With the holidays just around the corner, party season will be in full swing before you know it. Whether you enjoy partaking in big bashes or prefer the comforts and joys of smaller home gatherings, it’s always a good idea to brush up on manners before attending the next get-together. Below, we outline 10 party etiquette dos and don’ts for hosts and guests at celebrations large and small.
1. Remember to RSVP
Whether it’s an email invite to a casual cocktail party, or a printed invitation to a formal dinner, it’s important to RSVP as soon as possible. Your host likely needs accurate numbers to prepare food and drinks, and for sit-down meals. An empty seat means they could have invited someone else. If the invitation doesn’t specifically tell you to bring a guest, don’t ask. Your host would have offered if they wanted to invite your date.
2. Bring a Host Gift
Show your host a little extra appreciation, especially if they’ve invited you to their home. The classic choices are a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of wine. However, don’t be afraid to get creative, especially around the holidays. A festive candle would do the trick, as would anything homemade. Who wouldn’t enjoy a mason jar filled with homemade granola for breakfast the morning after a party?
3. Be Punctual
As anyone who has ever hosted a party can confirm, the best guests are those who arrive on time. Try not to arrive more than 15 minutes late, especially if it’s a sit-down meal, but whatever you do, don’t arrive early. There’s a good chance your host will be prepping food, drinks, ambiance, and décor right up to the last minute. It’s awkward and annoying when a guest arrives before the party is ready.
4. Be a Good Guest—and Host
Be a polite guest and always offer to help your host. They’ll likely decline, but it’s always appreciated when a guest refills empty ice trays, opens bottles of wine, or even helps clear dishes off the dinner table. As a host, try to prepare as many things you know you’ll need for the party ahead of time, so you can be with your guests. If you’re hosting a meal, choose dishes that are easy and can be made ahead of time, so you don’t spend most of the party in the kitchen.
5. Mingle with Strangers
This point is particularly important if you arrive at a party with a date: make an effort to talk to other guests. If you’re hosting a dinner, assigned seats work well to mix up talkative guests with quieter ones.
6. Be Present
You might be addicted to checking your social media accounts every hour, or find another party guest to be a real snooze, but that’s no excuse to check your phone. Cell phones should be left off the dinner table. Ringtones, vibrations, and even lit up screens often interrupt conversations happening in real life. In fact, a good policy is to leave your phone—on silent mode—in a bag or jacket pocket, so it’s not distracting. If you must be available for an important call or text, switch the ringer off and excuse yourself from other guests when answering your phone.
7. Get Toasty
At the start of any meal, it’s polite to wait until every guest has been served food and drink prior to digging in. And before you lift a fork, it’s customary to raise glasses and says, “Cheers!” When it comes to toasting, be sure to make eye contact with whoever clinks your glass. It’s unnecessary to actually touch glasses with everyone, especially at a large table, but lifting your glass with a smile or a nod will do. If you’re asked to provide a longer toast or give a speech at the start of a meal, it’s best to keep it short and sweet. Everyone’s hungry!
8. Engage in Table Talk
Sit-down meals can often feel more intimidating than cocktail parties. Your every move is likely noticed, and you’re essentially stuck chatting with those around you. A good rule of thumb is to listen as much as you talk. A good conversationalist asks thoughtful questions and allows everyone to take their turn answering.
9. Enjoy Yourself—Within Reason
Do not over-indulge, be it on alcohol or food. Of course your host wants you to make yourself comfortable and feel at home, but you’re still a guest at someone’s party. This means, not drinking so much alcohol to the point of becoming messy or an annoyance to other guests. Also, ensuring there’s enough food to share amongst everyone. At the end of the night, asking to take leftovers home—whether it’s unfinished dessert or open bottles of wine—looks tacky. If you truly love a dish, ask the host for the recipe.
10. Exit Graciously
It’s unnecessary to say goodbye to every guest, especially at larger gatherings. This is particularly true of cocktail parties: don’t announce your exit to everyone. It interrupts conversations, breaks the general rhythm of the party, and often makes other guests wonder if it’s time for them to leave too. In these cases, it’s perfectly acceptable to exit quietly. However, no matter the size of the party, it’s always important to thank and say bye to the host. A follow-up email or call the next day telling the host how much you enjoyed the party is always lovely too.