The Art of Taking a Secondary Role

Photograph Credit: Microsoft Images

When you attend an event as an invitee, can you relax and just enjoy the event? I struggle – big time – just sitting and relaxing!

Recently, my son’s Sunday school teacher graciously planned a party for the first grade students and their families.

His teacher planned time for play, games, food, and entertainment. The party was well planned, but I still struggled with relaxing.

Struggle Arises

For me the hardest part was relaxing during the meal. After gathering food for my children and me, we ate. I then began perusing the room identifying trash can locations, mapping a direct route from the food to the kitchen, and checking to see how far along the guests were to finishing. My husband watching my movements, whispered, “You don’t have to worry about cleanup.”

How nice to have someone, who understands me, snap me back to reality. It was at that moment that I realized that the event planner in me was at work. I rarely attend an event where I am not coordinating or assisting. In these times of attendance, I really struggle to relax.

Evaluating Myself

My personality is to organize while using time wisely. I do not try to be organized; God created me organized. It’s who I am. I cannot refrain from organizing and planning, so I need to learn to take a secondary role.

Changing my Focus

When the event is not within my leadership, I am still trying to solve their problems and plan the next activity. At this event, I chose to go down to the gymnasium to watch the kids play while other adults stayed to help cleanup. Though choosing cleanup would have been easier for me, I needed to practice taking a secondary role and relaxing.

Though I need more practice, the art of taking a secondary role is a learned skilled. As I continue to practice, I hope to find attending events more enjoyable and relaxing. In the meantime, I am thankful for those, who know me, jarring me back to reality when I get distracted. Happy relaxing!

Question: When you attend an event, do you struggle to relax?

Christmas Party: Cookie Exchange

Photograph Credit: Flickr (Nikki Aden)

About eight years ago, I was invited to my first cookie exchange. I remember receiving the invitation and adding the event to my calendar. On the appointed week, I baked the 12-15 dozen cookies, packaged them up, and prepared for the party.

As a one-car family, Paul and I showed up to our friends’ house with cookies in hand. The hostess greeted us and welcomed us to her kitchen. As the other participants began arriving, I realized that only ladies were attending. The panic set in.

Questions filled my mind: To whom was the invitation addressed? Did I read the invitation correctly? Oh, no, Paul’s the ONLY guy here.

Admitting that I must have made a mistake, I asked the hostess if her husband would be joining us. When she graciously informed me that her husband was out for the night, I felt horrible. Seeing my expression, she included Paul and made light of my mistake. The evening was filled with Christmas memories, laughter (thankfully, with me and not at me), and lots of cookies.

Paul was a good sport at that first exchange, but every cookie exchange I have attended since, Paul humorously asks if he is invited. Having made that mistake once, I have learned and not repeated. But it makes for a great cookie exchange story and a reminder, to read the invitation.

Basic Cookie Exchange Rules

1. Invite friends to a cookie exchange party asking for an RSVP and type of cookies/treats the invitee will bring.

2. Contact all friends after receiving the RSVP notices with the number of cookies each needs to bring (number varies from 5-12 cookies per participant).

3. Each participant bakes the total number of cookies and brings to the party. If 20 individuals participate at a dozen cookies each, then bring 240 cookies. Nineteen may be given to the other participants while the last dozen can be shared with the group.

4. Exchange cookies at the party. Some exchanges ask the bakers to pre-wrap their cookies while others ask that you bring an empty containers to take home a sampling of the other cookies.

5. Leaving the party with lots of cookies to share, treat, and enjoy.

Though I have never hosted a cookie exchange, I enjoy kicking off my Christmas baking by committing to a cookie exchange. Returning home after a night out with the girls (most of the time) and a wide selection of cookies is time well spent.

As you consider your engagements this season, consider using time wisely to get your baking started by hosting or attending a cookie exchange. Just remember to read your invitation carefully, so your husband is not stuck listening to women all night. 🙂 Happy planning!

Question: What do you like or dislike about cookie exchanges? Rather not leave a comment? Then join the discussion on Using Time Wisely’s Facebook page.

Events: Responding to an R.S.V.P.

Photograph Credit: Advanced Etiquette

Growing up in a home where my mom loved to plan themed gatherings, I quickly learned the art of responding to an R.S.V.P. Without an accurate head count, the hostess is left guessing or calling invitees to determine their attendance.

Having to call guests can be a huge time taker. Instead of creating an inviting space and preparing the menu selections, the hostess is reaching out to inconsiderate guests who have not responded.

Though I know some may be waiting on other plans, the majority of those guests, who did not respond, simply forgot. The R.S.V.P. was not important to them, or they do not understand the reason or the etiquette associated with an R.S.V.P.

