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Southern Etiquette rules

In the South, we pride ourselves on several things. Our food, our ability to handle humidity, our family, and, most importantly, our manners.

In fact, our first words were probably “yes, ma’am” and “please pass the butter.” Here at Draper James—a place where the motto is “grace and charm”—manners are something we’re pretty big on.

But as much as these Southern etiquette rules are ingrained in us from the day we’re born, sometimes we forget.

When we don’t have our mamas reminding us to write thank you notes like they used to, it slips our minds. When we’re too engrossed in our phones and screens, saying “hello” to those passing us on the street becomes nonexistent.

Nashville-based Abby Green, a Draper James gal and face of the Instablog @putonkindness, is here to change that.

As an etiquette instructor at Southern Grace, an etiquette program for young girls and boys, Abby is an expert on the ins and outs of Southern manners. Not only does she know how to write a proper thank you note, she also knows how to set a table and make any guest feel immediately welcome in her home.

Below, read Abby’s eight Southern etiquette rules everyone (Southerner and non-Southerner, alike) should know.

Study up, y’all. There might be a quiz…

Southern Etiquette rules

Abby wears the Parton Check Mary Beth Halter Dress, one of summer’s newest arrivals.

1. Send Handwritten Thank You Notes

Who doesn’t love to receive a handwritten note in the mail? I know I do. If someone has taken the time to buy a gift for you, help in some way, or simply do something nice for you, always send a thank you note.

Sending an email or text message is acceptable, but any Southern woman would agree a handwritten note is always appreciated.

2. Respond Timely to an RSVP Request

When an invitation requires an RSVP, it is important to respond by the date given. Committing to an event so far in advance can cause anxiety for some. However, if you have ever hosted a large event, you understand the importance of knowing in advance the number of people attending.

Details such as seating, catering, and party favors depend on the number of guests attending. Always let your host or hostess know if you plan to attend by the date given on the invitation.

Southern Etiquette rules

3. Arrive on Time

Punctuality demonstrates respect. It shows you are mindful of one’s time. Over the years, I have learned that being on time doesn’t mean arriving right when a meeting or event starts. Being on time is actually arriving a few minutes early. Depending on the occasion, I try to arrive 5-15 minutes early. It is empowering to arrive early and allow yourself enough time to find a parking spot, use the restroom if necessary, find a seat, and have a few extra minutes to get settled.

However, there is one exception to this rule. If you have been invited to a party, do not arrive early. The host or hostess will be preparing for their guests and handling last-minute details. It may create a stressful environment if guests start arriving early.

4. Know Your Place Settings

Formal place settings can be intimidating. You may sit down and wonder which fork you are supposed to use first. Remember to always work from the outside in toward your plate. Your drink will be on your right and your bread plate will be on your left.

When finished with your meal, simply angle your utensils side by side on your plate and this will signal to the waiter that you are finished. Knowing these things will allow you to feel more confident at your next Southern dinner party.

Southern Etiquette rules

5. Have Common Courtesy

Having good manners is simply being kind and having an awareness of people’s feelings around you. Smile and say “hello” when you pass someone on the street, listen (don’t stare at your phone) when someone is speaking to you, hold the door for someone who is behind you, allow a car to pass in front of you, etc. The list goes on and on; simply treat people the way you want to be treated.

It’s the little things that can make a big difference in someone’s day.

6. Practice Hospitality

The South is known for its hospitality. Growing up in the South, I watched my mom entertain family and friends in our home. She has the gift of hospitality and taught me that opening your home is a way to show love to others.

Here are some ways you can open your home and show hospitality: Have fresh flowers, light candles, play your favorite music in the background, turn lamps on throughout your home, and serve plenty of delicious food. Focus on being a blessing to your guests instead of trying to impress them. Always remember, “Bless, don’t impress.”

Southern Etiquette rules

Don’t know what to bring the hostess? How ’bout an Orange Blossom Special Candle?

7. Don’t Use Your Cell Phone at the Dinner Table

I know this is the 21st century and we have all been guilty of this (or at least I have), but there is a time and place for everything. While at the dinner table, we should be focused on just that, dinner.

We should also be focused on visiting and spending time with each other. It is difficult to carry on a conversation with someone who won’t look up from his or her phone. Give your family and friends the gift of your undivided attention at the dinner table.

8. Have a Firm Handshake, Make Eye Contact, and Smile

You only make a first impression once. A handshake says a lot about you when meeting someone. A firm handshake exudes confidence. Eye contact and a genuine smile gain respect and build trust.

Implementing these three things ensure you will walk away leaving a great first impression.

Southern Etiquette rules

Welcome to the Draper James blog. My little slice of space to share the things I love most about life: people, parties, food, and fun!  It’s everything Draper James  stands for. and I hope you like it. 

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