Hosting a Poker Night

Four playing cards and a cigar.

The essential equipment of a poker night.

The quintessential manly social event is the poker night. There’s gambling, booze, and rarely a feminine influence. Even better, it’s based around an activity rather than just socialising. I’m not going to get into how to play again. This time I’m going to talk about hosting the game. A poker night is a type of party and all the usual hosting etiquette applies.

The Simple Points

A poker night should be a casual affair centred entirely on the game. It’s one of the few parties where a t-shirt is undeniably appropriate. There’s no guest of or theme, it’s all about the poker. So, there shouldn’t be any other entertainment either. You don’t have to lay any money on the line if you don’t want, it’s perfectly acceptable to just play for fun.

Guest List

If you have regular poker nights then your guest list is predetermined, just invite the same guys as last time. If this is the first time, or even if your poker nights are few and far between, choosing who to invite is a harder choice. It’s best if everyone plays on the same level, but you don’t want to freeze out the rookies either. The hardest part is whittling it down. You’ll typically have no more than eight people playing each hand, so inviting more people means either splitting up to play multiple simultaneous games or people are forced to sit out. I’d say you should look to have eight players or however many can play at your table, whichever’s less.

Game Space

Obviously, you need a place to play. The best is a dedicated poker table in a room that’s decorated for such activities. If that’s not viable, you can use your dining room table, but not the kitchen. Besides your usual hosting duties, you’re also responsible for providing the cards and chips.

Food

Poker night is the time for the pub food. Chicken wings, nachos, and various deep fried appetizers are perfect fare for the occasion. This is also the time to break out the craft beer and your best scotch. If you don’t feel comfortable mixing drinks while you’re trying to play, don’t feel you have to. You’ll also want to either make sure serving food doesn’t take you away from the table too much, or get some help. If you get help, ask someone you live with or is also playing.

Stogies?

Cigars are a traditional part of the poker night, but you may not want to do any smoking. If you’re using a room you wouldn’t smoke in otherwise, then skip them. Same if anyone there doesn’t want to be around that. They have a right to clean air, you don’t have the right to smoke. If you decide to include cigars, you need to provide ashtrays. You can either provide decent quality cigars yourself, or expect everyone to bring their own. If you do provide them, one per person is plenty. Its important enough to reiterate, don’t force anyone to be around smoking or exclude anyone because they want clean air.

A Man’s Wedding 

These days people tend to think of weddings as being for the bride. That’s something that’s always bothered me. If anything, getting down the aisle is more impressive for men, seeing as how good women are in such short supply and we’re expected to be the ones who make the moves. It’s not right that we become little more than an accessory on the day that’s supposed to mark one of the most important events of our lives. I’m going to offer you some tips to help make your wedding about you too, and be a manly groom while you’re at it. 

Avoid the Word “Bridal”

I’m not saying never say “bridal” but be very careful about it. He word “bridal” means of or pertaining to a bride. It is not a synonym for “wedding.” Every time someone says “bridal” for things that aren’t exclusively about the bride, it sends the message that the groom is irrelevant. If you’re considering hiring someone who’s liberal with the word, pass them over.

It’s Your Day Too

No matter what point in the process your at, never allow your opinion to be ignored. Of course, I’m not saying your bride’s opinion should be ignored either, but you should get your say. There are some decisions that are yours, some are your brides, and some are shared, but both of your opinions should be considered in all of them.

Skip the Groom’s Cake

Some men try to get themselves back into their weddings with things like groom cakes, but that’s not likely to work. It seems like the bride made a gesture by allowing you to express yourself in some little way. It’s then obvious that everything else is just about the bride. There is a much better way to keep yourself in the wedding, but you’ll have to read to the end to find out what it is.

Keep the Men Out of the Bridal Shower

Notice I said Bridal shower. This is one part of the wedding that should be entirely about the bride. Some people think “couple’s showers” should be a thing. They’re wrong. I don’t know if they think it’s the solution to the unfairness of brides getting two prewedding parties or a good way to get men to be more involved in their weddings. Really it’s just another example of forcing men to become more feminine.

Veto the Bachelorette Party

The bachelorette party is the epitome of women trying to be men. Sometime after boorish bachelor parties became the norm, the bachelorette party became common. Even worse, it’s become common for women to want bachelorette parties yet veto bachelor parties. If you stay out of the bridal shower it’ll give her the chance to have a classy party with just her friends.

