DEAR HARRIETTE: I went to a black-tie dinner the other night that had beautiful centerpieces. The hostess announced from the stage that guests were invited to take the centerpieces home. I decided to take her up on it. Well, I went to reach for the flowers at the same time as another person at my table. It was awkward, but eventually I stood down and the other woman got it. I felt horrible. I wouldn’t have even considered taking the flowers if the hostess hadn’t suggested it. What went wrong? Is it common for centerpieces to be given away at these events? -- Dinner Protocol, Denver
DEAR DINNER PROTOCOL: Sometimes centerpieces are given away at formal events. Yes, the host or hostess should be the one to announce this. Usually, the way it is handled is that there is a card or some other identifier under a particular person’s plate that indicates who will receive it -- to avoid exactly what happened to you -- the scramble for who will get it. Your hostess skipped a key step in keeping the event elegant and organized.