Dear Miss Manners: At a formal dinner party, we were served cream soup in double-handled cream soup bowls, complete with liner plate. With no apparent soup spoon on the table, I lifted the bowl by both handles and quietly sipped my soup.
My wife was shocked but made no comment until we returned home. My cousin, another guest at the party, did the same. We remember being taught by our grandmother that this was proper etiquette. Was she wrong?
Other guests used their dessert spoons. Our hostess, another cousin, looked shocked. Can you advise us please?
Gentle Reader: It sounds to Miss Manners like a successful dinner party. It is so hard to shock people nowadays.
Your grandmother was quite right: Atwo-handled cup may be taken up with two hands. It is customary to provide a soup spoon for those who do not care to do so. Miss Manners can only conclude that the hostess’s shock was at herself from having omitted doing so.
Dear Miss Manners: Is it appropriate to request “Black Tie or Holiday Festive” dress on Christmas party invitations? It seems to me that either Black Tie or Holiday Festive Attire would be better received. I feel like I am being told what to wear!
Gentle Reader: Be grateful when you are told what to wear. When hosts shirk this duty, they end up with an odd-looking assortment of guests, most of whom feel out of place.
The problem is that you are not being told precisely.
Miss Manners supposes that these instructions are a shillyshallying way of saying, “We’d really like you to be in evening clothes, but if you’re going to make a fuss about black tie, at least try to dress up.” However, for all she knows, “holiday festive attire” might mean draping mistletoe over your nose.
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