‘Tis the start of party season, with everything from baby showers to weddings, dinner parties to BBQs filling the calendar. With so many upcoming events, here’s a quick refresher on how to win the “best guest” prize with all your hosts!
When the invitation includes an RSVP date, that’s because the hostess needs a final count to determine the amount of food, place settings, activity materials, and even favours or gifts. Do them a favour and reply ASAP within a day or two. If you don’t have a clear answer, say “no” if you don’t know or you really don’t want to go. If you’re waiting to know whether you can get a babysitter or need to check if other plans are already in place, let the hostess know why you’re delaying and reply by the date listed on the invite. Don’t give vague replies like “Maybe” or “Will try” – these don’t help the hostess with planning and preparation and are about as helpful as not replying at all!
Make An Offer
Offer to bring something – food, ice, water, extra snacks – and be willing to help however she asks. That being said, if she says to “bring yourself” or declines your offer, don’t bring something anyway! If you feel compelled to contribute, see the point below for an idea that will still be appreciated!
Bring a Hostess Gift
If your visit is a regular occurrence this does not apply, but bringing a gift is a beautiful gesture of appreciation to the hostess for opening their home to you. The gift doesn‘t have to be expensive or grandiose – fresh flowers (in a vase so the hostess isn’t scrambling to find something to put them in!), monogrammed stationery, a scented candle, or even something practical like ice or beverages is enough to express your gratitude in a meaningful way (and get you invited back!).
Come at the Right Time
Never come early. Your hostess would rather have more time to prep the food, the house, or herself than to be caught off-guard with guests arriving 15 or 20 minutes early. Aim to be there within 15 minutes after the start time unless it will be a dinner party, in which case you should be there right when it starts. If you’re stuck in traffic or had work to finish, let the hostess know that you’ll be more than 15 minutes late and give her an estimated time of arrival.
Contribute to the Experience
Bring your smile. Prepare to converse by having a few interesting (but non-controversial) topics to bring up during the party. Put your phone down. Help the hostess by both asking what needs to be done and also taking initiative by tidying up garbage, refilling toilet paper, cleaning up a spill, or taking an extra platter to the buffet table. When new guests arrive, welcome and engage them so the hostess doesn’t have to make rounds of introductions.
You may be having a grand time, but don’t overstay your visit! Be considerate of the time, the toddler’s sleeping schedule, the fact it is a weekday, the end time mentioned on the invite, or whatever factors are relevant to your visit. Encouraging guests to leave can be one of the most awkward situations for a hostess, so make her life easy by wrapping things up in a timely manner. If you’re welcomed to stay longer then this doesn’t apply, but in general, most visits have an expiry time.
Followup with a thank you card or at least an email or in-person comment within a day or two of the party, thanking the hostess for opening up their home and going to all the effort they did to make the event a special one. Mention something that you enjoyed or that stood out to you to make the thanks for meaningful.