Creating Impressions with Etiquette

If you are anything like us, this time of year your inbox is being flooded with invites. Fundraisers, cocktail parties, networking events, holiday celebrations, family gatherings, the list goes on. When getting ready for these events, how much time do you put into your appearance? The outfit, the shoes — for us ladies likely the hair and make-up. When we say appearance however, your clothes are just the tip of the iceberg. How you “appear”? What impression do you give?

Good manners are just a way of showing other people that we have respect for them.
— Bill Kelly

We have sat around many banquet tables and watched grown-ass-people pull out obvious cheats for getting their place-settings right. There is no faster way to look like it’s your first rodeo then the old “b or d” trick with your fingers to identify your bread plate — which we guess is slightly better then sipping out of your neighbours water glass…

Want Some Help?

With the party season upon us, there will be banquets, buffets and buffoons to navigate around. Just to make sure you are not one off those buffoons, we consulted one of our favourite resources to set you up for success in all the holiday situations.

Jeannie Vaage, VIP Protocol

Jeannie Vaage, is the principal and founder of Edmonton based VIP Protocol.  She is a certified corporate etiquette and international protocol consultant.  Ms. Vaage's training is recognized by Fortune 500 corporations, governments, academia and private consultants around the world. She has us with ten easy steps to make you look like you have just stepped off the set of Downton Abbey and yet not appear too snobby! So read on, practice up, then party on!


  1. EAT BEFORE YOU GO!  This is probably the most important thing to remember.  Sometimes guests will hold off eating all day because they are going to a “big feed” in the form of a buffet dinner or a four course dinner later that day.  90% of the time these dinners are not served on schedule.  If you arrive starving, have two drinks and then have to wait another 30 minutes before dinner is served, things can easily go sideways.  Grab yourself a yogurt bar, or a Coffee Crisp on the way.  You will be thankful you did!

  2. At the banquet table, be sure to introduce yourself to the people around you, or better still introduce yourself to everyone seated at your table. Simply, around the table and shake everyone’s hand saying your first and last name clearly and with a smile.  Note: when handshaking men should ALWAYS stand, women may remain seated if the event is a social event but they should stand if it is business event.  Older and handicapped people may remain seated.

  3. If there is a host at your table (someone who has invited you) then wait until the host takes their napkin first.  If there is no host, wait until everyone is seated and then put your napkin on your lap. Do not start eating first unless you are the host, just keep your eye on everyone else and follow suit.

  4. Do not fiddle with anything on the table before the meal starts. Touching the glassware or silver ware nay imply  you are nervous or impatient. 

  5. Place cards:  Sorry but you must sit where you are designated. No switcheroos!  Your host has put great consideration into who should sit here.  If you are seated my an introvert and you are an extravert, your host knows that you will be able to carry a conversation with the quiet guest.  Consider yourself complimented.

  6. Nothing should go on the banquet table except the place settings.  Ladies, your little handbags should go on your chair behind you or on your lap. keys and cellphone should stay in your pocket never on the table. (Hint for the ladies: a banquet is not place to bring that saddlebag of a purse with you! Keep your handbag small.)

  7. “Is this my bread plate or yours?”  Think fancy car!  BMW.  Your Bread plate is on your left, your Main plate is in the middle, and Water/wine is on your right!  NEVER ask the person if a bread plate is yours or theirs-they will know for sure you are out of your league!

  8. The Holiday Buffet?  You do not have to wait until the entire table is back from the buffet line, you may start eating when half of the table returns with their dinner.

  9. Not drinking wine?  Do not tip the wine glass upside down on the table, instead discreetly place your hand in front of the wine goblet as the server is preparing to pour you some wine.

  10. If you must leave the table for personal reasons, simple say excuse me (no more explanation is necessary).  You should not leave the table in the middle of a course. Wait until between courses.  Leave your napkin on the chair when you leave, never leave a used napkin on table until the very end of the dinner.  After the meal is finished, leave the napkin on the left side of your plate.

So there you have it friends, a few items to get you started on your path to success this festive season. If you want to delve a bit deeper into etiquette for social or business situations you can contact VIP Protocol to book your own consultation. If you are wishing you could be a guest at your next corporate event, we are happy to help take the planning details off your hands. Another great way to focus on your etiquette is by giving yourself the time to play the role of host and not event planner!

At Boutique Collective we specialize in making a statement for your brand. From a full service event plan to creative marketing solutions we enlist the best and brightest in the industry to ensure your goals are met. If you are struggling on making an impact with your event branding get in touch with us today to discuss ways we can help!