A Q & A for Memorial Day: Etiquette for pool parties, barbecues and a day at the lake

Derik Holtman/dholtman@bnd.com

Q. My husband and I and our kids have been invited to a Memorial Day party by some friends who have a place on a lake with a boat, and other people are invited who also come and have boats. It is an all-day party type thing, and I told her I wasn’t sure if we could be there all day because our little ones would get too tired. She said it was OK. I also asked if there was anything I could bring in the way of food and beverages and she said it wasn’t necessary because they would have plenty. Even though she said there would be plenty, I am going to bake a cake and take that and some soft drinks and juices my kids like. It is proper to do that, isn’t it?

A. Normally a hostess gift of some kind is appropriate when going to someone’s home for dinner. The gift is usually an item which does not have to be opened or shared at the dinner itself. For example, a bouquet of fresh flowers in a vase, which the hostess can keep in the kitchen for the next day or place other than on the dining room table because she no doubt already has selected her floral centerpiece for her table. A loaf of homemade bread for their breakfast the next day is also a great hostess gift. For an invitation to an all-day celebration such as this, which is being held in a location that is not their normal home, with lots of other guests – adults and children – I am certain another dessert item would be appreciated. If you want to take soft drinks and juices for the children, fine, but I would make certain to take some extra to share with the other children. Also, be sure to leave the soft drinks and juices with the hostess if you do leave early.

Q. If you are invited to a pool party at someone’s home for Memorial Day, and you are not sure if you are actually going to get into the pool, do you have to wear your swimsuit, or just take it with you and change into it at their house if you decide to swim? Also, should I take my own swim towels?

A. Yes, if you are not certain you are actually going to go swimming, or even if you plan to swim. you can change when and if you decide to actually get into the pool. Yes, even though the hostess may have lots of pool towels, I would recommend taking your own. I would also recommend you take a couple of plastic bags with you for putting your wet towels and swimsuit in when you leave the party. Taking your own sun tan lotion, comb and brush would also be appropriate.

Q. We have been invited to three different Memorial Day parties and we plan on trying to go to all three for a short time, so I have a couple of etiquette questions: 1) Do I take a hostess gift to each even if we might only be there an hour? 2) Do I need to tell each hostess we might be staying only a short time or give them a timeframe of when we will be there or can we just show up? 3) Do we have to eat an actual meal at each party?

A. You are going to have a busy day, that’s for sure. but it is important to be considerate of each hostess and her party schedule; therefore:

1) Yes, you need to take a hostess gift to each hostess regardless of how little time you will be attending her party.

2) Yes, by all means, inform the hostess of the timeframe of when you will be attending her party, so if she is planning a sit-down meal, she will know how much food to prepare and how many seats to have at her dining table.

3) You do not have to eat a full meal at each party, but again, the hostess needs to have that information in advance.

I will add another very important point of advice: 4) Be sure to stick to your schedule for the day so that a hostess isn’t suddenly surprised when you arrive just as she and her guests are about to sit down to eat.

Q. Does it really matter or is it rude to be invited to a pool party and you accept when you have no intention of wearing a swimsuit or going into the pool?

A. Yes, it does matter and yes, it would be rude. If you have already accepted the invitation, do a follow-up call to the hostess and let the hostess know you will not actually be swimming and that you will not be wearing a swimsuit. Ask her to tell you if that will be a problem and if it is, you will politely regret her kind invitation.

Q. Is it necessary to write a thank you when you are invited to an informal Memorial Day party that someone is hosting at their subdivision’s party facility?

A. Yes, it is very appropriate and important to write a thank you note and mail it to the hostess regardless of where the party is being held to which you have been invited. An email thank you is not the appropriate form, nor is a phone call the day after; however, doing both is acceptable: thank you note, email and/or phone call.