We always try to be a great host, but sometimes fail to think about the flip side of the coin, guest etiquette. When visiting someone's home, whether they're close family, more distant relatives, friends, colleagues it's important important to be a gracious guest. It could make all the difference between a pleasant visit, or never being invited again.
RSVP Let your host know within the specified time whether you're coming or not. If you're not sure you can make it, at least acknowledge the invitation, saying you'll let them know as soon as you can. Then do it.
Bad move Asking who else is coming
Courtesy Call Call and offer to help the host with preparations or ask if there is anything you can bring, when appropriate. If you're asked to bring something, do it without fail; your host is counting on you.
Arrive on Time Arrive right on time for a dinner party and no more than 30 minutes late for a cocktail party. Lateness, of course, is also bad, but never arrive early and surprise a host that may be making last minute preparations and not be ready for you. If you can't be on time, fine, but any more than twenty minutes late is pushing it. Never accept an invitation and then not show up just because you don't feel like going out. It is very rude!
Greet your host(s) soon after you arrive.
Dress appropriately for the style of the party or theme. Go ahead, get into it. And, I say, always, always ask for clarification of "casual attire." I've been surprised, twice now.
Gifts If the occasion calls for a gift, bring one appropriate to the occasion: it shouldn't be lavish or ostentatious.
Food and Wine is fine if you don't expect it to be eaten during the party. At least, But chocolates, cheese, or a good bottle of champagne or other wine are always welcome. I've never known a host to refuse a box of chocolates or a cake. In fact, I think "bring chocolates" warrants a permanent place among party etiquette tips.When you bring wine or any other drink make sure the host(s) like it too so not only you will enjoy it when it is on the table!
Bring flowers only if you know your host(s) will appreciate them. They may be allergic to them or they may have their own flower arrangements to match the party decor.
Conversation Smile, mingle and converse. But don't dominate all conversations; be a good listener, too. Don't leave your date alone in a corner, and don't bring your problems to the party. It's a real mood-killer. So are bad language and off-color jokes.
Be a gracious guest. Don't be a hero and insist on helping. Don't wander around the kitchen getting in everyone's way. When asked what you'd like to drink or which kind of soup you'd prefer, don't answer, "Whatever is easiest." The easiest is for you to make up your mind.
Food and Drink Eat, and especially drink, moderately. You'll only say something stupid, or spill something, or otherwise make a fool of yourself if you drink too much. (Report any spills or glass breakage right away so it can be cleaned before a stain sets in, by the way.) And no matter how much you love that one particular appetizer, don't hog it. Remember that dinner is dinner, appetizers are snacks. Eat accordingly, and don't come "starving" to a cocktail party. The food there is to share with everyone. You will look very stupid if you try to eat as much a you can.
Eat when served. It's polite to wait until everyone is served before chowing down, but if your hosts tell you not to wait — don't wait. Nothing is more ridiculous than the polite horror of being the first to eat good food.
Don't touch the TV remote. Or the music on the stereo or any other technical equipment around the house. Or ask to use the Internet. Just because you were told to make yourself at home doesn't mean you should actually do it.
Children If your young children are included in the invitation, bring them, and then watch them closely. We all remember the times children have pulled dishes off the buffet table, run their fingers through the cake, opened the doors thy were not suppose to open and sneezed all over the food at parties we've hosted. I can tell you, your host and/or hostess do not have time to baby-sit for you. Please watch your children so they do not damage anything inside your host's house - it is your responsibility as a parent to do so.
Offer timely help. If you notice your hosts are frantic — like, say, running out of the kitchen with two arms full of scalding hot plates that are about to come crashing to the floor — by all means, help out. The same rule also holds true for spills. Feel free to jump into action immediately. Just don't use your nice linen napkin.
Clean up Offer to help clean up toward the end of the party. Your host may very well decline as there might be some house rules on cleaning that you do not know.
Leave at a reasonable time. Don't be the last, or at least, don't leave long after the next-to-last guest. (I guess someone has to be last.) We have an old joke around our house that goes, "Let's go to bed, honey. These people want to go home." Here are some good signs it's time to go: They've run out of booze, the host is yawning, consulting his watch, bickering with their spouse in the kitchen, people are milling around the door, or it's dawn. Then, be quick about it: Grab your things, thank the host, smile, turn heels, and leave.
Say Thank You You've done everything correct up until now: brought a gift, greeted the host, talked to the other guests, eaten a fine meal, left in a graceful manner... Now grab a piece of paper and a pen and write a quick, hand-written thank you note, including one detail from the evening to prove you were actually there. Also, return the courtesy and invite your host(s) to a party of your own, or a barbecue, or out to dinner or just over for dessert. They'll appreciate it.
Try not to be the object of your friends' party horror stories :o)