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An etiquette expert offers tips for Thanksgiving meals

Invited to a meal, but not sure how to make the best impression?

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s that time of year again, time for the annual holiday gathering. You’re invited for dinner but haven’t got any indication from the host about what to wear, what should you do? 

“As a general rule, dress to your personal best", says etiquette expert Julie Frantz. "It is an insult to your host and hostess if they have gone through two days of preparing a wonderful meal and you show up as if you just left your garden.”

Arrive on time, don’t show up with uninvited guests and it’s nice if you bring the host a small gift or bottle of wine. If you’ve been tasked with a food dish, prepare something that doesn’t need to be thrown in the oven - that’s prime real estate.

When it’s time to get into the holiday spirit, grab a cocktail and mingle, but Julie stresses to be mindful of those drinks and don't consume too much. 

As everyone gathers for the meal, wait for the eldest person to take their seat at the table first. After being seated, simply unfold your napkin discreetly under the table and place it in your lap. Do not open it by giving it a brisk shake, and do no tuck the napkin into your shirt. 

Before you dig into your plate of food, Julie says the biggest etiquette mistake nowadays is not turning off your phone. 

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“Thanksgiving dinner is a time to connect with other people not be watching YouTube videos. So, turn the phone off, put it away, the only exception is if somebody is in a lifesaving, emergency job and they’re on-call.”

If the setting is formal, here's a simple tip to decide which utensil to use: start with the utensil furthest from the plate and work in towards the plate with each course. 

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When the serving dishes are passed, if something doesn’t look appetizing Julie has the perfect way to handle it, so no one is insulted, “'Aunt Hilde, this looks delicious, what all is in here?'. And then if she says some things that sound super disgusting you still smile, you still put a little bit on your plate.”

When it’s time to dig in, remember to give the food a try before seasoning it to avoid insulting the host. Most holiday meals are long, so have a few conversation topics up your sleeve, but be sure to keep it pleasant. Stay away from religion, politics and anything that is gross, rude or gossipy.

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When the meal is done, offer to help clean up. If your host declines, respect their wishes. 

Now that your belly’s full, you want to go home and sleep it off, but you should stick around for a bit. “A good guest will stay one hour after the dinner has been served, you don’t want to appear to be dining and dashing.” 

Of course, it’s equally important to not overstay your welcome, so pay attention to cues and hints from your host about when it’s time to leave.