You’re having the time of your life at the party, and suddenly the thought hits you—you want to make sure that you’re invited to their next wingding, too. Houseguests, whether at a party, brunch, or weekend visit, determine their own fate. There are certain things you shouldn’t do as a guest—unless, of course, you’re looking to be removed from the guest list forever.
9 Things Not to Do at Parties
- Don't Show Up Early
- Don't Forget to Bring a Hostess Gift
- Don't Bring Food
- Don't Monopolize the Conversation
- Don't Monopolize Your Host's Time
- Don't Forget to Warn the Host About Your Dietary Restrictions
- Don't Change the Music
- Don't Not Know When to Leave
- Don't Forget to Say Thank You
Put Yourself in the Host's Shoes
The first thing you should do when thinking about how to behave at a gathering is to put yourself in the host’s shoes. If you’ve ever hosted a party, you probably know how nerve-wracking the whole ordeal can be; what starts out as a fun evening with friends quickly becomes tremendously stressful the moment the idea has been put down on paper—or text—in the form of an invitation.
Usually, it’s only once you’ve pressed 'send' and start planning that you begin to realize how wrong you were about this being a fun and relaxing party (for you, the host, that is). Deciding who to invite in itself can be quite challenging; after all, who knows how your new neighbor will get along with your best friend from high school? And designing the perfect menu—a mix of the new recipes you’re dying to try out, with all the dietary restrictions of your guests—can make you wonder if you really should have sent those invitations out at all.
With that in mind, here’s a list of some of the behaviors you should avoid at a dinner party (or, in fact, any other kind of party you’re invited to).
1. Don’t Show Up Early
Unless you’re there to help, just don’t do it!
Your host has everything planned out, and that includes her timetable. She’s invited you to arrive at a specific time. Respect that. If the invitation is for seven, arriving at seven-thirty is acceptable, but try not to be too late. Some hosts are familiar with their tardy guests and will invite them for an earlier time, knowing they’ll arrive just on time.
Kill Time if Necessary
If you’re coming directly from work, or if you need to get there early in order to avoid traffic or for some other reason, keep in mind that you should wait in your car, take a walk around the block, or use the spare time to catch up on your email.
Don’t knock on that door until the time you were invited for. Your host is probably busy getting the last-minute things ready for the party or getting dressed, and if you arrive early, she’ll be forced to pay attention to you, her first guest, and won’t have time to do the last things on her checklist. Don’t forget that often hosts find themselves running late and need those last precious minutes to make sure everything is ready.
2. Don’t Forget to Bring a Hostess Gift
Nobody asks for a ‘hostess gift’, but it’s one of those things that are expected. So, if you want to be invited back, don’t turn up empty-handed. A hostess gift doesn’t have to be expensive but do put some thought into what you bring. Get something that you know your host will like or use. If you don’t know your host very well, go with the classic—flowers, but remember to bring them in a vase. You don’t want to put your host on the spot having to hunt for something to use as a vase just as all her other guests start arriving.
Tips for Finding a Good Gift
It’s easy to buy a great hostess gift; just pop into your local supermarket or even buy something online if you don’t have time to go shopping. Some great hostess gifts include – wine, which can be put on the table or kept for later, potted herbs for the garden, or an elegant tea sampler (after receiving one of these, it has become my go-to hostess gift) with different flavored teas and a gorgeous box. Another gift that I loved receiving and highly recommend is this gift box of nine natural soaps.
In a nutshell, the best hostess gifts are those that are useful but also pamper the host—something they probably wouldn’t buy for themselves.
3. Don’t Bring Food
Unless it’s a potluck meal, or you’ve been asked to—don’t bring food! This is a huge no-no.
You’ve finally perfected your chocolate soufflé and really want to show it off, but this is neither the time nor place. Ask your host a few days prior to the party if you can make anything—but if the answer is no, respect it. You can always hold your own party to show off your culinary accomplishments. Your host has spent time and effort carefully selecting the menu and preparing the food for her party, and as stunning as your delicacy is, it may not be suitable for the party—or maybe this is your host’s time to shine as a rising chef.
Bonus tip: If your offer to bring a dessert is accepted, don’t bring a salad instead. Your host will depend on that dessert.
4. Don’t Monopolize the Conversation
It’s a party, not a one-man show. Even if you’ve just come back from the holiday of your dreams or you’re ecstatic about your favorite team’s victory, the other guests don’t want to spend the whole evening listening to your stories. The same goes for politics, religion, and gossip . . . you know what I mean. Don’t forget that it's a conversation and not a monologue, let the other guests have their say, and always stay away from controversial topics.
5. Don’t Monopolize Your Host’s Time
Your host is very busy. She has to make sure that the food is ready to be served on time, the drinks are flowing, her guests are comfortable, and everything is going smoothly. She doesn’t have time for a long private conversation with you. Even if you haven’t seen your friend for a while and you’re dying for some one-on-one time with her, refrain from monopolizing her time and enjoy the evening with her and the rest of the guests. You can call her the next day to set a coffee date.
Also, don’t stand around awkwardly. You may not know anyone there—now is the time to get to know them. A good host knows this and will make the proper introductions to help you out. If you are a shy person, prepare a few topics of conversation in advance. If you just stand around awkwardly, the host will feel obliged to keep you entertained and won’t have time to do everything else she needs to do.
6. Don’t Forget to Give Your Host a Heads-Up About Dietary Restrictions
Whether you’re allergic to nuts or you just can’t stand eating a certain food, let your host know as soon as you get the invitation. You may be used to sitting around watching others eat, but it will make your host feel very uncomfortable watching you just sitting there in front of an empty plate, knowing that she could have planned the meal differently. Don’t think that letting your host know your dietary restrictions is troublesome; it will be so much more awkward if you don’t.
7. Don’t Change the Music
Your host has everything planned out. That includes the music. Don’t be that person who decides to change the playlist because they’re sure the others would prefer their taste in music. That is just rude.
8. Don’t Not Know When to Leave
It’s true that the invitation didn’t list an end time for the party, but use your common sense. If it’s a weeknight, your hosts probably have to get to work early in the morning, and even if it’s a weekend, they might have things to do, places to go, or children to take care of.
If you notice the other guests starting to leave, take it as a cue to leave too. Don’t wait until your hosts start tidying up and dropping hints that the party is over. You may be enjoying yourself, but you won’t be invited to another party if you’re that person who doesn’t know when to leave.
9. Don’t Forget to Thank Your Hosts Personally
It’s always polite to thank your hosts as you leave and then to write them a short note of thanks for the enjoyable evening the next morning. Just remember to thank your hosts personally, i.e., not as a Facebook post—they might not appreciate their other friends reading about how much you enjoyed the party that they weren’t invited to.
Enjoy the Party!
Make sure to have a great time, avoid the behaviors on this list, compliment and thank your host and you’ll be sure to find yourself invited back!
© 2018 Carol Morris
Vox on October 28, 2019:
I would say if you are going to show up early, you should be prepared to help set up the party or help greet guests. That’s always been appreciated when I am throwing a party. If not, then you’re right, don’t show up early. Great tips!
Carol Morris (author) on October 28, 2019:
jk on October 28, 2019:
Carol Morris (author) on October 14, 2019:
You would think that this is common sense but it seems that not everybody knows how to behave in these situations.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 14, 2019:
Common sense tips to which we don't usually pay attention. Thank you.