Keep the Bachelor Party Classy

When most people think of bachelor parties, the first thing that comes to mind is a night filled with debauchery, but there’s a better option. A bachelor party that’s built around enjoying the company of your friends will inevitably be more manly and your bride will have nothing to object to. Your bachelor party should be about celebrating your impending nuptials, not having “one last night of freedom” especially since you’re, if anything, more free after you’re married. 

Put Tradition Before Fashion

There’s nothing wrong with having trendy touches in your wedding, but it is more feminine. Men tend to be more concerned about legacy and tradition than women are, so being traditional tends to be seen as more manly. The best thing, is that wedding traditions are still quite feminine so insisting on a more traditional wedding isn’t going to push your bride on to the sidelines.

Be Visible

It’s impossible to make an event about you if nobody realises you’re around. Your bride is going to be extremely visible in her beautiful white dress, so you need to be front and centre too. Be sure to dress differently than the guests, so you don’t too easily blend in. That’s part of why I think casual weddings are a terrible idea, you can’t stand out if you’re dressing below where many men would be comfortable. Mingle, dance, do whatever it takes for people to see you as the centre of the day, alongside your bride.

Have Non-Negotiables

As promised, here’s the best way to keep yourself in the wedding, non-negotiables. You need to pick some points on which you’re completely unwilling to compromise. Be sure to choose things that are extremely important to you, like family traditions. Don’t choose a tacky theme and make it a non-negotiable. Your bride deserves her non-negotiables as well, and you need to respect that. If they become an issue, then that may be a bad sign for your marriage.

I have one non-negotiable for any event to be about me. I expect the maximum appropriate level of formality for the type of event

Funerals: The Most Somber of Somber Occasions

Cemetery

Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.

Slave or King, rich or poor, good or evil, death eventually comes for us all. There’s no getting around it. Our families die. Our friends die. Our heroes die. We die. It’s not something we like to think about but it’s an inevitability. We will all face death. We will all lose those we love. Despite the inevitability of them, we rarely discuss funerals. 

Funerals are a part of every culture, although they may vary extensively. Death is an irrevocable change so we all must come to terms with it when it happens. A funeral may be chance to commiserate a loss or celebrate a life. 

Funerary Customs

Every culture, sub-culture, and religion has funerary customs, such as the black veils of Latin America, the twenty-one gun salute of military funerals, and the Jewish use of stones. Before attending a funeral you’ll want to familiarise yourself with those customs. A distant family member is usually the best place to start. They’ll likely be familiar with the customs but won’t be too busy or distraught to help you. You can also feel free to incorporate customs from your own culture so long as they don’t conflict in any way with the family’s. You’re also exempt from any customs that run contrary to your own beliefs and are under no obligation to sacrifice your own needs. 

From this point on I’ll be writing from a purely North American Christian perspective. If anything conflicts with your own customs, then your customs are right. 

How to Dress

Funerals are part of why you should have multiple suits. Funerals are best kept an informal affair, but custom certainly trumps that. Typically a man should wear black suit, preferably with a white shirt and black tie. Pocket are completely acceptable but be sure to leave all the cheery colours and flamboyant patterns at home. Also, be sure to remove your hat in the church and at the gravesite. 

Ladies should wear simple black outfits. Again, leave the cheery colours and flamboyant patterns at home. A funeral is also an excellent place to break out a hat with a veil. There’s no need for ladies to ever remove their hats. 

It’s only appropriate to wear uniforms at military, police, or firefighter funerals, and even then only if you are or once wear a part of such an organisation. There’s no need to remove uniform headdress at the gravesite but it should still be taken off in the church. 

Itinerary

Like many events, funerals have a traditional itinerary. They usually start with a viewing the night before. This is a casual service that’s open to the public but usually attended only by those who were particularly close to the deceased or their family. A second family viewing is often held immediately before the service. The former is typically at a funeral home and the latter is usually at the church. 

The main component of a funeral is the service. The service usually takes place at the deceased’ church or at the gravesite. If the main service is at a church then there’s usually a second shorter service at the grave. The deceased’ religious views are usually very appparent at the service and can even be a full church service. Regardless of the church, conduct yourself appropriately for a visitor there. When the gravesite is some distance from the church, mourners travel to the grave in a ceremonial procession. 

Funerals will commonly end with a simple meal. To many, it’s the beginning of life without the deceased. It’s a good time to catch up with friends and family, and share give your condolences to the family. It’s also the time when a funeral ceases to be somber. 

