Adam: Let's say you're at a seated dinner and you have dietary restrictions—you keep kosher, are vegan or are on a diet. How do you not eat what's being served without insulting your host?
Derek: I'm not one for lying, but there are such things as food allergies. A delicately dropped comment can get you off the hook from eating that piece of pecan pie.
Adam: Is it impolite to send a thank-you note via email, or is it socially acceptable these days?
Derek: Often times I'll quickly dash off an email or text message when I leave a party. A particularly enjoyable evening, however, that warrants a thank-you note or a phone call. I always say a handwritten note is the ultimate hallmark of a classy woman. But an email is better than nothing.
Adam: What is the most common party mistake made by the host or hostess?
Derek: I won't name names, but general cleanliness. I've seen this happen quite a few times: The hostess will call in the florist, she'll have the party catered, she'll hire the chef, but she'll forget to run a duster over the curtains.
Adam: Or the bathroom is a hot mess.
Derek: Right. I'd rather the host put my dinner plate in front of me [instead of splurging on waiters] and hired someone to put toilet paper in the loo.
Adam: Should a dinner party have assigned seating or be a free-for-all?
Derek: For a sit-down dinner, it's up to the hostess, but I often prefer assigned seating because it forces you to meet someone new.
Adam: As a host, how do you handle the friend who always shows up two hours late?
Derek: If it's a dinner party, reserve them a seat on the end.
Adam: Speaking of seating plans, I always find it funny when someone tries to sneak into the dining room early and move the place cards. Is it rude to adjust the seating assignments to ensure you have a better time?
Derek: Obviously your host has thought about the seating chart. I've never been one to move a card—at the end of the day, it's 45 minutes of your life. If you really can't stand your seatmate, sit down late and hop up at dessert.
Adam: Do you have any tricks for getting late-night stragglers out the door?
Derek: It can be considered rude for a hostess to ask people to leave, but if she has others do it for her, it's far more effective. Hopefully, you have a few good friends or a close family member in attendance and you say to them, "I'm exhausted; we have to wrap this up." Typically, they will spread the word and say to the obvious night owl: "Hey, we should go. Will you walk me to my car?" If all else fails, turn off the music and turn on the lights.
Adam: You've been to a lot of events and have written the quintessential book on entertaining for modern partygoers. So what is the worst party you've ever attended?
Derek: A good party is one that is designed to entertain and bond friends. The bad parties I've been to are the ones that are held to impress other people.
To get more of Derek Blasberg's advice and find out how he made it from the suburbs of the Midwest and into the best big-city parties, check out his book, Very Classy: Even More Exceptional Advice for the Extremely Modern Lady.
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