How To Be a Great Dinner Party Guest

By Posted in - General on June 13th, 2013 67 Comments

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A few months ago, a friend of mine recommended that I write a post about how to be a good dinner party guest. Certainly, I spend so much time writing and talking about how to host dinner parties—you know I could go all day and all night on that topic. But I’ve never talked about how to be a good guest…until today!

Here are a few thoughts, and I’d love to know what you think—what did I miss? What makes a great guest in your eyes?

1. Come on time, or let the host know via text that you’ll be late, and exactly how late. This is not the time to say “Be there in 5” if you’re actually 30 minutes away. Your host is keeping multiple things hot on the stove, trying to figure out when to move guests to the table, and knowing for real what time you’ll arrive is a gift to him or her.

2. Don’t show up with someone unexpectedly. Don’t show up without someone unexpectedly. For an open house or a cocktail party, this is totally no big deal. But if it’s a seated dinner party, your host has planned for an exact number, and it’s a hassle to pull plates or add them last minute.

For a while, I was a totally softie about last-minute additions, and then at a certain point, I decided that it had to be okay sometimes to just say—kindly, of course—No, I’m sorry, I can’t add one more this time. It’s hard for me to say that, but as I was planning one particular party years ago, I finally put my foot down.

And then one of the single guys I’d invited asked me day-of if he could bring a date. I took a deep breath, and I said no. I explained that there were twelve of us already, and that I have everything in sets of twelve. I explained that adding one more person would really cause a lot of extra work.

He nodded. He didn’t mind at all, he said, bringing a tv tray and a plate, cup, and fork from home. He’d really like to bring her.

I stared at him. This was my big stand, my look-Henry-Cloud-I-have-boundaries moment. And this dude was going to bring a big gulp cup and a tv tray to my dinner party? I gave up. He brought her, and I sped around after work and before the party, trying to make the perfectly set table for twelve look like a perfectly quirky mismatched table for thirteen, with two sets of dishes and one person who got stuck with a kid-sized fork.

The moral of the story: that was probably eight years ago. I have not forgotten. Don’t be that guy.

3. Offer to bring something, and if the host doesn’t take you up on it, bring a little gift.

My favorite host or hostess gifts: a fancy bottle of jam, a pound of good coffee. A sweet tea towel is a great idea, and as the Farmers Markets open, a pint of berries or peaches would be fantastic.

Flowers are always a treat, as long as you bring them in a vase or jar that you can leave there—the last thing a busy hostess needs is one more thing to do as she’s welcoming everyone, so finding a vase and trimming cut flowers is not something you want to sign her up for.

I would absolutely love a bottle of your favorite vinegar, and if you want to be my number-one all-time favorite person alive, you’d bring me a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, my favorite champagne.

4. If the host does ask you to bring something, bring it as close to ready-to-serve as possible, and if you need kitchen items to complete it, bring them. For example: the host asks you to bring a salad, and you bring the salad with the dressing in a separate container, so when you arrive, you dress and toss the salad. This is lovely.

Another example: the host asks you to bring a flatbread pizza as an appetizer. You show up with flatbread, and a shopping bag. All you need, really, is a cheese grater, a cutting board, a pizza stone, the oven turned up to 500, and some fresh basil, if the host happens to have some. This is a no.

5. Offer to help. Sometimes a host will say no, and that’s fine, but more often, they’ll be thrilled to have you slice bread or pour wine or light candles. When the host gets up to start the dessert process, hop up and bring in the dinner plates, or offer to scoop ice cream or slice cake. The host can always shoo you back to the table, but it’s a great feeling to know that people are willing to pitch in along the way.

6. Show interest in the food. I’m not saying you have to do a full What about Bob? (“Faye, Faye, is this corn hand-shucked?”), but your host did put a lot of time and energy into the menu, and it’s a gift to them to notice it, ask about it, tell them what you like about it. Think about something you love to do–let’s say you’re a photographer. Someone’s looking at your work–does it bother you to be asked about lighting or your camera or whatever? I bet you love being asked about how you do what you do, and cooks are the same way.

Ask where they found the recipe, or why they chose it. Tell them you like how spicy the carne asada is, or how rich the cake is. Enter into the whole experience, and let the cook know that you’re paying attention to what they’ve created for you.

