After years of entertaining in my own home and creating all sorts of parties for my clients, I have had a rare opportunity to observe the very best and worst of people’s party behavior. So I have created ‘The Rules.’ A list of the important things every guest should know before they reach the front door of their host’s home.
These do’s and don’ts (mostly don’ts!) are meant to act as a gentle reminder that being a guest at a party is a special privilege. And with that privilege comes a responsibility to be courteous, polite and gracious.
The Rules: How to be a Guest. Don’ts:
Do not bring flowers. EVER. Finding vases at the last minute are a hassle for a host that is busy with last minute details. And your host has already thought about flowers and a color scheme that will probably conflict with the bright orange roses you bought at the convenience store. A potted plant or orchid is fine. Wine & Champagne - Not the best gift. Unless it really reflects who you are or is a particularly special wine. But you must tell your host it is for them to enjoy at another time. They have already planned what wine will be served and you don’t want a host to feel obligated to use yours that evening.
Do not bring food. Not even cookies. You are a guest at a dinner party where there is food being served. Do I need to explain any further??
Food Allergies & Diet Restrictions. Keep them to yourself. You will not starve - enjoy what you CAN eat without making a scene or making it all about you.
Bar Etiquette. After you are served a drink, step away from the bar. There are many people waiting while you stand and chat with your friends. And for goodness sake - if you see someone cleaning up and carrying plates and glassware - try to stay out of their path. Do not ever ask for a drink that is not offered. No one should have to find you sugar free cranberry juice or Pinot Grigio even if it is YOUR signature drink.
Buffet Etiquette: Move quickly through a buffet line, knowing that there are people waiting. Move as far away from the buffet as possible after being served to allow others to circulate near the table. Never eat food while standing at or near the buffet. Do not return to the buffet for more food until all guests have been served.
Bathroom Etiquette: Don't make a mess. Always flush the toilet and put the the entire seat-cover down. Leave the bathroom spotless. If paper or soap needs replenishing - replace it if you can. If waste basket is overflowing - take the initiative to empty it or inform your host quietly that the bathroom needs attention. Never flush anything but bathroom tissue - most homes have sensitive septic tanks that can not accommodate paper hand towels or sanitary napkins.
Do not talk on your cell phone or check your messages in front of anyone. If there is an emergency or situation that requires you to check in - do it privately in a bedroom or outside.
Do not, EVER, bring an unexpected guest, child or pet. Do not even ASK to bring your pet! Never arrive early. NEVER!
RSVP as early as possible. Don’t assume your host knows you are coming just because you are their best friend. Always put your name on a gift. Always offer to help. Pass hors d’oeuvres, pick things up etc. Offer to introduce guests to one another. Offer to help wash glasses or serve.
It is always nice to arrive with something for your host. But what are the options if wine, flowers and food are against the ‘rules’? Here are some suggestions: Artisanal candles or soaps. Chocolates (but always tell your host it is for them AFTER the guests leave and not meant to be shared). An orchid or small potted herb or plant, homemade or artisanal jam, a jar of French Sea Salt, Local Honey or Maple Syrup, an interesting tea. A dozen local farm eggs in a basket. A box of beautiful note cards. A wonderful bottle of olive oil. Please remember, gifts that have a personal connection - that mean something special to either you or your host, are always the best! Always send a handwritten thank you note to your host, even if it is someone you speak with all the time.