Inaugural Etiquette

Posted on by

In less than two weeks the 44th President of the United States will be sworn into office. The inauguration of Barack Obama promises to have the largest attendance of any ever held in this country.  Joining the throngs of supporters, well-wishers and  curious onlookers will be members of the Secret Service and Homeland Security. Their obvious goal will be to ensure the safety of the new president and those in attendance.

As far as I can tell, there will not be any official representatives from the Etiquette Police. As usual it is assumed that people will police themselves when it comes to good manners.  Left to your own devices, here are a few rules to keep in mind if you are among those fortunate enough to be present at this historic event.

1. Maintain a positive attitude. As you are being jostled about by hordes of strangers, all of whom are just as confused and stressed as you are, remember to keep a smile on your face and give others the benefit of the doubt.

2. Follow the rules. There will be lots of them, but they are all intended to maintain order, protect people and promote good will. Any attempts to circumvent them will only make matters worse.

3.  Be courteous of others. Use those simple phrases like “please,” “thank you,” “you are welcome” and “excuse me.” They act as grease on a wheel to keep things running smoothly.

4.  Be helpful. If you see someone who is lost or bewildered or a person having difficulty, take time to assist.

5. Be knowledgeable. If you think that airport security is riddled with rules, try the inauguration.  Check out any of the inauguration sites on the web for specific information, especially look for items on the forbidden list.

6. Leave grandma and the kids at home. The weather is typically cold in Washington in January. President William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia only 31 days after being inaugurated on a chilly rainy day.  The weather can be harsh on young and old so don’t put them at risk.

7.  Eat before you go. Food and beverages will not be allowed within the ceremony perimeter.  You can bring small snacks, but leave the picnic basket behind. Thermoses are definitely forbidden.

8.  Be prepared to stand. Even if you have a ticket for seating, you may spend hours on your feet.  Others, with standing room tickets, need to be prepared mentally and physically for a long day.

9. If it’s not your seat, don’t sit in it. Those who are fortunate enough to have a seat for the inauguration need to honor that arrangement.  An empty seat just as the ceremonies begin is not an invitation to trade places.  Chances are the real ticket holder will arrive and your attempted swap will cause confusion and chaos.

10.  Turn off your cell phone or set it to vibrate before the ceremony begins. What could be more disrespectful than having your phone ring during one of the most solemn occasions in our country? Check, check and double check to be sure your phone does not ring.

12.  If you hate getting wet, check the forecast. Raincoats and ponchos are permitted, but no umbrellas.

13. Prepare to enjoy the Metro ride into the city since public parking will be non-existent. If you are not familiar with the Washington Metro system, take a test run ahead of time so that the day of the Inauguration, you don’t find yourself in some unknown part of Maryland or Virginia instead of in the District of Columbia.

14.  Dress appropriately. I have already covered dressing for the temperature and checking the weather report for rain or other inclement conditions.  At this point, I am focusing on dressing respectfully for the occasion.  This is the inauguration of the President of the United States of America.  Suits and ties may not be required for spectators, but quality clothing is a must.  Super Bowl attire and Inaugural dress are not synonymous.  Dress comfortably but dress up for this most prestigious occasion.

15.  Double check the list of prohibited items so you don’t end up spending your day going through a security check instead of watching this historic event for which you were most fortunate to have tickets.

Inaugural etiquette is all about showing kindness, courtesy and respect for others from the incoming President and his family to the strangers with whom you will share an unforgettable experience.

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.