How to be Most Gracious When Entertaining Guests or an Invited Guest

Tip # 1 — RSVP ASAP
Don’t keep the host or hostess hanging. A gracious guest always responds to an invitation as soon as possible. Creating a perfect soiree requires weeks of planning. A host needs an accurate head count in order to plan and shop accordingly, so—snap to it. Make it a priority to RSVP ASAP.

Tip # 2 — Bring a Gift
A gracious guest always brings a gift. If you know the menu ahead of time—select a wine that works well with the dinner entrée. If you don’t know what’s on the menu, just bring something good. If your host or hostess is a teetotaler do not (for heaven’s sake) bring wine. Opt to have flowers sent (see below) or bring an interesting culinary item such as black truffle infused olive oil. Dessert is usually a safe choice but always check with the host first. Showing up with a box of petit fours may slightly annoy the host who spent hours in the kitchen preparing Aunt Mable’s famous twelve layer coconut cream cake.

Tip # 3—Call the Florist
Flowers, though a lovely thought, are incredibly inconvenient for the host or hostess. Better to send flowers the day of the party. Attach a note that says, “Looking forward to seeing you this evening.” The host will appreciate your thoughtfulness and you’ll save an already stressed-out host the annoyance of having to stop in the middle of guest greeting to find a suitable vase and stem cutters. If you prefer to bring your own bouquet—make sure that the stems are already cut, soaking in water, and in an appropriate vase.

Tip # 4 — Be All That You Can Be
A gracious guest always brings his or her personality. Be cheerful. Don’t show up tired and crabby from a busy work day. If you’re tired—do what you must to perk up prior to party time. It’s also important to MINGLE! MINGLE! MINGLE! Don’t skulk away to the nearest corner with your best friend. The intention of a party is to bring like-minded folks together to talk and get to know each other. Bring every once of your charm and charisma. Your host will especially appreciate your energy and enthusiasm.

Tip # 5—Try Something New
So, you normally don’t eat alligator ravioli. Be bold. Be adventurous. Try something new. Don’t turn down a menu item that your host has spent a lot of time and effort preparing (unless, of course you’re allergic to alligator meat). Get into the party spirit. Your host will adore the fact that he/she was able to coax you from your comfort zone. And, by the way, always be complimentary. Even if you find the alligator ravioli revolting—don’t say, “I find this alligator ravioli revolting.” Instead, simply say, “This might not be my favorite dish, but I’m glad I tried it.” Besides, unless it’s your birthday, the intention of the party is not to prepare all of your favorite foods.

Tip # 6 ― No Self-Guided Tours
A gracious guest never wanders off for a self-guided tour of the home. If the host or hostess would like to give you the “nickel tour” that’s entirely his or her call. It’s simply tacky to ask if you can “see the rest of the house.” Hosting a party takes a lot of energy. Don’t pull the host away from his or her party tasks so you can have your very own private tour. Unless otherwise invited by the host or hostess please stay put.

Tip # 7 ― Ask Before Smoking
If you must smoke ask your host if there is a designated smoking area (do not ask, by the way, presumptively with your cigarette and Zippo in hand). If there is a designated smoking area limit smoking to that area only. If, upon asking whether or not there is a smoking area, your host or hostess hesitates even slightly do not force the issue. Instead, pop a piece of Nicorette gum in your mouth and do your smoking later.

Tip # 8 ― Pay Attention to Social Cues
If the host yawns and stretches, be the first to say, “Wow! Time has really flown. Let’s all get out of here before we turn into pumpkins.” The host will appreciate your sensitivity. Also, pay attention to whether or not the host would like some kitchen or clean-up assistance. Sometimes “helping” gets in the way of the host’s or hostess’s flow. Other times, the host really could use an extra set of hands. If greasy dishes are stacked to the ceiling—it’s a pretty clear indication that it’s time for you to don an apron and a set of rubber gloves.

Tip #9—Say “Thank you” Twice
There are two ways that you must say “thank you” to your host or hostess. First of all, at the end of the evening you must verbally, sincerely, thank them for a wonderful evening. Second, within a week a handwritten thank you note must land in the host’s or hostess’s mailbox. An electronic E-Card is simply not acceptable. Hours were spent organizing, planning, and preparing a special evening—sending an electronic “thank you” minimizes that effort. A hand-picked thank you card with a heartfelt note sent through the good ole’ U.S. Postal Service is the most meaningful and appropriate way of showing appreciation.

Tip # 10 ― 911 Etiquette
If you have an on-the-spot emergency etiquette question here’s a convenient rule of thumb. If you’re in a quandary about a particular party behavior ask yourself “If I were the host how would I like my guest to behave?” This kind of empathy can clarify most party etiquette predicaments. Also if your question begins with “Would it upset the host if I…?” better to err on the side of caution and don’t, for example, jump into the pool with your clothes on (or off for that matter). As that party animal Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Better to be safe than sorry.”

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