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7 Tips to Be the Perfect Guest

Updated: May 3, 2021

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When attending a party, there are certain expectations we have of our hostess. We appreciate everything she has done, but we do assume there will be food, drinks, a clean bathroom, and a home that does not smell like the local pet store. What some people forget is there are also expectations of the guest. When a hostess plans a party, a great deal of time is spent deciding who she will invite. What group of friends go well together? Do the different generations get along? What personality types will enjoy interacting? When an invitation is extended it is expected those invited will elevate the atmosphere and be joyful participants in the celebration. When a guest shows up late or stands in a corner and does not mingle, this causes undo stress for the host. Listed below are a few obligations every guest should fulfill.


Within 24-48 hours of receiving the invitation, RSVP (French phrase for “please respond”) to your hostess and either accept or decline her invitation. Do not wait for the “respond by” deadline. This is printed only as a last resort. The hostess needs your answer as soon as possible.

Bring A Gift

Arrive with a hostess gift in hand.

Be On Time

If the party invitation says 7p.m., do not show up at 7:30p.m. The acceptable time to arrive is from the exact start of the party to approximately 15 minutes after the time stated on the invitation. Why does this matter? Your hostess has invited you to be a part of the atmosphere she has created. She is counting on your presence to help make the evening a success. If it is a sit-down dinner, and you are late, then she must hold the meal not only for you, but for everyone else. This can cause the food to become cold and guests to become “hangry.”

The one exception on arrival time is if you are attending an Open House. The hostess has clearly stated on the invitation that this is a come-and-go party. You may arrive at any time during the parameters stated by your hostess. Keep in mind it is polite to stay, at minimum, an hour. So, if the invitation says Open House from 7-10 p.m., arrive no later than 9p.m. One other important point…never be early! Most hostesses are putting the final touches on their event up to the very last minute. If you show up even 5 minutes early, it will likely catch her off-guard. If you are more comfortable arriving early to ensure you are on time, then park around the corner and wait in the car. Bottom line, just be on time.

Offer A Helping Hand

If you see your hostess excuse herself to work in the kitchen, offer to help. Tell her you would love to butter the rolls and put them in the oven. Or offer to pour beverages into the glasses. After the meal, help your hostess clear the table. If she refuses your aid, do not ask again. She may have a routine she likes carried out a certain way, and although your intentions are good, your assistance may cause more chaos. Offer your assistance, but if you receive a “no” then sit down and enjoy the party. What she may want most from you is peace of mind knowing you are helping entertain her other guests.


A hostess has expectations of her guests. They were invited to her home because she wanted to shower them with hospitality, but they were also hand-picked because she knew they would mingle well with those in attendance. As a guest we have the obligation to help “carry” the party. This is not a time to be shy. Walk up to different groups and introduce yourself. When I attend a party, I like to find the person in a room that is standing by themselves. I usually make them the first person I approach. One, I know they appreciate it, and two, I know this helps my hostess. If you are attending a sit-down dinner, the evening will usually begin with cocktails that last 30-45 minutes. If small talk is an area where you struggle, click the link for a great blog on conversation starters.

Do Not Overindulge On Hors d’oeuvres:

You want to enjoy the dinner, so do not fill up before the meal. You also want to make sure the other guests enjoy the delicacies. A good rule of thumb for the party goer is to take one of each type of hors d’oeuvre that is passed. The server will be back again soon, and you may help yourself to more at that time. If the food is on a buffet table take no more than two of each as you pass through the line. You may go back for seconds once everyone has had an opportunity to fill their plate. Most hostesses plan for 5 individual hors d’oeuvres for each guest, so if you take more than this, you are depleting her supply and keeping other guests from partaking.

Fun tidbit: Hors d’oeuvre is a French word meaning “outside the meal.” It is generally small enough to consume in one bite and is served from a stationary table or passed by the catering staff. It is served during cocktails before a dinner party. Appetizers are different from hors d’oeuvres. Appetizers are what is served before the main entrée while seated at a dinner table.


You were invited to be a lively part of the evening. Do not hide in a corner or exclude yourself from participating in the evening’s activities, even if it is not your favorite thing to do. If, after dinner, a game of charades takes place, participate. If the host wants to show you the car he is working on in the garage, show interest. Be a good sport and “go along” (within reason 😊).

Just as we have certain expectations when we attend a party, we also have an obligation when we are a guest. I have hosted several Murder Mystery dinner parties over the years, and those I invited have always gone above and beyond to dress in costume.

It is great fun when we can all laugh together as we move into our character roles throughout the evening. One time, though, I had a couple ignore the request for costumes and show up in street clothes. They were the last to arrive and it dampened the mood for everyone else. I did not know this couple well and their comment to me was, “We just don’t really get into dressing up.” As I have stated in other blogs, there is nothing wrong with declining an invitation to an event you just do not wish to attend. The hostess has gone to a great deal of effort to put together a wonderful evening, and if you are not prepared to fully participate, it is better for you and the hostess if you stay home. When we are a guest, we have a responsibility to be a welcome addition to the party. This is the best way to show your love and gratitude for a wonderful evening!

Together with you,

Lisa Lou


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