When you’re invited somewhere as a guest, you really do have a role to play . You’re there to enjoy yourself, but it’s also up to you to make a positive contribution to the gathering.
Before the Party
When you get a written or e-mailed invitation, RSVP. It’s courteous to let your hosts know for meal planning, seating arrangements, and other planning purposes. You should RSVP whether your answer is yes or no. E-vites are not quite as formal as mailed invitations, nevertheless, treat them with respect and respond right away. It only takes a minute.
What to bring
Don’t arrive empty-handed. Bring along a nice little gift with you — a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, a packet of printed cocktail napkins, a little inspirational book, a basket of teas and chocolates. It’s always polite to ask “May I bring something?” if it’s a dinner party. If they say yes, ask what they’d like you to bring — meat dish, appetizer, salad, vegetable, dessert. If they say no, accept the answer with grace.
If each guest acts like it’s up to him or her to make it a party, it will be. Talk to someone who’s alone, mix and mingle, make good conversation, do your part. Introduce interesting topics of conversation — good movies you’ve seen, places you’ve visited. Asking questions is always a good conversation starter. Did you get away over the holidays? Have you read [the latest bestseller]? What hobbies do you enjoy? You’ll be the most popular person at the party if you ask good questions and listen!
Help in unobtrusive ways. Take abandoned dishes to the kitchen, pass around a plate of appetizers. If you see something that needs doing, quietly do it. If you’re at a dinner party, volunteer to do the dishes or serve dessert. Your hostess has her hands full!
The holidays naturally call for celebratory toasts. If you want to make a toast, don’t clink your silverware on your glass to get everyone’s attention. This will only break the crystal. Simply lift up your glass, speak clearly, and say, “May I please have everyone’s attention?” A toast should not be too personal or too long. Remember the three B’s of toasting: begin, be brief, and be seated.
All good things must come to an end
Don’t overstay your welcome, no matter how much you’re enjoying yourself. How do you know when it’s time to go home? Use your intuition. You may have been told 2 to 5, or just “come around 8,” but your host and/or hostess will give off nonverbal signals when it’s time for you to go home. They yawn, suddenly get up, start fidgeting and twisting, let the conversation lag, or even start doing the dishes! Take the clue.
Thank Your host
Even if it’s a large gathering, seek out the host or hostess to say good bye and thank them for a wonderful party. Afterward, send a written thank-you note — or at least a thank-you email if you must. Because so much of our lives occur online, it doesn’t mean that old-fashioned niceties have to fly out the window, though. Sure, rules have relaxed, but — especially when a lot of preparation has gone into something — sometimes rules are there for a reason.