10 Ways to Be a Better Guest (or, How to Get Invited Back)

December 16, 2015

Dream guests are made of this: Arrive punctually, be a conversationalist, and ask if anyone would like the last piece before you take it. A few more tips for being the most gracious guest you can be (without worrying about it too much):

Photo by Bobbi Lin

1. RSVP toute de suite (specifically, within 3 days of receiving your invitation).

2. If the invitation doesn't say "and guest" and it's to a large party, it's ok to ask the hostess beforehand if you are allowed to bring a plus-one. But for seated dinners, weddings, and anything requiring a reservation or tickets, the awkwardness it would cause your hostess to accommodate your friend outweighs any it causes for you to show up alone—don't do it.

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3. Don't show up early or, for a sit-down or time-sensitive event, arrive more than fifteen minutes late.

4. Come with a hearty appetite and a rested soul. Send your thank-you gift, though, either before the party or the day after. A bottle of her favorite spirit or wine, flowers already in a vase, the host's favorite candle, an object of conversation from the night before, or a heartfelt thank you note are tried and true winners.

More: A few DIY ways to thank your host without taking a bottle of wine every time.

5. Arrive festively well-dressed. If you're not in the mood to get dressed up, put on a pair of nicer shoes with whatever you have on—that combination works anywhere, anytime, any place.

6. Put your cell phone away immediately. (But you knew this).

7. If you're wearing lipstick, blot it on a piece of tissue before you leave half-moon marks on the glasses and smudges on the cloth napkins.

8. Don't arrive at a loss for words. Read the paper or a news website—you can't go wrong with the New York Times (or Food52!)—and come armed with a few conversation starters. But don¹t feel compelled to channel Oscar Wilde.

9. Talk to the person on your left and on your right. Listen thoughtfully and ask questions (and keep in mind that jumping into someone else's conversation only works if you're sitting directly next to them).

10. Be the first to make a toast and the last to say goodnight.

How have your guests made good impressions on you over the years? Share your favorite says to say thanks! in the comments.

Jen Ford is the Editorial Director at Kate Spade, whose new book All in Good Taste is on shelves now.

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Jen Ford

Written by: Jen Ford

Jen Ford is the Editorial Director at kate spade new york and author of All in Good Taste, the brand's New York Times best-selling book on entertaining, wining and dining, manners and style in the 21st century. A graduate of the Central Saint Martins MA Fashion Journalism program, she was previously the Fashion News & Features Director at Lucky magazine, fashion features editor at Harper's Bazaar (heralding in its "entertaining with style" pages) and Wallpaper* magazine. Her work‹on topics ranging from evolving retail landscapes to the true cultural significance of "sex and the city”—has appeared in American Vogue, British Vogue, The New York Times, Financial Times,Time, and Elle. She’s a New Yorker by way of Seattle, Chengdu and London whose fondest memories always involve snippets of inspired conversations and thoughtful gestures. She has a "all dressed up and everywhere to go" personality that's at dire odds with a desire to stay in, watch french new wave films and eat takeout on fine china. She also has four fondue pots (all gifts), glassware for 50 ("just in case"), and can be spotted from anywhere in a crowded cocktail party by the black bow in her hair and swipe of red lipstick.


maria A. January 31, 2016
Some guests like to help. I think it is very nice and sometimes is welcome. But if the help offer is declined by the hostess I think a good guest should step back and simply be a guest and not get in a way.

Another very important quality of a good guest is ability to listen. Some people talk non stop leaving room for no one else. That quickly becomes exhaustion by and boring for others.
Jan B. January 31, 2016
I was one of the guests who always brought flowers not in a vase. Then one of my guests showed up with beautiful flowers not in a vase. Nice but a pain. It is almost impossible to take the time to find a vase and prepare the arrangement while greeting other arriving guests. Now if I bring flowers, they are already arranged in a vase.
bookjunky December 20, 2015
Wish I could share this with all my guests. Seems like it would be common sense.