You’re GROWN. This is proven, in part, by the dinner parties you and your friends have started to throw. They’re real ones, with invitations and seating above the floor.
The frequency of these events has increased recently, since it’s holiday — celebration! — season, so it’s time to up your guest game. You want to be invited over again, right?
Here are some guest rules that I’ve come up with, as well as some answers to the Internet’s questions. (I asked my Facebook friends — and their friends — what they wanted to know about being good holiday guests. Because I’m grown, too.)
Offer to bring something: But do this once. If your host asks you to bring something specific, great! If it requires cooking or prepping, either do this at home or work out any needed oven or counter space with your host in advance. If he or she doesn’t request anything specific, then don’t keep asking. You’re an adult, remember? Bring a bottle of wine. Or better yet, bring a treat for the host to enjoy once everyone has left. (Someone once brought me a decadent pint of ice cream with a bow tied around it and a note that read, “For you only.” I smiled and promptly put it in the freezer. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be appreciated!)
But don’t bring your kids: Unless it’s been made clear by your host that this is a kid-friendly situation, it’s not. So don’t bring yours. Don’t even ask. If you accept the invitation, then find a sitter. If you can’t find a sitter, then don’t accept.
Don’t cancel last-minute: If you can’t cancel more than two days from the party, then don’t bail — unless you have a very good reason (an illness, a death in the family, etc.). Leave your host enough time to either invite someone to take your place or shift the menu according to the newer, shorter guest list.
But if you must, apologize: Not in a way that shows you’re looking for forgiveness, but in a way that shows you realize the last-minute change was a nuisance for the host. Send a note and a little gift. (Little! Like a candle or a tea towel. With the latter, you could make a joke: “For my future use, when I’m on dish duty.”)
Arrive on time: Serving a hot meal to a group of people takes planning. Arrive at the time your host asked you to arrive. If you’re early, stroll around the block until the clock strikes Party Time. If you’re late…don’t be late.
Offer to help: But do this once. It’s a lovely gesture, and it will be appreciated, but if if your host refuses, please listen. If you keep asking, that says more about your needs than your wanting to relieve your host of something.
Follow your host’s lead: In my house, no topic of conversation is inappropriate. That’s certainly not the case in every house, though. You likely know your host well enough to have a sense of what might be off-limits. If you don’t, you can test the waters, but pay attention to his or her reactions and modify from there.
Leave on time: Usually, the person hosting the shindig will send a signal that things are coming to an end. Maybe she mentions an early wake-up time the next morning. Maybe he straight-up starts washing dishes. I pass out a guest book.
If you’re sleeping over: If your host is amenable, offer to make breakfast for the household in the morning. This allows him or her to sleep in after last night’s heavy lifting. If your host would rather you didn’t, then wait until you hear some movement in the house before you exit your bedroom. This should be done after you’ve stripped the bed and balled any dirty sheets and towels at the foot of it.
Say thank you: Leave a thank-you note and maybe a small token of your appreciation on the bedside table of the guest room. Your host will be pleasantly surprised to find it when he or she is cleaning up after you’ve left. If you weren’t an overnighter, still write a note (with your hands, on paper) and plop it in a mailbox. There’s nothing like getting a piece of mail that’s not a bill these days.