Interesting that you make the recommendation not to stack plates at a restaurant. (A Question of Etiquette March 10, 2016) When we go out to eat, we have done that in the past, and it's usually appreciated.

Thank you so much for writing and sharing your experience! Here are the reasons most servers and restaurant managers ask that patrons not stack their plates at the table: First, not every plate is completely clean and most have some sort of food still on the plate. This food, whether a piece of meat or a pile of potato or vegetable, can make the plates imbalanced when they are stacked by patrons, making them precarious for the staff to carry. Restaurant staff members are trained in the best way to clear and sometimes stack to avoid this problem, and it is preferred that they do it themselves.

Second, even if the plates don't have various "lumps" of food on them, they do have food residue on them, so putting the clean bottoms of the plates on the not clean tops of other plates creates a problem for the dishwasher who may not be aware that the bottoms of the plates need to be scraped or pre-rinsed, as well as the tops. This residue can clog the dishwashing machine. Since one never scrapes a plate at the table, stacking your own dishes can cause more problems than helpful situations. It's really nice that you want to help, but generally, it is asked that you let the staff members do their jobs. You can pass a staff member a plate when you are seated at the back of a booth and it is hard for him or her to reach, but it's best that you not stack your dishes.

A group of us get together for dinner periodically, and everyone brings something for the dinner, usually an appetizer or a side. Last time we got together, both people bringing appetizers brought the same thing. Is it all right to tell them what to bring specifically to avoid this situation?

Instead of telling each person what to bring, and since you are all friends, you could say, “Jane is bringing an appetizer, too. Why don’t you check with her to make sure you aren’t both bringing the same thing?” That way, you are not dictating their contribution, but you are helping avoid having an overabundance of the same item. When one is the guest and doesn’t know the other guests well enough to coordinate this way, it’s a good idea to suggest to your host two or three things you’d like to contribute and let him or her choose.

How do you address an invitation to a same-gender couple living together, but not married?

You write their names on two separate lines, with the address and city, state and zip below:

Mr. John Franklin

Mr. James Smith

222 East Avenue

New York  NY 10016

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