Thanksgiving Etiquette

Thanksgiving Etiquette

RSVP & Gifts

Because it’s considered the easiest task, RSVP’ing often gets put off until the last minute. It’s important to be mindful of responding in a timely fashion so that the host knows how many numbers to expect, and if there is room to extend invitations to others. If you are able to attend, be sure not to come empty handed. When your host is asked if you can bring anything, the polite response is to say not to bring anything at all. The polite response when your host is asked if you can bring anything is to say not to bring anything at all. However, that isn’t what you should do! Be sure to bring a good bottle of wine or a festive dessert. Keep in mind, they may not open the wine if they have already paired specific wines with their meal, but the gesture is important. If you’re concerned about adding to an already organized menu, I recommend bringing quality candles as a gift, or a floral arrangement.

Seating Guests

If you’re having a formal Thanksgiving dinner party, I recommend using place cards to direct individuals on where to sit. This is especially useful if everyone in your group doesn’t necessarily know each other. If you let everyone seat themselves in a situation like this, you’re more likely to get cliques and have less full-table conversations. I recommend seating a more outgoing person next to a shyer person to help conversations continue. If you have young children you can turn writing place cards into a fun art project!

Being a Good Guest

Be sure to introduce yourselves to others you may not know. The host has brought everyone together because you all play an important role in their lives. It’s considerate to make them feel that they made the right choice mixing circles. Further, be careful to keep conversations at the table light hearted and positive. You don’t want to bring up topics such as politics or religion, which can easily offend others. This is especially the case when dining with new people. And be sure to compliment the food in only a positive way, try a little bit of everything, and be sure to help the host clear up afterwards!

Keeping Kids Entertained

Not all children will be able to sit through the entirety of thanksgiving without getting a bit antsy. I suggest making little bags filled with quiet activities to keep them occupied. Examples could include colouring sheets with a couple of crayons and some stickers. I also suggest waiting to introduce this bag until kids actually become antsy. Introducing it too early can cause the activities to quickly lose their novelty! If you have everyone on one table I suggest creating some fun conversation starters to give every age group a chance to contribute to the conversation.

Involve Kids

Having kids feel like they are part of organizing such an important event can give them more reason for wanting to be on their best behavior. Designate jobs such as setting the table, clearing up, or initiating a conversation about what they are thankful for. Older kids can take the role of watching over younger ones, too!


Sunita Padda is a masters-level B.C.-Certified teacher and the founder of TableSmarts. To inquire about children’s Dining + Social Etiquette classes at the Terminal City Club, please contact:

Photography by Inga Avedyan with floral design by Catalina Neal 

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