Dish Duty


With the holidays upon us, one might wonder what is appropriate when it comes to clearing the dishes after a meal. Really, darlings, its quite simple – but it seems to cause some commotion and chaos at times. A few rules to help you be a proper host and a gracious guest:

As the Host:

It is your responsibility to lead the charge when the discussion of dishes presents itself. Are you adamant that the dishes should be left until later? Then do your guests the favor of saying so clearly but firmly. A simple “Thank you for the offer but I insist. Let’s move into the dining room for coffee and dessert.” Comfortable with help? Put some parameters in place and be specific, such as “Yes, let’s do a quick clear but leave the washing and loading until later” or “Great! I’ll start the coffee – do you prefer to wash or dry?” will suffice. Be direct and polite, but stand your ground. I personally cannot stand people cleaning in my kitchen. I’ve considered velvet ropes (for the holidays) and yellow police caution tape (for every other day) to keep over-eager hands quiet. In recent years I’ve relaxed my stance a bit, which may be age or the fact that I keep my doggy bowl full of cabernet.

As the Guest:

Do not leap up and start the dish clearing process! This is not a fire drill my dears, this is a celebratory meal! This is not your house and this is not your decision. Take your hint from the host and listen, truly, to what he or she says. Of course make the effort to stand and help AFTER the host does so, but if you are told to sit, sit! If your offer to help is accepted, state your plan “It was a wonderful dinner. I will start clearing plates” or “Would you prefer help washing or would it be helpful if I started handling leftovers.”

As either a guest or a host, the most important thing is to be kind, be respectful, and be in the moment. Little puppies joining you this year? Consider a few board games or puzzles to keep them happy and content. Sitting next to a Great Dane? As her about her favorite childhood memory or her Thanksgiving tradition. Stuck with Bull Mastiff? See the afore mentioned tip about keeping your bowl filled to the brim. Happy holidays.

Cordially yours,


Parker Presley

Parker Presley is known in certain social circles as the preeminent expert in etiquette and invites you to contact him with even the most embarrassing question or tricky situation so that you, too, may be top dog in any setting. Please contact him at

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