Whether the invitation you accept is from a friend, a family member, or a business associate, you have an obligation to be a good, gracious guest. But what exactly does “good” mean?
It should be obvious to avoid arriving drunk or under the influence of drugs, or starting altercations with the host or other guests. That said, stepping in to prevent other guests from causing a scene or harming others is usually appreciated.
When invited to a dinner party, it’s customary to bring the host or hostess a small gift, such as a bottle of wine, flowers, or confections like cookies or chocolates. If a lack of disposable income prevents purchasing a token of appreciation, ask the host before hand if he or she needs or wants you to bring anything instead. Most often, the host is someone that knows your financial position and wouldn’t think less of you for not bringing anything when they know you’d like to contribute where able.
Remember you’re there to socialize and enjoy the company of others. If someone looks uncomfortable or like they don’t know anyone else there, consider striking up a conversation. General topics like weather patterns, hobbies, books, and television programs tend to be safe and inclusive topics of conversation.
If you’re thinking, “Well, duh,” consider how many people take any question and politicize it these days. Consider how many take any opportunity to impose their viewpoint and proselytize to anyone who will listen, captive audience or not. And consider how disagreeable such people are to be around. Show the other guests the same courtesy you want shown to you.
Lend a hand to the host when needed, whether it is carrying food to the table or dishes to the sink after the meal. The host invited everyone to enjoy their company as well, and your assistance reduces his or her burden and allows them additional time to socialize.
Look and listen for cues to leave. Once dinner or dessert is over and conversation begins to wind down, or the host begins cleaning up around you or talking about how late it is, it’s time to take your leave. Remember to call for a ride if you’ve had one too many drinks- better safe than sorry.
There are a myriad of tips and social graces that go along with dinner and being a good guest- the ones above are just a few. For more information on dinner party etiquette, check out The National Trust’s book, “Her Ladyship’s Guide to Modern Manners” by Lucy Gray, or check out this post at The Emily Post Institute.
Learn more about etiquette in Damsel’s article “Modern Charm Schools Cultivate Class.”