Social Etiquette on Casual

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Too often in this current day, the word 'casual' is over-used or perhaps abused. This usage is usually accompanied by an attitude that lacks any adherence to convention or formality. Casual used to imply a reprieve or holiday from the usual formalities one observed. That said, in order for something to be casual, it must contrast the normal state of being which is formality. In our current culture, casual has become the norm leaving one to ask if the term is even necessary any more?

Miss Manners, writes about the overuse of casual in her "Guide to Domestic Tranquility" book.

"Instead, Casual became a religion. It must now be one of the most zealously overused terms we have. One hears all the time of Casual clothes,Casual meals, Casual entertaining, Casual attitudes and even dedicated Casual people." (Martin, pg 235)

With all of this in mind, it is important (as people interested in etiquette and in doing what is right and best for all involved/) that we understand how Casual currently looks and what we can do in order to turn the tide. We want to influence the culture toward excellence and formality because one of the first things to disappear in any crumbling relationship is consideration or respect. Casual attitudes and behaviors tend to take others for granted and to not esteem others as highly as we ought. Let us then consider how to spot the "Casual" and remove it where it is not necessary.
  • The Casual meal. This is the get together that is characterized by paper plates, disposable table cloths, paper towels and food that is easily tossed after the meal. This meal is usually quick and easy to prepare and without a doubt it has a place. This should not be our norm however. Ordinarily, when we invite others to our home in order to dine with us they should feel a bit fussed over. This should be a special occasion and we should endeavor to put our best foot forward by entertaining and receiving them with grace and style.


  • Casual clothing. The idea of Casual clothing connotes ease and comfort; the message relayed is that the article feels better on than it looks. We have seen the perpetuation of the wannabe Casual dress on Fridays in the business world. These items are usually more expensive than they look and still acknowledged as a break away from the normal more formal business dress that is expected during the other four business days of the week.
  • Casual entertaining. As sad as it seems, there are those who do what they call Casual entertaining. In this situation neither the host nor the guest is interested or motivated in creating an atmosphere that is entertaining. There is usually no agenda and no one takes an active responsibility to make things happen. The evening simply is. Eventually, the guests go home and the evening is concluded. This type of entertaining should not be a goal for the socially savvy. At the very least as a host or hostess you should have a loose plan for the evening even if it is only a plan to discuss what the group should do next. I must share with you that this is not truly entertaining.
  • Casual people. We have all known a Casual person. He or she is the one who has no intentions of exerting any energy and who might be viewed as lazy, under-motivated or a drop-out. I would encourage you to avoid gaining such a reputation unless you are independently wealthy and have no need of other people at all! Seriously, it is very difficult to abide a dead-beat so I would encourage you to be diligent in your livelihood and daily pursuits. You will be seen as a person of integrity and sought after as someone to be emulated and admired. Hard work really is a hallmark of good character.
  • Casual attitude. Perhaps one of the worse in this category has to be the Casual attitude. This is the attitude usually attributed to rebellious young adults that says nothing or none of this (including you) really matters very much at all. The truth is most of your choices in life really do have immense meaning to both you and those in your life. This is an attitude that is best suited for lazy Saturday afternoons, vacations and holidays. During the formal days of work, school, church and more we should be dedicated to committing ourselves to a determined attitude that pursues excellence.

Casual used to carry with it a certain dignity all its own. It was the easygoing choice at approved times within our normal, more formal, living. Deliver the Casual meal using simple foods but in the same respectful manner as you would a four-course steak meal. Do this by using platters rather than card board cartons and metal rather than plastic. When dressing casually remember that your clothing should still be appropriate for the situation, clean and attractive. There is never any excuse to look like a vagabond unless you are auditioning for a role in a play! Yes, there is something to be said for the Casual occasion's spontaneity. These may be low key and informal but your guests convenience and comfort should never be compromised.

Etiquette does not attempt to bind individuals to a set of rules. Instead, as you use etiquette to navigate your life, you will find that you operate in an ease that exudes confidence and poise. Others will admire your well-meaning and considerate behavior and you will be highly respected for your sensitivity to your friends, family and colleagues.

References: Miss Manners' Guide to Domestic Tranquility, Judith Martin.1999
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