Yesterday we looked at some ways to make entertaining more fun and easy, so today I thought I would take a look at the flip side — how to be a good guest and endear yourself to your hostess.
1. RSVP as soon as possible. Responding the day before or the day of the party is better late than never, but it is really bad form and just plain not nice. Be considerate and repondez s’il vous plait pronto y’all.
1.1 This is not an official don’t, but it is a pet peeve of mine — Do not call the hostess on the way to the party and ask for directions. Chances are she’s really busy attending to last minute details and greeting guests and doing a thousand other things. Take the time to Google directions before you go.
2. Do not show up early for a party under any circumstances for any reason ever. Be fashionably late. For a small cocktail party or a come-and-go, fashionably late means 10-30 minutes. For a dinner party, 15-20 minutes at the most. Beyond that, the hostess gets nervous.
2. Do not show up with your kids unless they have explicitly been invited. Do not show up with your out of town in-laws or other relatives unless they have been invited. Do not call and ask if you can bring a few extra people because it puts the hostess in an awkard position — she has to say yes or look like a meanie. If you have unexpected company, call the hostess and offer your regrets explaining that you are sorry that you won’t be able to make it and tell her why. If she wishes to include your company, she will offer.
2.1. If your children are invited, you are still responsible for them. Check on them from time to time to make sure they are not setting the house on fire.
3. I think a small hostess gift is a really nice expression of gratitude. Make it something small and special but not terribly personal or embarrasingly expensive. Here are some ideas: note cards, wine glass charms, candles, a holiday ornament, small rosemary plant, a gourmet food item (chocolates, olives, sauces, biscotti and coffee or tea, jellies), a small book or something home baked like pumpkin bread or cookies. Other ideas?
4. Do not bring food to a dinner party expecting it to be served unless you have been asked to do so. It is presumptuous and the hostess will be put in the position of having to serve your King Ranch casserole next to her Beef Wellington. She will resent you for it and she will wish a pox of termites upon your house.
5. If you have been asked to bring a dish to the party, bring it ready to set on the table. Do not come to the party with a bag of groceries and then ask for a knife and cutting board so you can make your famous homemade salsa. The last thing the hostess wants is another mess in her kitchen.
6. Do not bring your own food to eat in a little Tupperware container. If you have food issues, eat at home before you come and just play along graciously. I’m going to retract this one on behalf of Celiac patients.
7. If you don’t see it, don’t ask for it. If the hostess is serving hamburgers, do not ask where she’s hiding the chicken. If you don’t see wine or soft drinks or your favorite diet drink, don’t ask.
8. Do not clear the table. Offer to help clear the table, but accept no for an answer. If the hostess says to leave it, then leave it. It could be she doesn’t trust you with her grandmother’s china.
9. Be at the party – engage! See if you can listen more than you speak, ask more than you tell. Participate and contribute. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and be quick to introduce others. It’s okay to ask someone to remind you of their name, even if they just told you. It happens to all of us and no one should be offended by that.
10. Know when to go. If the hostess is slumped in a chair with her shoes off and yawning, it might be time to wrap up your fascinating life story and say goodnight.
10.1 A follow up note or email to say, “Great party! Thanks for the invite!” is a super duper nice thing to do and ups the odds that you’ll get invited back.
10.2 Reciprocate! Have a get-together of your own!