7. Say thank you. I never ever expect a hand-written thank you note after a dinner party, but a text on the way home that says, “Wow! What a fun night! The soup was delicious!” makes my night, and makes all the work worth it. Always, always say thank you.

What did I miss? What does it take to be a great dinner party guest in your eyes? And what are your go-to hostess or host gifts?

(67) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Anna - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Ooo! I love this post. A good guest is so nice to have, huh?

    Recently, I’ve been bringing little bundles of fresh herbs from the garden–either bundled cute or made into little flower arrangements. :) Pretty and useful, maybe?!

  • Peggy - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Something I have recently started doing is preparing a delicious Monkey Bread and place it on a pretty garage sale plate, wrapped in cello with a bow. Voile, a breakfast item for them. I tell them to use the plate for thier next gift of food. It’s a hit!

    • Kris - Reply

      June 14, 2013 at 9:32 am

      Great idea with breakfast rolls and plate! Gonna do this!!

  • HopefulLeigh - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    The only thing I’d add is:
    RSVP in a timely manner!

    I am tired of people waiting until the day before or day of an event I’m hosting. Let your yes be yes and your no be no and please let your host know which one it’s going to be as soon as possible. Life happens and sometimes plans have to change but there’s a non-committal vibe in our generation that drives this planner crazy!

    • Jemelene - Reply

      June 13, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      YES! Please RSVP. If I ask for a response it is because I want to provide a lovely experience for you and my other guests. I need to plan for that.

      I am feeding 50 people this evening and am still getting email replies while reading this article. *sigh*

    • Lori H - Reply

      June 13, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      I agree. A late response means, to me, that you were waiting to see if something better came up! As Shauna sais, this is a no!

      • Lori H - Reply

        June 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm

        Good grief, that should be “says”

  • Karen Scarpulla - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I absolutely love this blog. Especially the part about on time guests. Fashionably late is 15 minutes and you are right that the host has everything timed to perfection.

    I rarely let anyone bring a dish because I enjoy planning, shopping, prepping and preparing the entire meal. I consider it my gift to those that attend. I prefer receiving either wine, champagne or a great bottle of tequila or vodka. That way I always have wine and champagne for those spur of the moment get togethers.

    I would add please dress appropriately. If you are invited to a bbq shorts and a t-shirt is just fine, but a sit down dinner requires different attire. Happy entertaining.

  • Sascha - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    this.is.fabulous! I love the ideas for hostess gifts. I would’ve never thought to bring a pint of fresh farmer’s market fruit, but I would love to receive it! Thanks for this post!

  • Liz Naithani - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    This is SO great, thanks Shauna! I am a very experienced host and at formal dinner parties I also dislike receiving flowers without a vase – and a guest that tells me “quick, quick, you need to put them in a vase..” :) Or a guest who was supposed to bring a ready-made salad but arrives with all ingredients in a shopping bag, fills my kitchen sink (that is not particularly clean after cooking …) with water and starts washing the lettuce in it, asks for cutting boards, vinegar….you get the picture! I say: The best way to be a great, great guest is to host many, many parties and you’ll quickly learn! :)

    • Marilyn - Reply

      June 13, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      Or the guest who shows up to Thanksgiving dinner with raw, dirty potatoes instead of mashed ones!

    • Maija - Reply

      August 24, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      I complete agree about bringing the flowers in a vase! When close friends of mine are hosting, I offer to take care of any flowers that others bring, without a vase. After a while, you can pretty much predict who will bring loose flowers. It’s nice to take that burden off of the hostess.

  • Jemelene - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Please read the envelope on your invitation! Only those named are invited.
    Just in the past year I have had one family decline a clambake invitation because their adult son (who was not invited) is allergic to shellfish. At that same party, a woman brought her 4 year old grand child and we scrambled to get another place set with a name card. They left before dinner was served because the child was bored. In her defense, she was embarrassed and apologized profusely admitting that she had assumed children would be there.
    Another incident involved a woman RSVPing for her AND her husband to a girl’s night out birthday party.
    Also, please call the host if you have food issues. They may have already covered that. Don’t just show up with KFC without giving the host a chance to accommodate. I routinely ask my guests for allergies and intolerances.

