How to be a Great Guest!
Invitations, how to hold your drink, participating in games, what to do about mistletoe, and when to leave… Navigating these ‘once a year’ holiday events can be daunting. Here is a cheat sheet for how to be a spectacular guest!
- Take the invitation seriously. An RSVP (from the French phrase répondez s’il vous plaît) is a request from the host/hostess to “reply, please” and let them know whether or not you’ll be attending. Even if no RSVP is indicated on an invitation, it is still thoughtful to let them know as food and seating requirements are based on the number of invitations sent. And if something comes up at the last minute, do let your host(ess) know of your change in plans. And don’t bring a guest with you unless you’ve cleared it with the host(ess) first, or your invitation includes a “plus one”.
- No matter how spectacular a party promises to be, don’t attend if you are sick. (Regretfully, this needs to be mentioned. Can you guess why…?)
- Arrive on time (no later than 15-minutes past the time listed on the invitation), never early, and bring the host(ess) a gift! Flowers are always appropriate, but be sure to bring them in a vase–don’t cause extra work for your host(ess)! If you know them well enough, feel free to bring a bottle of their favorite libation, a gastronomic contribution that would add to the celebration, a scented candle or soap, book, or a gift card to their favorite restaurant which would be a charming gesture.
- If the host(ess) wasn’t available to greet you upon your arrival, find them immediately to say hello and present your gift.
- Don’t use your phone. Keep your devices stowed and muted, unless you need it available for emergencies. If one arises, apologize and excuse yourself from the party to take care of it in private before returning to the festivities.
- Mingle! And make sure to hold your drink in your left hand. That way, your right hand is warm and dry when greeting people and shaking their hand.
- As a guest, it is your moral obligation to be agreeable, flexible, and pleasant. Participate in all arranged activities (even if charades, sing-a-longs, or party games aren’t “your thing”), and keep your hands off the television controls.
- Be cautious of overindulging–whether in food or drink.
- Use excellent eating manners.
- Mind the mistletoe–it’s meant to be a peck on the cheek.
- If you spill or break something, let the host know immediately. Offer to pay for damages.
- Be diligent about observing the host(ess) and be willing to pitch in and help. Instead of a vague, “Is there something I can do?” ask specifically, “What can I do to help?” But know when to get out of the way. If your offer to help is rebuffed, remember that “no means no the first time”. When orchestrating an event, there’s nothing worse than too many cooks in the kitchen.
- Always use a coaster for your drink. Improvise if no coaster is available.
- Don’t snoop. What’s behind closed doors, in medicine cabinets, or in cupboards is none of your business. Doors are closed for a reason. Respect their privacy.
- When to leave: if you were a dinner guest, stay for one hour after the meal. If there was a time on the invitation, leave a few minutes before the ‘ending’ time. If no ‘ending’ time was indicated, look for clues:
-Are others leaving?
-Did the host/hostess mention ‘last call’ or ‘one last drink’?
-Has the host/hostess started to clean up?
- Always say goodbye to the host/hostess when leaving, and thank them effusively for their hospitality. Make sure to follow up with a handwritten Thank You note.