How To Be The Perfect Party Guest

December 16, 2022 at 1:52 p.m.
How To Be The Perfect Party Guest
How To Be The Perfect Party Guest

By Sharyn Lonsdale

This weekend I was fortunate to be invited to a holiday dinner. Our host sent a lovely email invitation that covered any question we might have, including a “What to Bring” list, and a reminder to wear our “finest holiday attire.” There was also a guest list, so we knew how many to cook for.

Our hosts made it easy for us to be “good guests.” But often when we’re invited somewhere we want to know what should I bring? What should I wear? How long should I stay? Here are some tips on how to be a guest who gets invited back year after year.

•    If you are invited to a dinner, let your host know if you have any food allergies, aversions or dietary needs in advance, optimally when you RSVP. You did RSVP, didn’t you?

•    Arrive on time. If you are invited to a formal or sit-down dinner at 6 pm, get there at 6 pm. If you are running late, inform your hosts. If it’s a buffet you have more wiggle room, but unless the host asked you to come early to help, don’t ever arrive early. If that means waiting in your car, then wait in your car.

•    Try to dress for the event. If the invitation says, “Wear your favorite holiday outfit,” then make an effort to dress for the holidays. If it’s an ugly sweater party, buy or borrow one. Your hosts would not have included it on the invitation if it didn’t matter to them. If there is no dress suggestion, then dress up. It’s a sign of respect to your host and your chance to wear something other than Florida’s uniform of shorts and flip-flops.

•    Bring what you say you’re going to bring. It’s unfair when you tell your host you’ll be bringing a chocolate cake and then you show up with asparagus. And if you tend to run late, don’t volunteer to bring an appetizer.

•    Always try and bring a dish you feel confident will be a hit. I have made something for the first time ever for a party and it went over well, but I used a trusted cookbook and left time to go to Plan B if my dish failed.

•    Always have a Plan B.

•    If your host insists you don’t need to bring anything or if you don’t have time to prepare a dish, that’s OK. But don’t arrive empty-handed. Wine, chocolates and flowers are always welcome. And be sure to attach a card. Your host might not get a chance to open your gift until after you leave.
•    Take photos and share them with your hosts. They are likely too busy to see to their guests and take pictures, and will really appreciate your effort. Just don’t share on your social media until you ask permission.
•    Offer to help twice, as in, “Can I help?” And later, “Are you sure I can’t help?” If your host refuses, you can still stack plates and throw out trash. I know when I say “No,” I mean it because I do not want anyone seeing the cyclone that hit my kitchen.

•    Know when to leave. If you know you have to leave early, tell your host in advance. If you’re hanging out late, watch your hosts for signs that they want the evening to wrap up, and of course offer to help clean before you head out.
•    Send a thank you note or email card (I like and, or if you must a text. Your host deserves an acknowledgment of their work and hospitality.
•    When you host a party, send a detailed invitation like my friends did, being as specific as possible. Don’t be afraid to tell your guest “I don’t really need a dessert” or “Can you please bring a salad?” And of course, be sure to invite everyone who has invited you to their home.

•    Finally, take advantage of after-Christmas sales. If you are invited to a friend’s party every year and you know she collects Santas, pick up a Santa for next year’s party. How happy will she be when you show up with your famous cheesecake and Santa.