  • Mandy - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    See, this is why I always feel like we would be friends in real life because of posts like this! This is so true. Nothing I can stand more than someone shows up with a grocery bag full of food and plans to take over your kitchen to prepare the dish they said they would bring. I once had someone show up for Thanksgiving dinner and hand me a grocery bag full of unwashed & uncut fruit and tell me, “Here, this is for fruit salad.” First of all, it is Thanksgiving not 4th of July – no one wants fruit salad… Needless to say, this post was great.

  • Stacie - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    I know this is a guest-oriented post, but for the hostess, how specific should we be when people ask what they can bring? Do I say “dessert” or do I say “something chocolate” or do I say “molten chocolate cake with mint icing”? Sometimes I want to be specific, but I also don’t want to curb the creativity of my guests (especially if I don’t know them well). Any ideas?

  • Marisa - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    LOVE this. so dead on. and one of my new favorite gifts is cute little jars of local honey :)

  • Kristen - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Sometimes we should try to be a little more lighthearted and open-armed with our houses and tables :)

  • Kathleen Bieritz - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Love that you mention hostess gifts. I’m amazed at how many times I have gone to someone’s house very few if anyone has brought a hostess gift. Love discovering cute little things that hostesses will love. I’d add good olive oil, candles, some awesome sea salt to the hostess gift list – and of course if it is someone who you’ve not already given a copy of Bread and Wine to, that would be absolutely perfect!!

  • Lauren - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Oh my goodness. You quoted one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies (that scene in “Bob” is priceless). My husband and I always say, “Is this corn hand-shucked?” Fabulous post, Shauna!

  • Jeanine - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    This is a great post! Thank you for the hostess gift ideas and also, the thoughts on being a good guest, also known as common courtesy. After all, the hostess should be able to enjoy dinner too! Not sure what the commenter who gave the bible quote was trying to say, but all I know is I’m not God, so I don’t have unlimited table space or energy. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m a lot more lighthearted if my guests treat me with kindness and respect, like I’m trying to show them.

  • Kim - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Stacie, as someone who really loves to bring items to the dinner party, I appreciate the halfway-specific suggestions like ‘something chocolate’ ‘ something lemon.’ I may have my idea of what I want to bring, but the hostess knows what would complement the rest of the meal.

    And in general, I think a great dinner guest is one who can carry the best conversation, full of grace and charm, intelligence and humor!

    • Julie - Reply

      August 10, 2013 at 7:55 am

      Because we have little children, in this season we are hosting rather than being invited. We are trying to teach the children to think of a question (before guests arrive) to ask our guests during dinner.

      I think being a good guest is asking great questions -getting outside of one’s self- and thinking of others.

  • Sandy Cooper - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    I nodded all the way through this. Great post.

    And my husband would totally be that guy. He’s so “the more the merrier…we’ll make it work…who cares?”

  • Linnea - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Great post Shauna! People don’t throw dinner parties here very often, so I forget some of the proper formalities. I do get frustrated when guests show up and make the whole night about themselves. I like to try and keep the interest on the hostess and her family or whoever the party may be thrown for.

  • Marilyn - Reply

    June 13, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    I too enjoyed this post so much and appreciated the comments about hostess gifts. A friend of mine likes to give locally-made beeswax candles.

  • Carlinne @Cook with 2 Chicks - Reply

    June 14, 2013 at 7:21 am

    This is a really great post. While some of the suggestions are common courtesy, which we all know some people lack, others come from years of being a host, which is helpful and great to refer back to. I absolutely LOVE your hostess gift ideas. Great taste in champagne,Veuve Clicquot is also my favorite! I also really appreciate your points about complementing the food; I always am so happy when guests vocalize their appreciation for my food.

  • Christy - Reply

    June 14, 2013 at 7:23 am

    It makes a big impression on me when guests do the dishes– no asking, just jumping in. Then I can go to bed and wake up to a clean kitchen. Plus the clean-up is super quick when several people are helping.