Procession

The typical funeral procession is led by the hearse and includes all the mourners driving at slow speeds. The vehicles generally have their hazard lights turned on so other motorists know that they’re part of a funeral procession. It used to be the norm to turn on the headlights but, with the prevalence of daytime running lights, this is no longer effective. 

Wakes

In some western cultures it’s common for funerals to celebrate the deceased’s life more than mourn their passing. This usually takes the form of a party. In those cases, the etiquette of a similar party held some other purpose applies. 

Sympathy Notes

If you can’t attend a funeral or don’t get a chance to speak with the family, then you may want to send them a sympathy note. Actually writing the note has plenty of its own etiquette but it should always be hand written and sent or delivered within a few days of the funeral. If you deliver it in person, don’t expect an invitation to come in. Grieving people often feel asocial and you need to respect that. 

Future Remembrance

Few people deserve to be forgotten. The good should be venerated forever and the evil should remain a cautionary tale. Consider attending an All Saints Day service and possibly visiting the grave periodically. 

Choosing Your Event’s Dress Code

Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.

There are so many different types of events that one can host that choosing a dress code can sometimes be daunting. Sometimes, specific events may also have very specific dress codes. I’m going to help you decide, so far as practical concerns don’t decide for you. 

Formality

In many cases the only factor to determining dress code is formality. Sometimes there can be some disagreement on the formality of the occasion, but that’s not really something I can help you with. You want dress formality to match the formality of the event. If you expect your guests to agree on how formal the event is, then the dress code can go unspoken. 

Children’s Parties

Not surprisingly, children’s parties have two dress codes; one for the kids and one for the adults. For the kids the dress code should be whatever suits the party. The parents on the other hand, should dress at or below the level of the kids, preferably informal or casual.

 Cocktail Party

A cocktail party is at least informal. That means all the men should be wearing suits and all the women should be wearing cocktail dresses. 

Outdoor Parties

Most outdoor parties are pretty casual. The type of activities tends to force that. Some outdoor parties are more formal but those are usually for once in a lifetime events or a royal visit, which would probably still be once in a lifetime. 

Dinner Parties

Dinner parties can be quite casual but should usually skew formal. A good rule of thumb is to dress more formal if you’re use nicer china.

Once in a Lifetime

Once in a lifetime occasions should definitely be formal. You only get to do them once so you need to make a big deal out of it. 

Know Your Guests

More important than anything is to know your guests. They’ll likely be uncomfortable if you’re expecting them to dress outside of how they might otherwise. On the flip side, don’t adopt an excessively casual dress code either. Go with the most formal of what your guests will be comfortable with, unless it’s inappropriately casual for the nature of the event. 

A Man’s Guide to Hosting a Party

Illustration of a young couple dancing.

Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.

Planning and hosting a party is something that many men see as the domain of the fairer sex, but there’s no reason it should be. In fact, many men host parties frequently, they’re just extremely basic, like a poker night. If you plan and host parties you can build relationships and have a lot of fun, so I’m going to help you get into it. 

Planning

Reason

The first thing you need to figure out is why you want to have a party in the first place. There are lots of reasons to have a party and it doesn’t need to be something important. There are three categories of party rationales; building relationships, celebration, and simple fun. There’s no bad reason to have a party but you want to know exactly why you’re doing it. It’ll even make a lot of the decisions for you. 

Guest(s) of Honour

Not all parties have a guest of honour but if there is one they need to be the centre of attention. Usually the reason you’re having a party will decide who, if anyone, will be your guest of honour, especially if your celebrating something. Everything you plan needs to be something the guest of honour can sign off on. Generally the official host and the guest of honour are different people.

Tone

Again, this’ll make a lot of your decisions for you. The most important aspect of the tone of a party is how formal it should be. Everything else you plan absolutely must fit with the tone. 

Type

There are lots of different types of parties, some are inherently casual and some are more formal. Here are some of the most common;

  • Dinner party, focused on a traditional meal, can be casual or formal
  • Barbecue, focused on a casual outdoor meal
  • Cocktail party, an informal or formal evening of drinks and hors d’ouevres
  • Pool party, an outdoor party revolving around swimming in a pool 
  • Beach party, a casual waterfront gathering, typically at a swimming beach 
  • Casual coffee, similar to a cocktail party but more casual and often with a simpler menu

Theme

Theme is another thing that can make a lot of decisions for you. You want it to be something fun that fits the tone and purpose of the party and the personality of the guest of honour. If you’d like you can skip the theme, it is a manlier choice anyway. 

