and their own personal budget in selecting a wedding gift.

Bride And Groom Celebrating With Guests At Reception

We have compiled the following outdated and long-held myths that have complicated wedding gift-giving for far too long.

1. Registry Required.  While a registry is super-convenient and ensures the couple will enjoy the gift – it is a suggestion, not a decree.

➤ Guests are free to buy from the registry or choose a more personal gift, as they wish.

Wedding Gift Etiquette

2. No Rush.  This rumor suggests that it’s perfectly acceptable to send a wedding gift up to one year post-event.

➤ A gift should be sent shortly after receiving the invitation, or within three months following the wedding (at the latest).

3. Tit for Tat.  Another unfortunate falsehood is that the cost of the wedding gift should match or exceed the price-per-plate.

➤ Guests decide what to spend on based on the couple’s preferences, their closeness to the couple and their own financial situation.  Period.

Gay Couple Celebrating Wedding With Party In Backyard

4. Cash is Crass.  Not so.  A monetary gift is often the right choice for older people with existing households, or when the couple has requested honeymoon funds or deposits to specific accounts.

➤ Money can be sent directly to the couple with a personal note, or straight into the institution indicated.

Couple Elope

5. Go It Alone.  Group gift-giving is not only acceptable, sometimes it is the best idea.

➤ Big ticket registry items can be out of reach for just one person, but perfect for a combined effort.  These are things the couple may not be able to afford, and therefore very much appreciated.

Despite the myriad of ways couples can fulfill their wedding day dreams, wedding gift etiquette hasn’t changed much.  It is still defined by the requests of the couple, the degree of friendship, and the guest’s budget.

By taking these factors into account, a guest can rest easy knowing they will give an appropriate gift – whether the event takes place in a centuries-old cathedral or on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

newlywed couple at the beach

If your curious about how much the average person spends on a wedding gift, Brides.com has run the numbers and their experts weigh in with some stats that you might find interesting.

Click here to see what they have to say.