Photo Annie Lebowitz for Vogue
There are LOTS of articles about preparing for guests and cute ideas for hostess gifts out there this time of year, but very little useful information on the art of being a Good Guest.
Successful entertaining relies on a carefully choreographed little dance that we all do, whether we admit it or not. Admittedly, some people are just naturally better at it than the rest of us. But, I’d argue that like dancing, the entertaining gene can be mastered with patience and practice and a strong desire will to learn. A lot of you might be traveling this week, so to that end, we’ve compiled our top tips for HOW TO BE A GOOD GUEST.
1. RSVP (the right way). You’ve been asked to a party…yay! The best thing you can do is to check your calendar immediately, 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.
2. 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 will always be nice, but if they don’t drink (first of all…why are you going)? JK! A scented candle or nice soap for the bathroom always goes down as a treat. The idea here is if you don’t know their taste and even if you think you do, don’t buy them a piece of art or a sweater. Stick to consumables, especially those that come in handy at a party.
* 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. Bring flowers in a vase, or better yet, a plant or orchid in a pot.
3. 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 totally independent. If you don’t know your hosts well, ask! A good host isn’t shy about asking for help making drinks, collecting late arrivals from the train station, taking out the trash or talking to a slightly deaf Aunt before dinner. Your efforts will not go unnoticed, believe me.
4. BE HONEST. If you are allergic to fish or 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. Also, deal with it proactively. Bring your allergy medicine, a good book to read or a lentil loaf to share so you don’t overburden your Host with special planning or menus.
5. 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 in company. 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!
6. 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 house at the crack of dawn isn’t a good idea, either. Try and match their style within reason.
7. HAVE FUN. The best guests (like the best hosts) actually 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 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…
8. LEAVE. The best guests know when to bounce. If your hosts have gone up to bed and you are still downstairs drinking, you’ve stayed too long (unless you’re staying overnight). Good Hosts will straight up tell you when it’s time to go, or clearly signal when it’s time to go by clearing up, asking if they can get you “anything else” and lowering lights + 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 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.