Budget

Your budget is the one place where nobody else can give you any guidance. Just remember, you get what you pay for but sometimes less is more. 

Guest List

The guest list is the difference between a party and pathetically stuffing your face at an unnecessarily extravagant table. Who should be on the guest list depends on the reason for the party and the associated etiquette. Once you decide on your guest list, don’t hesitate to send out your invitations

Menu

You may not realize it, but every party has some kind of menu. It can be quite simple or quite elaborate, as long as it fits with the tone. Potluck or BYOB parties are inherently quite casual, so if you’re hosting a formal event, you need to provide the food. You also need to take your guests into account, nobody should ever be excluded from dining nor be expected to feed themselves, so try to take allergies, diets, religious or ethical restrictions, and strong preferences into consideration. Also, it’s best if there’s always food, or at least drink, available. It’s more personal to prepare and serve the food yourself but this can be a lot of work and means separating yourself from your guests or welcoming them into your kitchen, so it may be worth hiring a caterer. 

Entertainment

This part is often optional but it can be a nice addition to your party. There’s no reason it needs to be elaborate. Simple table games or music and a dance floor are usually plenty. As long as your guests enjoy themselves you’ve planned all the entertainment you need. 

Venue

The most important factors in choosing a venue are the tone, theme, and guest list. You need it to be big enough to accommodate all your guests but not so big as to have obviously unused space. It also must fit the tone and theme of your party. You also want to look for a venue that has good “back of house” spaces, like a kitchen, that are well placed, and it’s simplest if the venue already has all the equipment and facilities you’ll need, so you don’t have to bring them yourself. Before you discount it, your home would probably make for a good venue, especially for a small party, and it’s inherently inexpensive. 

Decor

Decor comes mostly from your theme. If you want to go simple, just clean up your house. You can go pretty elaborate if you like as well. The biggest problem with having a theme is that you need elaborate decor to not look lazy. If you don’t have a theme then more elaborate decor makes it more formal. Just remember to keep it classy or elaborate decor will end up looking tacky. 

Dress Code

You can either choose an official dress code to give to your guests or leave it up to social etiquette. The problem is, if you do the latter you run the risk of some of your guests dressing in a way that you’d consider inappropriate. Some parties, like pool parties, don’t really have room for variation in attire but if they do, you need to match the dress code to the formality of the party, unless you’re hosting a costume party. 

Details

This is the hard part. You should start by making a list of every detail, and then do the same for every item until you can’t think of any more. You’ll also want to develop a schedule and assign duties to anyone helping you. Depending on the type of event, there may be a lot of details to consider, especially if you have out of town guests. 

Hosting

Your primary duty as host is to see to it that your guests are enjoying themselves, not that you can’t enjoy yourself as well. When your guests arrive you’ll need to provide places for your guests to store their coats, hats, purses, and often shoes and direct them towards the food and the space the party’s currently using. During the party, your responsibility is to move along whatever plans you have for the party, serve the food and drinks, and direct guests to the washrooms. If you’re hosting a larger party or would like to be more involved with your guests, you may want to delegate some of these responsibilities, and your venue may require it. 


There’s a lot of work involved in planning a party, but the more you do it the easier it’ll get. In the future I’ll also write more specific articles about planning and hosting parties. 

Sending Out Invitations

Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.

If you’ve ever planned an event, you had to figure out how to handle the invitations. Not just who to invite but what method to use, when to send out the invitations, and even who to invite together. The guest list is determined by the nature of the event but I’m going to help you with the rest of it.

Method

Sometimes people think they should choose an invitation method based on convenience, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The most important factor is formality. The invitation is the first indication your guests will have of the formality of the event itself. The least formal is social media and the most formal is the professionally printed invitation. Save the public social media invitations, like status updates and event pages, for open invitations where you’re willing to have  your guests add to the guest list. As far as electronic invitations in general, reserve them for the most casual of events. A good rule of thumb would be; if your event is too formal for guests to wear bikinis, it’s too formal for electronic invitations. 

The next most formal is the face to face invitation. For obvious reasons, they’re only suitable for small gatherings. Essentially, you should invite your guests in person if the event is casual but calls for your guests to be shown a relatively high level of respect, like having your parents over to announce your engagement.

