A Best-Guest Primer
The world is starting to open up again, HUZZAH! We recently attended our first post-vaccine dinner party in more than a year. The main topic of conversation at this particular party was how strange it felt to be around other people again.
Successful entertaining relies on a carefully choreographed dance between Hosts and Guests. There are LOTS of articles about how to prepare for guests, but very little useful information on the art of being a good guest.
I love Hosting. It's my happy place. But the flip side of that coin involves being a good guest. I've made plenty of gaffs in my time and had to learn the hard way what to do (and what not to do). So, to that end, I’ve compiled my best tips for HOW TO BE A GOOD GUEST.
- RSVP (the right way). You’ve been asked to a party or a weekend away…yay! The best thing you can do is to check your calendar and respond as soon as possible in the same way you were invited. For example, if you got a formal, written invitation (lucky you!) you have to write back. If you got a text or an online invitation through Evite or Paperless Post, then text back or respond on the app. Don’t call or email. Get it? The reason is that busy Hosts have set up a system of receiving RSVPs through the app or a similar email address. If you respond outside of that invitation, your response can get lost or miscounted and that is like not responding and then showing up late with a drunken Tinder date. Not good.
- NEVER SHOW UP EMPTY-HANDED.Of course, you always ask if you can bring something, but even if your Host says “No, no, no, just yourself!” You bring something. It's what Nice People do and you are Nice People. A bottle of wine is standard, but if they don’t drink (first of all…why are you going)? JK! If you don't know them well, don’t buy anything too personal like a piece of art or a sweater. Stick to consumables, especially those that come in handy at a party. A scented candle or nice soap + hand cream for the bathroom always goes down a treat.
If you know them better or want to make more of an impression, get something practical, decorative, or expensive looking.
* A word about flowers. Bringing flowers is a lovely gesture and always appreciated. However, DO NOT, under any circumstances, bring your hostess a freshly cut bouquet that needs to be trimmed and arranged in a vase. That is a project. You’ve just handed your busy hostess a project that has to be dealt with at the exact moment she is trying to welcome her guests. Cut flowers in a decorative vase would be an original and welcome gift she could just pop into the powder room.
BE HANDY. The best guests are the ones who have been Hosts themselves. They know when to pitch in, when to fade and when to be independent. If you don’t know your hosts well, ask! A good host isn’t shy about asking for help making drinks, taking out the trash or talking to the awkward stranger before dinner. Your efforts will not go unnoticed, believe me.
BE HONEST. If you are allergic to dogs, you can’t ski or play tennis, or you have any special dietary restrictions, the time to tell your Host is when you are invited (not once you’ve arrived). Then deal with it proactively. Take your allergy medicine, bring a good book to read or a lentil loaf to share so you don't overburden your Host with planning special activities or menus.
BEHAVE. The old adage of NO POLITICS, RELIGION or SEX at the table is probably still good advice. Unless you are 100% certain about everyone's views on any of those topics, better to steer clear. Also, put your phone away, keep your children under control and don't fight with your spouse at the table. That's what bathrooms are for! Also, don't try and seduce another guest while you are there. It's creepy (especially if you get caught). Just exchange numbers on the D/L and arrange to meet up again later. Seriously Tiger, keep it in your pants!
ACT LIKE YOUR HOSTS. If they are up-at-the-crack-of-dawn types, staying in bed until noon and coming down to lunch in your PJs is probably a bad idea. Likewise, if they aren’t morning people, banging around the kitchen looking for coffee before dawn isn’t a good idea, either. Try and match their style within reason.
HAVE FUN. The best guests (like the best hosts) enjoy the dance and have fun. They are relaxed, but not too relaxed, they participate and bring something to the table both literally and figuratively. Learn a few good jokes to tell, offer to help make lunch, walk the dogs or take the kids for a swim. Play cards with Grandma. That sort of thing. But have fun doing it! Just not too much fun…
LEAVE. The best guests know when to bounce. If your hosts have gone to bed and you are still downstairs drinking, you've stayed too long (unless you're staying overnight). Seasoned hosts will straight up tell you when it's time to go, or signal when it's time to go by clearing up, asking if they can get you "anything else" and lowering lights, turning down the music etc. Say your thank-yous and beat it. A follow-up thank-you note is always a good idea.
This seems like a lot to remember on the surface, but if you can just remember to put yourself in the place of your hosts and act the way you’d like people to behave in your house…maybe a bit better. Stick to that Golden Rule and you're guaranteed to be asked back again.
Have fun out there!