Whether you’re going to a dinner, cocktail or house party, being a guest is always great fun and a good possibility to catch up with friends. However, organising such a party can be an exhausting and stressful task for your host. In order to not make their time more stressful, here are a few guidelines on how to behave as a guest at a party.
DO respond to the invitation. If it is a formal invitation that arrives by post, it will usually have a date by which you should let the host know whether you can make it or not. If such a date is missing, you should aim to respond as soon as possible. This gives the host enough time to plan their party for the right amount of people. Your host will not be mad if you can’t make it but telling them in advance will make their life much easier. Under no circumstance pretend to not have received the invitation, even if you don’t want to go, as this is disrespectful towards your host and will most likely not make you get an invitation to the next party.
DON’T cancel last minute. Unless you have an emergency or are really ill, cancelling on the day, only hours before the event is a big no go, especially if it is a dinner party. Your host will most likely already have prepared some of the food which then might go to waste because you don’t show up. Moreover, your host was probably looking forward to seeing you and cancelling would disappoint them. Even if you don’t feel like going on the day, you’ve made a committed when responding to the invitation and now you have to stick to it.
DO arrive on time. This one is also crucial when it is a dinner party, where food is being prepared for a certain time. Letting your host and the other guests wait will only shed a negative light on you, so do your best to be on time. Being fashionably late is acceptable, especially when it is a big gathering, but you should aim for no more than 15 minutes of delay.
At the same time, DON’T be too early. Arguably this is worse than arriving late. Your host is probably busy with party preparations and getting ready until the agreed time and you arriving early is disrupting their plans. You don’t want to be sitting on your own in your host’s living room, while they are getting ready upstairs. The bottom line is: be on time.
DO bring a present for your host. You can opt for the classic flowers and wine or for something more creative, the main point is that you arrive with a little something to thank your host for the invitation. Unless you know the host really well and know what they like, I would opt for basic things like wine, flowers or chocolates, which are usually liked by everyone. Your host will say that this wasn’t necessary but secretly they are happy that you brought something and it will make them feel like you truly acknowledge the work they put into that party.
DON’T forget to inform your host about dietary restrictions or allergies. Telling your host in advance will give them time to make changes to their chosen menu and it will avoid you disappointment when you can’t eat the food on the day, just because you forgot to tell your host.
DO follow the dress code if there is one. Your host might ask for fancy dress or black-tie, no matter what it is try your best to follow it. Even if you don’t like dressing up, try to make an effort and dress up a little bit, you don’t have to go full on. In the end you will seem and feel more awkward in your jeans and shirt in a crowd full of dressed up people, than the rest of them. Moreover, it is again respectful towards your host, who took the time to come up with the dress code.
DON’T complain about the food. Even if you don’t like it or notice that it is really over salted, unless the host themselves says something it is not your place to raise any complaints. You don’t have to eat up but it is only polite to eat a few bites of the food your host spent so much time preparing.
DO offer your help. Your host has been busy with preparations all day, so it would be nice if you offered to take on some of the work. Ask if they need help in the kitchen, setting the table or cleaning up, these might be easy tasks but helping with them makes a difference. Chances are that your host politely declines the offer, in which case you shouldn’t force your help on them. Either way you’ve shown that you’d be happy to help an will have made a good impression on your host
DON’T cling to your host. This concerns larger parties where you don’t necessarily sit down for a meal, such as buffet or cocktail parties. Because a lot of people are invited to these events you might only know a limited number of people or even no one at all. However, it is not your host’s duty to take care of you and you shouldn’t expect them to stay with you the entire evening. Even worse don’t force yourself on them, they are expected to mingle with all their guests and you don’t want to spoil that for them.
DO try to have fun. In case of the above described scenario, you should nevertheless try to have fun. Introduce yourself to people, in order to engage conversations and don’t stand in a corner on your own. You’re already at the party so you might as well try to make the best out of it. If you’re lucky you might even make new friends, with whom you’ll stay in touch afterwards.
DON’T get too drunk. Alcohol might help you to loosen up a bit but too much of it is never a good idea. Enjoy a drink or two but know your limits, you don’t want to end up embarrassing yourself and your host. If you are the designated driver, it is best to drink nothing at all.
DO invite your host to your next party. Even if that is not taking place for a while, returning the invitation is a nice gesture. It shows your host that you would go through the same efforts as they went through for you and is a nice way to say thank you.
DON'T bring children. Unless otherwise stated don’t bring your children, not only would the host not be prepared for them but the children themselves wouldn’t enjoy it. They would feel awkward amidst all these adults, might not like the food and get tired. If you can’t find a babysitter, ask the host if you can bring them, they might be able to arrange a different food option or make sure that the children have a room to play in, when they get tired of the adult talk.
Finally, DO know when it is time to leave and DON’T leave without saying thank you. No matter how fun a night was, it always comes to that point where everyone is tired and your host would rather go to bed. In that case don’t force your presence on them, and leave after saying thank you for the night. If you leave a larger party, a quick goodbye and thank you will do the job, you don’t have to make a scene in front of the other guests.