Advice Columns

Miss Manners: Grown-ups don’t need theme parties

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Q: Is it tacky to have a combo themed party? My husband is turning 40, and we just bought our first house together last month. We would like to “kill two birds with one stone” if it’s proper etiquette. If it is allowable, which of the two is more important as far as the invitation is concerned?

A: Well, which one will get you more presents?

Forgive Miss Manners’ cynicism, but she has unfortunately grown accustomed to this subtext. And she would otherwise not understand why grown-ups feel the need to have a themed party at all – much less a “combo theme” – when that is really best left to the preschool set.

You may certainly have a party to celebrate both occasions, but if you are not fishing for presents (and let us assume in good faith that you are not), do not advertise it as such. Simply have a party.

Presumably, your friends will know that this is a new house if they have not visited you in it before – and can bring presents if they like. And if you like, you may modestly toast your husband’s birthday at the party. But please do not solicit gifts for either occasion, let alone both.

Q: What is the proper response to someone who says, “It’s about time!” when told that a family member is expecting a baby?

A: “Why? What time is it?!”

Q: I have grown increasingly frustrated with the need to decipher the time of social invitations. There was a party announced with an 8:00 start time. Knowing the host and the guests, I arrived at 9:30, and still I was the first to arrive by a long margin.

Sometimes these parties happen in certain minority communities, and this behavior is excused with some self-effacing joke, claiming, “It’s just how we are – we always show up late.” If I am looking forward to the event, I find it very frustrating to sit at home, waiting for the right time to leave so that I'll arrive at the expected lateness.

Is there an acceptable way to ask a host to be frank about the hour they expect guests to arrive? Is there an acceptable way for a host to say that we would like to start the celebration at a particular time, with all guests present if at all possible?

A: You may jokingly ask your hosts, “So what does that really mean?” but Miss Manners would caution you to leave out the minority part. They can say it; you can’t. You may be able to extract a prediction of when they will sit down to dinner, and time your arrival accordingly.

As a host, you could emphasize your schedule by saying, for example, “We'll have drinks at 7, and dinner will be served at 7:30.” Then, if you are cleaning up and going to bed when your guests arrive, they will have only themselves to blame.

Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

© Universal Uclick 10/9

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