Get Your Etiquette On

Avoid holiday party missteps with advice from this LA etiquette expert

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  • Photographed By
    Shane O'Donnell

As CEO of Beverly Hills Manners and the author of Beverly Hills Manners: Golden Rules from the World’s Most Glamorous Zip Code, Lisa Gaché advises clients on the “how-to’s” of being polite. Here VB editor in chief Linda Grasso queries her on how to be a great guest and host—and resolves a long-standing manners squabble with her husband.


Are there some instances where a hostess gift is unnecessary?

A hostess gift is highly recommended whether you know the host personally or not. It is not necessary, however, for very large parties or last minute casual gatherings.

What are some creative hostess gifts?

Consider an indulgent gourmet item like imported truffle oil, a beautifully illustrated cookbook or a gift for their much-loved pet. If you bring flowers, do arrive with them arranged in a vase or if bringing a homemade treat, have it presented on a serving piece.

When it comes to wine, what is an appropriate expenditure?

A ballpark price of $25 to $30 is very generous. I have turned many a host on to my favorite Pinot Noir (Meiomi) which retails for under $25 and is sold at Ralphs, Trader Joe’s and Costco. But if it is quality wine, price point shouldn’t matter.

What is the rule about bringing a date to a party?

Guests should never arrive at any party with extra people in tow. If you would like to bring someone, clear it with your host well in advance and be accepting of their answer either way.

Sometimes when I’m conversing with someone at a party, they pick up their phone and start checking social media or emails. Would walking away be rude?

I think it’s wise to always give someone the benefit of the doubt first before taking action. Wait a beat, and if they continue to be distracted, it is perfectly acceptable to move on.

How do I get guests to stop checking phones at my dinner table?

Have a collection basket at the door and request that your guests check their tech. If someone is truly concerned about an emergency, offer them your home phone number to text to loved ones.

I often send gifts to out of state relatives. I get no response—not even a brief text. Should I stop?

First reach out to make sure they actually received the gift. At that time, hopefully a thank-you would follow. If not, then putting a sanction on sending gifts may be the best remedy. Actions always speak louder than words.

I’ve had vegan guests make snarky remarks about the food served—even though I’m also offering vegan fare. Is serving dishes with animal products rude when a vegan is coming to dinner?

I don’t think it’s offensive at all, especially if you have other guests who will appreciate a more varied menu. A gracious guest cannot hold everyone accountable to their ways.

What is the acceptable time frame in which to RSVP?

Proper etiquette dictates that one should try to respond within a 24 to 48 hour time frame. The purpose of this is to respond before a potential second invitation arrives and to assist the host with coordinating the other details of the party.

Should hosts ask first before filling up a person’s wine glass?

Part of the job as host is to determine the guests’ cut-off point. A gracious host will always inquire first before assuming a guest wishes to have more wine, especially if that guest is driving.

I try to wind down a party around midnight. I offer coffee and stop serving liquor. It is not a hint for guests to leave. For me, it’s more about safety. My husband thinks that this is impolite and that guests should have pours until they leave. Thoughts?

Your instincts are correct, of course. When will husbands learn that we wives are always one step ahead? Switching to coffee at the end of a festive night is an insurance policy for your guests. This ensures their safety and shows you’re a thoughtful host who pays careful attention to every last detail. Who wouldn’t appreciate that?