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How to Be a Good Party Guest

Between birthdays, retirement celebrations, kids’ parties, anniversaries and holidays, we all go to a lot of parties.  Maybe you’re more of a guest than a host.  Whether out of obligation, or out of a sense of fun, if you’re a frequent party-goer, follow these tips to be a great guest.  (Unless you’re tired of being invited.  Then, you can act like a three year old with a tantrum at your next outing. You won’t get many invitations then!)

NEVER arrive early (unless asked)

If you are dropping a child off at a birthday party, arrive on time.  If you’re heading to a cocktail party, arrive at least 15 minutes after the published start time.  The hostess is probably running around taking care of last minute preparations.  Arriving early could stress her out.

A Word about Host or Hostess Gifts

Try to bring something that the host can use, but does not have to immediately attend to.  If you bring flowers, bring a small potted plant, or flowers that are already in a vase.  Even a cheap vase.  Or, are at least in water.  That way, the hostess doesn’t have to stop what she’s doing, or stop greeting guests to deal with flowers.

If you bring a bottle of wine, unless you’ve been specifically asked to bring wine to consume, and you’re wine is a GIFT, don’t bring it chilled, and don’t expect to drink it at the party.  And, for goodness sake, if you presented it as a GIFT, don’t open it at the party!   You don’t have to bring a gift, but it is a nice touch, especially if you haven’t been to the host’s house for several months.

Dietary Restrictions

If you have special dietary needs, or expectations, bring a dish to share that you can eat yourself.

I try to be aware of my friends’ needs and preferences.  But, sometimes, it is impossible to accommodate everyone.  Sometimes I forget to have Coke on hand, even though my best friend’s sweetie drinks it at parties.  Sometimes, I don’t have much vegetarian food, even though a couple of my friends are vegetarian.  For the most part, everyone survives.

It is my feeling that if you have special dietary needs, preferences, or expectations of a certain food or drink, or serving utensil – anything – bring it with you.  Or, live without it for a couple of hours.  The point of a party is to get together and enjoy everyone’s company.  It isn’t to eat and drink, or, (heaven forbid), complain.

I’ve had friends bring their own wine glasses (we usually use 8 oz clear plastic cups), beer, three side dishes to share, wine, coke, and pets.  (I have a pet-friendly policy.)  They’ve brought chairs (usually, because we ask them to), cigars, ash trays, Tupperware full of cut up limes, and a gin and tonic cup.  More power to them.  It doesn’t bother me.  They’re happy, because they have their glass/cup/cigar/lime/dog, and I’m happy because I didn’t have to worry about all that.

If you bring a dish or drink that requires specific glasses or serving utensils, bring those along.  A guest has showed up at my house with sparkling wine before and expected me to open the bottle, and pull out a dozen champagne flutes.  (I don’t have a dozen champagne flutes.  I have one that isn’t cracked, and one that is.)

Offer to clean up, but stay out of the way if refused

Some hostesses like people to help clean up.  The guests at my Thanksgiving dinner did ALL of the dishes.  That was really nice of them.  And, I let them.  But, sometimes, I’d prefer to clean up myself.  It is polite to offer to help clean up, and polite to respect the hostess’ wishes if she says “No, thank you.”

Don’t Linger

If everyone else is gone, you probably need to leave, too.  (With the exception of a sporting event watching party.  We finished watching the Super Bowl this year with one “family” left.  That was cool.  You have to let people stay to the end if you’re showing a movie or watching the game.)  Throwing a party is a LOT of work.  While the host or hostess probably enjoys it, he or she is also happy when everyone is gone!

Be Gracious

A party’s supposed to be fun, not torture.  I’m a firm believer that if you don’t want to go, don’t go.  It doesn’t matter if it is a birthday party, a wedding party or a funeral.  If you aren’t in a good mood, or would rather stay home, you SHOULD stay home.  I’d rather you not BE at my party, than be grouchy at my party.

Anyone can survive anything for an hour or so.  If you feel you must go, smile, chit chat, say “thank you” to the host, and take your leave.  Don’t make a big deal out of it, or apologize.  If you were pleasant, your host is glad you came.  If you take your leave gracefully, nobody will notice.

Have fun! Meet someone new!

Enjoy the preparations of your hostess, meet other guests, network, and expand your horizons.  Have fun.  What else are parties for?