The Conversation

The First Lady Needs to Dust Off Her Etiquette Books

I'm not one to pick on the First Lady and the President on little things, but the event planner in me couldn't be silenced.  From The Washington Post:

Guests attending Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday party at the White House later this month can look forward to “a little Dougie” but definitely not dinner.

Word’s out that the lucky VIPs invited to fete Mrs. Obama at a “Snacks & Sips & Dancing & Dessert” party have been advised to dust off their dancing shoes and, more strictly, “to eat before you come.”

While it’s always nice to give the stiletto sporting crowd a heads-up, the East Wing’s “EBYC” directive has some folks in the party planning business scratching their heads.

The Post quotes several etiquette experts falling over themselves to be diplomatic and not criticize the First Couple too much. I suppose that is what good manners dictates.  However, as a former event planner I would say the appropriate way to notify guests that they won't be served dinner is to say what you will be serving.  I've used "Light Refreshments" and "Heavy Hors d'oeuvres and Drinks."  Or just "Beer and Wine" if you won't be serving any food.  Generally, you should tell guests what you're offering, not what they're missing.  The invite said there would be snacks and dessert, so given that dinner is omitted, the directive to "eat before you come" isn't necessary.

Regarding footwear, I also don't like the directive of what kind of shoes to wear.  Aren't adults attending this party?  If you say there will be dancing, let your guests decide what to wear and deal with the consequences.  Michelle Obama, you can take our trans fats and salt, but please don't take our stilettos! 

I can't help but wonder why no one on the White House staff caught these faux pas.  Perhaps they were shot down by political staff who wanted a more informal invitation.

(Aside: I'm not criticizing the First Couple for not serving dinner.  I'm sure there would be complaints, given the economy, if we got a hold of a lobster-laden menu for the First Lady's birthday dinner.  I also have no problem with entertaining people in the White House.  It's all the overseas vacations that seem outlandish.)


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