Some people can entertain graciously or be an enthusiastic guest effortlessly. For others, the thought of throwing a party or stepping into a room full of strangers makes them quake in their high heels. I’m one of those people who thinks of invitations as a blessing and a curse. Sure, I want to be invited to parties and hang out with my friends, but I also hate feeling lonely in a room full of associates or people I barely know. I can’t be the only one who feels like she’s expected to perform when she’s a guest at a party. I used to feel that entertaining at home was too much work on my day off, so I haven’t had a party in more than two years. But it’s the summer and we’re still in a recession, so it’s time to get to entertaining. Whether you’re a host or a guest, here’s the etiquette to ensure you have a night to remember … positively!Sending Invitations
- Plan your guest list carefully. Don’t invite archenemies without telling them the other one is invited when they RSVP.
- Be specific in your invitation. Tell your guests the dress code and who specifically is invited. Can your friend bring a guest or her children? Is it a casual affair or a formal cocktail party? Also spell out how you expect them to RSVP.
- Consider the season. If you’re planning an event around the holidays, then you need to send invitations at least four to six weeks ahead of time because people’s schedules fill up fast around this time.
Answering An Invitation
- An RSVP means you must respond to the invitation because your host needs a count of who will attend.
- It’s polite to respond within one or two days of receiving an invitation.
- You may reply in the manner given on the invitation. This might include a response card, phone number, or email. If the invitation says “regrets only,” that means reply only if you can’t attend. But remember, no response means you are attending, in this instance.
- It’s OK to change your “no” to a “yes” only if you’ve checked with your host first. Your new reply might upset her arrangements.
- You may only change your “yes” to a “no” in a few instances — illness or injury, a death in the family, or an unavoidable business or professional conflict. You must call your host immediately once you know you can’t attend.
- This should be common sense, but you can’t cancel because something “better” came up — that is unless you want to alienate friends or get dropped from all guest lists.
- Likewise, being a “no show” is unacceptable.
- It’s extremely rude to ask to bring someone if it’s not stated on the invitation. The invitation will state whether a date, guest, or children are also invited. If a house guest will be visiting during the event, then decline the invitation and tell your host the reason. This would give her the opportunity to extend the invitation to your guest.
- Be sure to mention a food allergy when you RSVP.
- But if you have a dietary preference or restriction, then mention it to your host and offer to bring a dish to share only if it’s a small gathering. If you’re invited to a large party or buffet, then you must make do with the food that is available. On one of those cleanses? Guzzle your kale juice at home.
- And after all is said and done, thank your host before you leave the event and again by phone or note the next day.
Entertaining At Home
- Guests are key to a successful party, but so is early planning. Do as much of the preparation as you can ahead of time. This includes decorating, cleaning, and getting yourself ready. Your guests expect you to greet them at the door, not hollering from the shower as they let themselves in.
- Preparing food and refreshments that you know will work for everyone, even those with food allergies or dietary restrictions, will lower your stress level.
- Keep the festivities as simple as possible, but get help if you need it. Your guests will feel more comfortable if they don’t see you sweating or huffing and puffing.
- Don’t let your interaction with your guests stop at the warm greeting. Try to make them feel welcome throughout the party. If someone is standing alone, then fix the situation.
- Be flexible. If you’re not sure a food item will turn out well, then have a backup plan.
- Be gracious. Yes, it’s rude for someone to bring an unexpected guest, but a polite host would never kick an uninvited guest out the door. Smile and curse them silently.
- Thank your guests for coming as they leave and thank those who brought a gift in writing.
Being A Good Guest
- Respond to the host’s invitation even if no RSVP has been requested.
- Be punctual. Arrive on time or no more than 15 minutes after the time stated in the invitation. Don’t, however, arrive early.
- Participate willingly. Sit at the table when your host says dinner is ready. Play her games enthusiastically. Basically, accept graciously no matter how you really feel about the activity.
- If your host is still in the kitchen while you’re visiting, then ask to help, but be specific about whichever task, i.e. “Can I help you set the table?” Towards the end of the party, you may also offer to help cleanup.
- Don’t eat as if you haven’t eaten in days. You will attract negative attention and will leave less food for others. Also, don’t fix yourself a plate of seconds if everyone else hasn’t finished their first plate of food. And no one wants to be the that guest at the party, so keep alcohol consumption to a moderate to low level.
- Thank your host when you leave the party and again the next day. If the party was formal, then send a written thank you, which will also be appreciated even if it was a casual affair.