  • Katie - Reply

    June 14, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Do you think there is a difference in formality/fanciness based on where you live in the US? I live out west, near the mountains and have never been invited to a dinner party like you or the commenters have described. Most if the time it is a “bring a side dish” BBQ and at best an easy meal in someone’s home that rarely requires wine and a hostess gift would be thiught of as weird. Or maybe socioeconomic status? That might seem more likely. I’m trying to figure out why I feel a disconnect to the type if parties you speak of often and the ones I have encountered. Of course, yours sound great but just doesn’t feel like real life for me.

    • Kika - Reply

      June 17, 2013 at 10:15 am

      This certainly isn’t real life for me either:) We don’t have money for champagne or fancy dinner parties so when we invite people over to share a meal it is pretty casual and I don’t expect hostess gifts – which really would elimate so many people’s ability to be able to come. Some of the ideas are just basic manners (RSVP’ing, showing up on time, not bringing extra people, etc.).

    • Jemelene - Reply

      June 22, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      Katie and Kika,
      Here is my take on it. We live out west as well and many times our gatherings are just what you describe. If you are asked to bring a side dish or contribute to the meal in some way, that IS your “hostess gift”. If the hostess is creating the entire meal then a nice little something works well. I have stopped at the store, picked up an inexpensive plant and wrapped paper around the bottom. It usually costs less than $3 but is thoughtful. Less than a bouquet and the host can replant or throw away when it dies.
      We are going to a friend’s house tonight. I was going to stop by Costco and get them nice corkscrew set I saw that was marked down for clearance. I confirmed last night and asked if I could bring something, she suggested the salad so that will be my “gift”. This couple often requests for us not to bring anything so I may still get the set and tuck it away for another time.

      • Suzanna - Reply

        June 27, 2013 at 8:49 pm

        I totally agree with you all here…the kind of dinner parties to which Shauna and other commenters are referring have their lovely place, but are not the reality of many folks, and kind of have the air of privilege about them. Some of the tips are so spot on no matter who you are – say thank you, RSVP, compliment the food – absolutely. But the whole bringing a gift thing bugs me because a) I don’t want to assume people have that in their budget, b) making a meal is my gift to my guests, and I don’t want them to feel as though they owe me something in return, and c) I make every effort to maintain a simple household, and feel overwhelmed when people bring me things that just add to the clutter I am constantly trying to minimize. I’ve had guests who showed up with food even after I asked them not to, and I felt very burdened by that – great, now we’ve got two salads, or now I have a block of cheese I do not want in my house! I think perhaps the better way to approach gifts is just to see what’s the norm in your group of friends. In my group of friends, the norm is to bring a bottle of wine and not expect it to be opened that night. I throw fancy dinner parties, but I gotta say it would really annoy me if someone brought me a hostess gift besides wine.

  • here be dragons - Reply

    June 14, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Ah yes…

    My recent pet-peeve with dinner parties is when a friend asks if they can invite another, mutual, friend. Hmm. Well, I do have their contact info, if I had wanted to invite them…. I guess I don’t understand why guests feel so free to pass on an invite to others when I’m the one doing all the work and providing all the food.

    On the other hand, many of my friends are good at pitching in with dishes before I even notice! And we’re rarely short on wine at my dinner parties!

  • Christine Organ - Reply

    June 14, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Great post. Definitely agree with #7 (say thank you) and #3 (offer to bring something). I also love to entertain and host parties so these really hit home. I put a lot of effort into making people feel welcome and taken care of. Unexpected guests cause me a great deal of anxiety and I can also remember some of those uninvited guests just showing up several years after the incident, though I try to tell myself that my role is to make people feel welcome, not set up the perfect venue. In the end, people remember how you make them feel and not how pretty something looks (or at least that’s what I tell myself in order to get over the frustration, anxiety, and annoyance).

    Love your blog, by the way.

  • Michelle DeRusha - Reply

    June 15, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    You kind of already mentioned this, but I have to reiterate – compliment the cook on the food. You don’t have to gush and rave all night, but say something, for the love! We recently had a couple over for dinner who didn’t say one thing about anything we served – I fretted the whole night that they hated the food, and then when I was done fretting, I got mad!

    {just finished “Bread and Wine,” Shauna — I am not the cook around here (my husband is), but I SO loved it anyway. I’m going to have my husband read it!