As I read through the posts of my favorite blogs this week in my Google Reader (of course), I loved Syndi Seid’s Responding to Event Invitations post. With specific examples of when and how to respond to an R.S.V.P., this post provides guidance for what is acceptable.

In using time wisely, I am sensitive to my time constraints as well as those around me. By sending an R.S.V.P., I respect the hostess as she continues using time wisely to prepare for her guests’ arrival.  With Syndi’s relevant scenarios, you and I can respond appropriately to an R.S.V.P. without receiving that follow-up phone call.

Question: How quickly do you R.S.V.P. to an event? Please add your answer to the comments.

Back-to-School Night: Keeping it Simple

Photograph Credit: Flickr (Estelle Broyer)

Marked by new school supplies, books, and information packets, our Back-to-School Night was a success. Besides gaining new information, meeting the teacher(s), and dropping off our supplies, the participants enjoyed a time of fellowship.

The refreshments consisted of sweet breads and a beverage station. The loaves of bread were sliced and placed on individual platters with name cards identifying the type of bread. The center table was simply decorated with a flower bouquet center piece. A separate table with gluten-free and sugar-free options was set to the side of the hallway.

By keeping the food choices simple, all participants enjoyed a time of meeting and greeting new and existing friends. This arrangement worked beautifully for a back-to-school night. I would also consider serving sweet breads for a reception, after-dinner meeting, and part of a brunch menu. In planning events, you can have a successful activity by keeping it simple.

Question: What is your favorite sweet bread? Please add your answer to the comments.

Event: Departure Etiquette

Photograph Credit: Flickr (Nate42)

Have you ever been to an event where you are not sure if you have stayed long enough or have over-stayed your welcome? Timing can be a tricky call. In dealing with arriving etiquette last week, we looked at four different events: wedding, dinner party, open house, and birthday party. Continuing with these four event types, let’s consider the etiquette associated with timing your departure.


At the end of a wedding ceremony, guests remain seated. After the wedding party and the families of the bride and groom have made their exit, guests may rise and depart unless the bridal couple or ushers dismiss by rows.

Regarding the wedding reception, if the invitation required your response and you indicated that you would be attending the reception, please arrive at the reception. If your invitation required a response and you failed to accept or reject that request, please do not attend the reception. The reception seating and food arrangements are made based on the guests’ responses.

If you attend the wedding reception, be prepared to wait for the bridal party. Use your time wisely to interact with others as you graciously wait for the reception to begin. With some receptions lasting 3-4 hours, it is acceptable to make your departure after the cake has been served.

If you are having a great time, then plan to stay to see the happy couple’s parting. As you exit the reception hall for the couple’s getaway, be prepared to leave. Once the bride and groom are on their way, the reception has ended and you are expected to depart.

Dinner Party

Remember that your host or hostess has spent money, energy, and time to prepare for this event. Your presence is expected from the appetizer through the dessert. In kindness to your host, please plan to linger a bit before taking your departure.

If the event is going well and your hostess welcomes your company, then remain up to an hour after dessert. At that time, prepare to depart. If your hostess again wishes you to stay longer, then you can choose to depart or to remain. Just giving your hostess the option to ask you to stay is very polite. You do not want to over-extend your welcome.

Open House

When the invitation to an open house is extended, the time frame is stated, e.g. 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Please be considerate of your host and hostess and depart no later than the ending time, e.g. 4:00 p.m.

Though the event hours may be over, there will still be cleaning operations that will commence shortly after the end of the event. If you extend your visit, then others will be inconvenienced. Please be considerate and leave at the designated time.

Birthday Party

For a birthday party where the departure time is listed, e.g. 9:30 – 11:30 a.m., plan to leave within 5 minutes of that time, e.g. 11:25 – 11:30 a.m. For a child’s party, where you bring your child, leave, and return to pick up, please arrive between 11:15 – 11:25 a.m.

If you know you will be late, please inform your host or hostess as soon as possible. Activities have been planned for your child at the party, but a late arrival by you is inconvenient and inconsiderate to the host/hostess. In accepting the invitation to arrive on time, please also plan to depart on time. Your host will be most grateful.

For a birthday party where only the beginning time is indicated, plan to leave within 1-2 hours after the cake has been served unless you are requested to stay longer.

These are just four types of events where knowing how long to remain and when you are expected to depart assist the guests as well as the host and hostess in executing a successful event. May you be informed of departure etiquette for your next wedding, dinner party, open house, and birthday party. Happy partying!

Question: At events, do you prefer to leave early or stay late? Please add your answer to the comments.