The most formal, and usually best, method of invitation is the printed invitation. The method of printing should then follow the formality of your event. In ascending order of formality, the printing methods I would consider worthwhile are; basic printing, letterpress, and engraving. If you’re going to use basic printing just do it yourself, nobody will notice the difference anyway. Higher quality materials also make an invitation more formal, but don’t cheap out just because you don’t need to be formal, it still needs to survive until the event. Another type of printing that is popular but I don’t think is ever appropriate, because I don’t think the kind of event it’s suited to should exist, and that’s the arts and crafts invitation, that’s only suitable for casual versions of traditionally formal events. 

Delivery

For delivery you want to go with more personal methods. Best is hand delivery, but don’t feel like you need to pay them a visit just to deliver an invitation. If you’re sending your invitations out by mail, use an envelope of the same quality as the paper you use for the invitation itself and an adhesive stamp, even if you have access to a postage metre. You should also seal the envelope appropriately. The least formal is using just the included adhesive and the most formal is to use an old fashioned wax seal.

Content

There’s three completely non-optional elements to include in invitations; the nature of the event, the time, and the location. Without these your invitation serves no purpose. You want to use language that matches the formality and tone of the event, use natural language for casual events and go flowery and almost pompous for more formal occasions. You’ll also want to include anything you expect of your guests that they wouldn’t assume based on the event, like a dress code or a contribution to the food. 

Example of an invitation to a formal dinner for my birthday;

You are cordially invited to a dinner honouring the thirtieth birthday of Mr. Steven William Loewen, this Saturday at his home. In lieu of gifts, donations may be made to the Musketeers Academy. 

Dress is white tie. 

Example of an invitation to a casual poker game;

Hey man, poker night, my place, 7:00, bring beer

In the former case I used very formal language and in the latter I was extremely casual. You may have also noticed that I didn’t specify where I live. This is acceptable if all the invitees already know how to reach the venue, as long as you state it in a manner they’ll understand. 

You may also want to include other pieces with the invitation. These can be used to add character to the invitation, so long as they fit with the overall tone, or provide extra information, but the most important is the RSVP card. The RSVP card allows you to collect information about your guests in advance, most importantly whether or not they intend to attend. It’s usually a simple form that also lists some combination of postal addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and websites to which the RSVP can be returned as well as the intended RSVP deadline. If you’re inviting guests from out of town you should also include local information, most importantly a map to the venue.  Only the primary information about the event should be on the invitation itself, the who, what, where, when, and why. 

Guests

I don’t mean deciding who should be invited to attend, that is decided by the occasion and your social circle. I mean who your invitations should be addressed to. The most important rule is; nobody gets invited alone. For addressing invitations you can split your guests into three groups; couples, families, and individuals. Couples are the easiest; just address the invitation to both of them in the most formal manner appropriate to the event. Example:

John & Jane Smith

For families just add “& children” or “& family” to the parents names. It’s also acceptable to use other similar language or list all the children by name. 

Individuals are harder. You can either add “& guest” to their names or, if you know who that guest would be, you can add them to the guest list and invite them as a couple. 

Another sticky point is when children should be getting their own invitations. Personally I feel teenagers should be invited as adults, although it would still be acceptable to include them with their families if that’s the only reason their getting an invitation. If there are any children that are particularly important to invite, such as flower girls and ring bearers, they should get their own invitations, assuming they’re old enough to notice, but without guests unless their parents wouldn’t otherwise be invited. 

As far as your guests escorts, that’s regulated by your social circle. 

Receiving RSVPs

If you request RSVPs you’ll also need to set a deadline. This’ll need to be long enough in advance to give you time to track down the people that didn’t RSVP. I prefer the RSVP card method, a simple form with a return address and some extra space to properly send regrets, as this makes it less likely that you’ll need to follow-up. You can also give a phone number with voicemail, an email address, and/or a website, although a website is kind of low class, you may want to reserve that for casual events. Only ask about RSVPs if it comes up in conversation or the deadline has passed. 

Save the Dates

Many people choose to send out pre-invitations, commonly called “save the dates.” Only do this if you can’t get your main invitation out early enough to give your guests time to plan to attend. Save the dates need only include a clearly stated date and an implication of the nature of the event. Otherwise you can be as creative as you like, just don’t imply a different tone than what the event will actually be. 


There you have it, a guide to sending out invitations. I didn’t say much about electronic invitations because they don’t give you as much leeway and etiquette is less important in casual situations where they’d be appropriate. In the future I’ll write an article about how to handle being on the other end.