Should you ask your guests to bring something? How do you keep people out of the kitchen? How do you serve everything at the right temp? Feel like you've forgotten how to be a good host? (Same.) In our latest series, Be My Guest, a friendly expert takes on questions from our community and deftly puts fears to rest, suggesting all the ways in which we can all get back to hosting safely—and confidently. It is (almost) the holidays after all!
One of my greatest, most embarrassing desires in life is to be well-liked, and one of my greatest fears is that the people I revere the most detest me. I have been told this isn’t the case (yet!), but I’ve also developed some opinions on how to be the sort of guest people want to have around. I have distilled them into four rules.
- Have fun.
- Ask people questions about themselves. When they answer, listen.
- Arrive with one piece of juicy gossip.
- Don’t get too drunk. If you do, send flowers.
As my mother always told me, in order to have a good friend, you need to be a good friend. She also has an excellent collection of eccentric coats—another great way to receive compliments and garner intrigue at a party. But there are, of course, more specific concerns regarding being a good guest—so let’s get into some of your questions.
If you have dietary restrictions or allergies, give your host plenty of heads-up—that is, tell them as soon as you decide to attend—and offer to bring a dish that you can eat. If they’re a good host, they won’t let you, but they’ll be grateful that you offered to make their life a little easier. A quick text like the below will suffice:
Hi AJ, thanks so much for inviting me! I’d love to come. One quick note: I’m vegan these days, but I don’t want you to have to change your menu on my account. I’m happy to bring something that I can eat, just let me know what you’d prefer. I’ll be sure to bring some wine, too.
As far as “preferences” go: Picky eaters should try to minimize their own fussing. If you’re worried that you won’t like anything at dinner, snack beforehand and sit next to someone who will eat your scraps to save you from seeming rude. Nothing is more impolite than a wasted meal.
A quick call, text, or email to ask your host if you can bring anything will suffice. Follow the directions you’re given, and if they assure you that you need not bring anything, it’s your duty to take them at your word. If you despise showing up empty-handed, bring a small but un-showy housewarming gift (like a pair of candles, or a beautiful tea towel, or unique mug).
Now, maybe your host tells you that you can bring something if you want to. If you do want to, some fail-safe carry-along options are Martha’s Mac and Cheese, a dressed-up green bean casserole, a soba noodle salad, or these irresistible PB&J Brownies. And If you’re bringing something in a cooking dish that you’d like to carry home with you, it’s always thoughtful to BYO-reusable storage, so you can deal with your own leftovers without rudely carrying out half a casserole when the party is over.
Unless you have a babysitter to pay, you must stay until dinner is over and dessert has been served. Wait at least ten minutes after everyone has finished eating, so you don’t appear to have dined and dashed. But if you’re tired, or antsy, or feeling antisocial, leaving when you want to will be a more socially appropriate choice than staying and harshing the vibe. Just send a graceful thank-you text in the morning to your host, to remind them how much you enjoyed yourself.
If you’re worried about staying too late, watch your host: if they’re starting to tidy up, turning down the music, turning up the lights, yawning, or looking longingly towards the bedroom, start packing up. You’ll set a good example for the other guests. And if you’re desperate to continue the party, start a little parade to the nearest bar—your host will thank you as they drift off to a peaceful sleep.
What was your biggest rookie mistake as a guest? Spill the beans in the comments below.