  • Henrietta Fish - Reply

    June 18, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    Another personal favorite of mine is the guest that calls within 30 minutes of start time with a question that could have been asked hours, even days, ahead of time. Does this person not know that you are running around like a chicken, attempting to check off the last on your list of to-dos?

  • Martha Byrne - Reply

    June 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Love this…the post itself and the comments left by others! I would just add a question into the mix. How late should dinner guests stay? Is there a way the dinner host can make this clear? Maybe it’s just me, but perhaps we’ve all had the dinner guest who is unaware of the time and intends to stay late into the night…or the one who eats and runs. Keeping in mind that the host has probably had a long day of preparing, I would think there’s a happy medium between rushing out too soon and staying too late!

  • Cindy - Reply

    June 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    As a guest, I would suggest, that when bringing a side dish, this is meant to be a side, not the main event. The host has put much thought and preparation in the cohesiveness of a meal.

    I unfortunately made this mistake, by bringing the side of my favorite dish; always a pleaser at my dinners. Well, I just felt terrible and uncomfortable when I was constantly asked about my dish and the host was not asked on hers. Shame on me!

    Although we all love to cook, we have to remember that we are not throwing the party, we’re attending!

  • Cathy - Reply

    June 29, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    I love having people in my home, no matter what the occasion. “Knock and Walk” is our family policy. They are invited to help themselves and make themselves at home; be comfortable and relax!
    Attending the gathering means allowing the host to love on you and gives you opportunity to love on her. It’s a time and place for sharing and caring. So do it. Engage with other guests and engage with the host/ess. You are there for a reason.

  • The Provision Room - Reply

    July 8, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    I once gave a cocktail party for adults. I hired a sitter for my own kids. A bunch of people showed up with their kids! So, they sent them to the other room for my sitter to watch. And no one pitched in with money! I ended owing the sitter a boatload. That was fun.

    If the invitation doesn’t say anything about kids, ask! Don’t assume!

  • lucinda - Reply

    July 13, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Years ago we invited another couple over for dinner. We both had 1 daughter whoe were young at the time so I arranged for the grownups to sit in the dining room (at the time I had a small dining room table that sat 4) and the kids in the kitchen. The invited guests showed up with another couple in tow, they called about 30 min ahead of time to tell us. There was no room in the dining room and my husband and I sat in the kitchen with the kids while other 2 couples were in the dining room. I fumed for days about our ruined evening. A party or just cocktails…certainly but yes to not bringing guests at the last min to a dinner party.

  • Aubrey - Reply

    July 13, 2013 at 10:40 am

    This goes with the “Don’t Be Late” rule: Don’t be early. There is a person who comes to regular group dinners at my house and is always early. Yesterday he was an hour early, and I was still in sweaty clothes form setting up the back yard. It was a good exercise in being a gracious host, but it really is hard when someone shows up even more than fifteen minutes early. I ended up saying, “Well, I’m happy you’re here but since it’s an hour early I’m either going to ignore you or put you to work.” He ended up reading books in our library/living room while I finished getting everything ready, and that was alright.

    • Stacey - Reply

      August 20, 2013 at 2:24 pm

      Wildly agree. My in-laws are notorious for this and it drives me up the wall. I gave you a specific time for a reason… please don’t show up an hour early and then expect me to entertain you.

    • Maija Eerkes - Reply

      August 24, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      I totally agree with you Aubrey!! It is very stressful to balance last minute tasks and be gracious to guests who come too early. If I invite someone who isn’t as familiar with the area and drive times, I actually have been known to tell them what time they should consider starting the drive.

  • Aubrey - Reply

    July 13, 2013 at 10:43 am

    I would also add: At potluck dinners or BBQ’s, PLEASE do not assume that leaving the leftovers you brought in the host’s kitchen is ok. Right now I have an entire lasagna, 2 bottles of soda, half a chicken, and 40 grocery store cookies that I don’t have room for. These are not good hostess gifts!

    • Maija - Reply

      August 24, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      Ha, ha… your post made me laugh. My pet peeve is when you’re hosting an appetizer party and several guests cannot be more creative than bringing cheese and crackers, and then they leave all the opened cracker boxes. It’s just thoughtful to ask the hostess if she’d like to keep some of what you brought. I say “No, thank you” if I won’t use it, and it will go to waste. I’m also not much of a dessert eater, so you’re not doing me a favor by offering to leave half of your cake in my fridge.

