Nancy MitchellNancy R. Mitchell is an established protocol and etiquette consultant and advisor with more than 30 years of experience in the field. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses to Event Management Certificate Program students in the School of Business and Public Management, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was Director of Special Events and Public Programs at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other foreign dignitaries, fundraising galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, she served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, foreign embassies, academia and corporations. Mitchell owns The Etiquette Advocate, Inc., a firm providing etiquette and protocol training to corporations, universities, embassies, government agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals. She is the etiquette consultant to Engaged! magazine, has been featured on Good Morning America, Fox 5 News, WTOP Radio and National Public Radio, and is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by the New York Times, Washington Business Journal, and the Washington Post. She is a co-owner of the firm, Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol, Inc., and is a member of the Protocol and Diplomacy International Protocol Officers Association and the Women Business Owners of Montgomery Country (MD).
Host: If I am invited to dinner in someone s home, should I bring a gift and what are some appropriate gifts?
Nancy Mitchell: It is a very kind gesture to arrive at someone s home when you are attending a dinner with a small gift in hand, but don t feel obligated to do so. If you are more comfortable with sending in ahead that s perfectly alright or you can send the gift the following day with a thank you note.
Some appropriate gifts are chocolates or a potted plant or guest soaps for guest bathroom. If you know the host and hostess a little better than that perhaps you can give them a CD, they like classical music, you can give them a book you know that they have talked about, you can bring them a magazine that has perhaps an article that you have been talking about with them. It doesn t have to be a gift that you go out and purchase. You can share something with them which shows your connection with them.
The one thing you do want to avoid is don t bring something that causes a distraction. The host and hostess maybe cooking. They maybe greeting people at the door. So, don t bring cut flowers that require immediate attention where they have to be cut and placed in a vase. The hostess will feel obligated to show those flowers while you are there. So, bring it in a vase or bring a potted plant that does not require any attention. Also a bottle of wine is a lovely gift for someone, if you know they drink alcohol and the mistake a lot of people make is presenting that bottle of wine and assuming it is going to be drunk at that dinner party. That is presumptuous. They may have planned a dinner that has nothing to do with the wine that you have brought. Just give it them say here s your favorite. The next time you have steaks on the grill, try this wine you ll love it. They know they can put it away for later they do not have to uncorked at that point, drink at that evening and it might sure their menu completely off.