Social protocol is an aspect of etiquette defined as a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary norms within a society, social class or group.
The French word etiquette literally signified a tag or label first used in the French Royal Court in the early to mid 1700’s to instruct guests on how to behave when dining at the King’s Table. In modern times, in the more common situation where the dinner table or other social gathering must be organized according to the degree of social rank and familial or professional relationships among the guests, it falls to the discretion of the hostess to determine who will take the highest position at the table as Guest of Honor to be seated at the right of the Hostess, with the Guest of Honor’s partner seated to the right of the Host.
At our Formal Dinners here at the Starkey Mansion, whatever the nature of our guests, this principal is still the foundation upon which the seating placement is based, and it does much to determine the social interaction and conversation during and after the meal.
Formal Protocol in Private Service has evolved a great deal in recent decades since Private Service emerged from the shadows of servitude! The old language of “Inferiors” and “Superiors” has long since passed, but some things have stayed the same. The Starkey International Institute has strongly advanced the education of both Service Professionals and Principals based on the premise that mutual respect is the only stable foundation for the Relationship of Service. Our clients have consistently emphasized the importance of propriety and respect in dealing with their employers and co-workers, but Household and Estate Managers also learn to set proper boundaries with Principals in order to honor their role as professionals. Protocol always serves good manners and efficiency. The order of introductions at social events offers a fine example.
We made an Aspen field trip last week to attend the Greenalicious fund raiser to help raise awareness of children’s obesity. It was a wonderful experience for me, our Chef Althoff, and our Director of Placement, Gary Smith. We donated one of our wonderful 9 course private formal dinners here at the mansion…I believe it sold for $4,500. The Children’s Health Foundation brought in notable Chef’s from all over the US, and as you might imagine, the food was sensational. As a side note, the auction was one of the best I have ever attended. My 2 entertainment centered sons and their wives will be receiving for Christmas a free trip to Nashville with center seats at a Grand Ole Opry concert and private sessions with song producers. I hope they think I am a great mom!
Household Management Class 120 completed their entertaining curriculum of wine and formal entertaining last night. We often donate our dinners to a non-profit and are purchased by a patron, and this was no exception. The guests, a lovely group of 12, mostly Denver physicians were mesmerized by not only the finally choreographed ballet of service directed by Debra Bullock, but the culinary artistry created by Chef Althoff was absolutely over the top this time. In my world travels, I have developed a pallet, and Chef’s creamy artichoke soup was indeed a masterpiece. Thanks to all, students and staff both at the front of the house and the back. Dr. Lloyd Lewan and I agreed, it was a first class experience!
Have you ever attended a real formal dinner? I have learned that most of us have not, unless you have experienced evening at the Queen’s table. The term “formal dinner,” Americanized by the historically prominent Lady of Etiquette, Ms. Emily Post, does not mean “stuffy” as most might think; it means structured! She said in her 1923 book of Etiquette, “The higher the level of structure, the higher the level of service one will experience,” and this is where I entered the eloquent venue of Formal Dinners.
Starkey International began thirty years ago and I have hosted 12 formal dinners a year as part of our Household and Service Management curriculum. It has become a tried and true art form for us. I consistently have “Run the Table” over the years and have tried almost everything. We finally emerged with our current educational guide on Entertaining including tableware and settings, flowers, service timing and styles, entertainment, culinary menus, wines, conversation, apparel, and yes, only at the queen’s table, our mirrored service. (more…)