  • Karise - Reply

    July 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    I think that regional gifts are nice for a hostess gift, if you are from out-of-town or have returned from a trip… specialty nuts, candy, spices, oils, hot sauce, mixes, teas, etc. Seasonal things are lovely (homemade gourmet marshmallows in winter, berries in summer, etc.) Just something special and thoughtful.
    I like things that I can set out with dessert or appetizers (nuts, cheese, coffee, chocolates) or that we can add to the meal (dressing or a loaf of rosemary bread or vinegars) so that everyone can share but I also like little things meant for just me to enjoy after everyone leaves:)

    On the subject of menus: it’s a good idea to share at least the theme of what you’ll serve- you’re more likely to know beforehand about allergies and get sides or things that coordinate with the menu. (i.e. Italian, BBQ, Mexican, Pot-Luck, etc.)
    I am a fan of “there’s always room for one more” but I tend to be more casual buffet than dinner party formal . I love dinner parties (attending) ! :)

  • PattyM - Reply

    July 13, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    This is my first time reading your blog and it was a hit. I would add that being a good guest requires conversing with other guests – all of them – and keeping the conversation going. There is nothing worse than the guest that sits there without trying to interact with others.
    My favorite gift to bring is handmade soap that I buy at the local farmers market. I usually include two or three bars and wrap them in raffia or colorful twine. It is a small gift but I want the hostess to know that I appreciate her including me in the party.

  • Rachel Monger - Reply

    July 16, 2013 at 5:02 am

    I have to say that I have learned more about true hospitality where we now live in Tanzania, than I ever knew before! Realising that the it is not about the expensive food, the amazing décor and table settings, the size of the dining room. Here space and time is not important; it is all about people. Do we really need to get annoyed or offended over trivial things? Food and fun; it’s about people! Relationships grown through the sharing of life in the sharing of food. In a small hut, waiting hours for a small dish of simple food to be prepared over a fire, as a guest, it is an honour to receive such hospitality. Hospitality is offered in the love and serving, in the friendship. And as a guest, we can humbly and gratefully receive and then know to do likewise.

  • Christie - Reply

    July 16, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Especially thankful for the hostess gift ideas, I’m working on that trait of never going to someone’s house empty-handed and these were such a help!

    • Maija - Reply

      August 24, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      I entertain a lot, and don’t really expect hostess gifts, but consumable ones are the best. I’ve often re-gifted some of the others…. for example, I really don’t need another candle. I also suggest putting a little note with the hostess gift, rather than telling the hostess “open it, open it”. Unless it’s a small group, the hostess may not have time to open the gift that evening. Prior to serving the meal, she’s busy. Afterward, she may just want to relax and enjoy conversation with her guests. If I didn’t get a chance to open the gift during the party, I always email the person the next day and thank them for the nice thought (even if I plan to re-gift it).

  • Mantamy - Reply

    July 17, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    I love this and I love hosting parties – the work is joy, BUT so much more rewarding with good guests! AMEN to every one of your points and I’m with Aubrey: Don’t be late, but don’t be early! Sharing this on FB!

  • Maggie - Reply

    August 10, 2013 at 8:00 am

    I agree with the RSVP comment!
    It’s a shame that these type of posts are necessary these days,… aren’t these things common sense anymore????

  • Sophia - Reply

    August 11, 2013 at 12:57 am

    I get rather annoyed with guests who insist on helping in the kitchen or who do the washing up when I have told them not to. Of course it is good manners to offer to help in some way but when i invite people to my home it is because I want to enjoy their company and for them to feel they can relax. I do not want to watch them peeling potatoes or washing the dishes!!!

  • Alyssa - Reply

    August 16, 2013 at 5:38 am

    I have a one:
    Read cues from other guests and the hosts. If everyone else took their shoes off at the front door, don’t wear your shoes in the house. If everyone else has gone home because it’s a week night and your hosts are blurry-eyed, facing a mountain of dishes…please go home too!

