Family & Education

How to Be the Perfect Guest

Overnight or just for dinner, how to win hearts and more invitations
TIMEDecember 4, 2021

When you’re so fortunate as to receive an invitation to spend time in someone’s home, whether it’s just for dinner or for a weekend, proper behavior will ensure that you’re welcome back anytime.

Start Off on the Right Foot

The moment you’re invited to someone’s home for any reason, after you thank them, ask, “What can I bring?” In most cases, the answer will be, “Nothing, but thanks.” Your question underscores your gratitude for the invitation, which is simply good manners. But don’t arrive empty-handed. In her book, “Modern Etiquette and Me,” Myka Meier suggested that you always bring a gift for your host or hostess. Instead of wine or flowers, consider bringing a gift card to their favorite restaurant or store.

Be Respectful

While you’re in someone’s home, respect their belongings and privacy. Take care to not track dirt in from outside and to use a coaster to avoid leaving rings on wood tables. Resist the urge to snoop while using the bathroom—you would be surprised by how well the sound of drawers and cabinets closing can carry. Treat any borrowed items, from a car to golf clubs, gently, immediately advising of any accidental damage with a promise to make amends.

Don’t Overindulge

An invitation to come inside includes helping yourself to food and drinks. Regardless of whether the invitation is for a party, a meal, or a stay of overnight or longer, the important thing is to not overindulge. Resist the urge to monopolize your favorite snacks, even if you brought them. Know your limits with alcohol, and if staying overnight, respect others by not making loud phone calls or watching TV with the sound booming.

Clean Up After Yourself

Meier said it’s always appropriate to help your hostess by clearing the table or cleaning up spills, especially if you were the spiller. If you’re family or close friends with the host or hostess, offer to stay after the other guests have left to do dishes, take the trash out, or reposition the furniture.

When using the restroom, take care to leave it in the same clean condition that you found it.

Make Sure You’re Welcome to Return

An invitation to someone’s home is an invitation to make yourself comfortable. But don’t overdo it by feeding their pets at the table or ever chiding or correcting their children, even if they’re wading in the punch bowl. Unless your hostess has kicked off her shoes, leave yours on. Ashley Nelson of the YouTube channel “Til Vacuum Do Us Part” said seeing her guests relax and settle in lowers her stress, as she knows that they’re enjoying themselves.

Bill Lindsey
Bill Lindsey is an award-winning writer based in South Florida. He covers real estate, automobiles, timepieces, boats, and travel topics.