I recently taught etiquette classes to a group of teenagers, and part of that training included not just table etiquette, but also How To Be A Gracious Guest. In the past, I “spoke” about being a great host for overnight guests, but being a good guest at parties or as an overnight guest in someone’s home, is just as important. When people invite you into their homes, there is a certain amount of respect and courtesy that guests should extend to their hosts. In today’s more casual society, some of these courtesies are often forgotten. Three words I taught my students were CARE, RESPECT, and THANKFULNESS. Show your hosts you care about them, show them you respect them and their space, and show them you are thankful to be invited into their home.
How To Be A Gracious Guest
- RSVP before the deadline, every time. To not RSVP for an event is one of the rudest things you could do as a guest. I have taken people off invitation lists because of their continual inability to RSVP to our parties.
- Bring a gift…it is a nice “thank you” gesture to the host. Flowers, chocolates, or gourmet food items are always welcome. It is perfectly acceptable to bring a bottle of wine or food product as a host gift, but it is considered disrespectful for you to open that gift. The wine/food should truly be a gift for the host to open whenever they chose, and not necessarily during your visit.
- Do not show up unannounced. Make arrangements ahead of time, and call to confirm 24 hours before arrival.
- 98% of the time, the lady of the house will finalize all entertaining plans, so be sure to confirm all visits with her. Confirm the attire for an event. Do not come too casual or formal. Be comfortable, but stay within the dress guidelines.
- Do not abuse alcohol/drugs/cigarettes in someone’s home. What you do in your own home is your business, but when you do it at your hosts home, you may be offending them with your behavior.
- Just because you are a guest, does not mean that you should be waited on hand-and-foot. An offer to help with dishes may not be accepted, but is always appreciated.
- Teach your children at a young age how to behave in other peoples homes. Let them be children, but do not allow your children to climb all over furniture and act like “wild monkeys” in someones house. Encourage proper manners.
- If you have allergies or a food sensitivity, please let your host know, so they can try accommodate you. However, do not expect them to change the entire menu just for you, especially if there are other guests. If you are truly uncomfortable about what will be served, bring your own dish, or offer to take everyone out to dinner.
- Clean up after yourself. If you use paper plates, cups, cans of soda, etc. while at the party, throw them in the trash, do not leave them sitting out.
- Do not leave wet/dirty towels on the floor. While this may be acceptable at a hotel, it is not acceptable at a hosts house. Hang up your wet towels, or ask the host to wash them if they are soiled.
- Accidents happen. If you break, spill, or damage something, let your host know right away. If it is something of value, offer to replace it.
- Ask before taking food/beverages (including water) to a bedroom. If water is allowed, ask for a coaster or something to put the water glass on, so you do not damage their furniture. >Do not use improper language around other guests, especially children. Flush the toilet and wash your hands after using the restroom. Throw tissues and paper towels in the trash.
- Do not go into bedrooms or other areas of the house without the host’s approval.
- Do not bring uninvited guests with you. Always check with the host first.
- Do not use your hosts computer or other electronics without asking. If you use a computer without asking the host first, you could be jeopardizing sensitive business or personal materials and documents. Most hosts will not have a problem if you use a computer, but ask first!
- If you make plans during your stay (sightseeing, plans with friends) communicate these plans with your host, so they can plan around your schedule. Be flexible with your plans, however, especially if your host is providing your transportation. Sometimes hosts may have business or family commitments they cannot change during your stay. Let the host know that you are comfortable with some flexibility in your plans.
- Entertain yourself. Sometimes your host may be busy with household activities or business during your stay. Bring a good book to read to keep yourself busy, so your host does not feel that they have to entertain you every moment of your stay.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. Proper etiquette dictates that dinner guests leave within 45 minutes of dinner ending, unless an after-dinner activity is planned. Overnight guests should not stay more than 4-6 days, unless you are close family or friends.
- Do not leave without thanking the host, and write a thank you note to the host after the event.
- Be sure to return the favor. If you go to someone’s house for a party, you consider them a friend. Be sure to invite them to your parties as well. If you would not want that person at your home, do not go to their parties.
What are some of your ideas for being a gracious guest? Do you have any guest pet peeves or horror stories? Please share your thoughts in the comments area below!