    Oh, and I absolutely believe in the philosophy “never show up empty-handed.” :)

    Also, I agree with the comment about dressing appropriately! I’m amazed at what people consider appropriate sometimes!

  • Karenb - Reply

    August 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I love this article I just wish more people would read it and take it to heart. I’ve had just about all of these happen but the worst?
    Friends of my husband’s family, who were invited to Thanksgiving dinner because they had no family of their own in town, came with a shopping bag full of empty tupperware containers to take home leftovers and they took all of my white meat from the turkey! They also took the last two slices of macadamia nut pie (which cost me a fortune to make!) as well as half of everything else left over.
    Guests 2 hours and 45 minutes late and calling every 15 minutes to say they are on their way!
    I was once told, “I hope you have a hot dog for my daughter, she won’t eat anything else”. I did not have a hot dog and the kid gobbled up the roast beef I served.
    A family member brought their drug addicted daughter so they could keep an eye on her. She shot up in my bathroom and nodded off during dinner while talking with my father-in-law.
    I’ve pretty much given up on dinner parties these days. It’s just too much work and it just isn’t appreciated as much as I expect it to be.

  • Celestine - Reply

    August 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Amen! Amen! Amen!

  • Amber – Loves Food, Loves to Eat - Reply

    August 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    This is great! Another one that goes along with #3: If the host says don’t bring food… then don’t bring food! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said no food, then someone shows up with a bag of chips and salsa when I’ve already prepared a lovely cheese tray, or they set a tray of store-bought cookies next to my thought-out, in-theme, dessert that took me hours to prep and make.

  • Brie - Reply

    August 19, 2013 at 5:10 am

    The best guests want their host’s party to be a success and they take some responsibility in making that happen. These people are the ones who will
    contribute to making sure there is good conversation and that everyone is involved.
    It’s been wonderful to read all the posts here!!!!!

  • Maija Eerkes - Reply

    August 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    This is a great site, especially for people who might not have a lot of common sense. I found it because last night we had two over for dinner. They had offered to bring a veggie side dish. I had told her what the main course was so that it wouldn’t conflict. Turns out they didn’t have time to prepare the veggie dish, so they brought a green salad, without checking with me I already had a salad, with fresh made dressing! I thought it was pretty weird to bring a salad, when that wasn’t what I, as the hostess, thought they were contributing. Just wanted to see if other people think this is strange as well.

    • Sophia - Reply

      September 5, 2013 at 10:02 am

      I can’t believe how annoying that is. If people go to the effort of asking what they should bring, why then go against your request? A veggie dish is completely different to a salad and salad doesn’t even go with a lot of hot dishes. Better luck next time!

  • Miranda - Reply

    August 25, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    One of my friends always offers to take out the trash after any party that I host. We live on the second level of an apartment and while it may seem like such a small gesture, I can’t tell you what a difference it makes.

  • Chrystina - Reply

    August 25, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    This is a great list of things. You’re right about saying thank you – it definitely means a lot to the hostess after the fact to know that her guests enjoyed themselves.

  • @sarahspy - Reply

    September 3, 2013 at 10:52 am

    great post — and i appreciated the What About Bob? reference too!!! :)

  • Becky - Reply

    October 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    We keep our home very clean, and we are highly allergic to pets, so we don’t own any. Our family gathers for Canadian Thanksgiving each year (though only a few are Canadian). We had 24 people RSVP, including a cousin who said she was bringing a “guest.” My cousin arrived with her new boyfriend who had a service animal. We told the cousin we didn’t allow pets in our home due to allergies, and we wished she would have told us sooner so they could have made other arrangements. She was quite angry with us, telling us if her boyfriend wasn’t accepted with his service dog she would not stay either. I couldn’t put the boyfriends medical needs above my family’s medical needs. What would have been the best way to handle this situation?

  • BB - Reply

    December 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I had dinner guests invite an additional couple by telling a family member of mine rather than asking me. Their friends were accommodated, then after the dinner party, her and her husband organized a party after the party for some of my guests.

    They claimed to have enjoyed the evening, however, that seems to indicate to me that my dinner party didn’t meet their needs and that my company could be done without.

    What would you have done or said?

  • […] How good is your guest etiquette? […]

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