Holiday Dinners: Big Family Dinner Etiquette

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It is just around the corner ... the big family holiday dinner. You can just smell the roasted turkey, pecan pie, sweet potato casserole, and fresh baked rolls. Suddenly, your thoughts come to a screeching halt when you think of Grandma going on and on about her health issues or little Timmy spilling apple cider on your new outfit.

Well planned gatherings can be wonderful events. We would like to offer a few guidelines to help you and your family members navigate a successful and enjoyable BIG family dinner:


Think kindness and thoughtfulness. Whether you are the hostess or guest, family dinners are good opportunities to practice these "others-centered" traits. Great starts set the tone for the upcoming event.

As the Hostess:

  • Invite your guest well in advance so they can make appropriate plans; provide all details such as date, time, attire, and any special instructions.
  • Inquire of any food allergies. Those affected will be extremely appreciative.
  • Divide the cooking responsibilities so everyone feels a part of it and can contribute.
  • Plan activities for the younger ones or assign them easy dinner tasks—kids enjoy being involved in the planning.
  • If you have pets, make plans for them to remain outside or in another room during the dinner for your sensitive guests.
  • Don't sweat the small stuff. If you are relaxed, your guests will follow your lead.

As the Guest:

  • Arrive on time with your prepared dishes ready to serve.
  • If you are running late, call instead of texting.
  • Don't bring an uninvited guest—it is considered rude.
  • Offer to help with the last minute preparations.
  • Prior to arriving, set expectations with your children. Once you arrive, manage them.


Gatherings are more meaningful when we put our needs aside and focus on others.

  • Include everyone in the dinner conversation.
  • Think of positive, engaging topics for the dinner conversation prior to the event.
  • As items are passed to the right, hold the dish for the person seated next to you.
  • Compliment others on their scrumptious dishes.
  • If you see the conversation going south, get involved and help redirect it in a positive direction.


Acts of kindness are impactful and leave lasting impressions. It also motivates the hostess to plan future dinners.

  • Everyone should help with the clean up process. Assign tasks, if necessary, to minimize kitchen chaos.
  • Don't overstay your welcome. Graciously thank the hostess and leave when it is time.
  • Send a handwritten thank you note within 3 days of the dinner.

Big family dinner celebrations can be enjoyable and fun as long as everyone is considerate and thoughtful of others. Doing your part helps to accelerate family relationships and makes for an enjoyable time, creating lasting memories and an anticipation for future events.

Do you prefer being the hostess or the guest at big family dinners?

Laura Pulido, CEO and Jocelyn Woo, CCO of the Protocol Institute are moms who are passionate about transforming traditional etiquette into a contemporary lifestyle for both children and adults.  Technology has presented challenges to the iGeneration in the area of critical face-to-face interaction necessary to succeed in life and relationships.  Their response to this emerging trend is to use the same technology to teach and equip future leaders and citizens with basic life skills to successfully connect both online and offline.  The Protocol Institute offers eLearning courses accessible anytime, anywhere with rich, engaging interactivity that captures the interest and curiosity of your digital literate children.

Take one out for a test drive: Experience for yourself this state-of-the-art learning environment by downloading a free eLearning course, exclusive to MomItForward subscribers.  Visit or on Twitter:


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