What’s the secret to being a good guest?
There are countless etiquette guides on how to be a good host, but it is just as valuable to learn how to be a good guest.
Hosts put in a lot of effort to make sure that we’re comfortable and having a good time. We should also do our part to reciprocate their thoughtfulness and be good guests. And if we’re staying at someone’s home for a few hours, overnight, or a couple of weeks, it’s always nice to find ways to brighten their day.
Here are some tips on how to be a good guest and show your appreciation for your host’s gracious hospitality.
1. Have good timing
As a good guest, you’ll want to respect the time and commitments of your host.
This could mean responding to an invitation in a timely manner. Or giving advance notice about a change in plans. If you’re a house guest, make sure to check-in with your hosts about their schedule so your visit doesn’t conflict with their plans. Or communicate with them about your arrival time so that they’re not kept waiting or surprised when you show up on their doorstep.
Obviously, we can’t predict our days and last minute changes are bound to occur. But being mindful about your host’s schedule can get your visit off to a great start.
2. Give recognition
If you’ve ever hosted a dinner party, then you know just how much work goes into cooking, prepping, and cleaning in order to create a lovely meal.
The host may feel a lot of pressure to impress. So nothing will make a host feel more at ease and appreciated than complimenting their efforts.
Whether it’s saying something nice about their outfit or complimenting their home or delighting in their fabulous entree (every host wants to know if you like their food!), the host will feel so flattered and touched that you noticed. And a little compliment can go a long way toward making a host feel relaxed enough to start enjoying their own party.
3. Bring a small gift
Whether you’re a party guest or a house guest staying for the weekend, it’s always a good idea to bring a small gift. For dinner parties, you can bring a bottle of wine or feel free to get creative. Fresh fruit would be a hit at a picnic or brunch. Cocktail ingredients like garnishes and mixers would be a nice contribution to a party. And hot sauce or honey would be a fun and unique gift for a dinner party.
If you’re staying at someone’s home for the weekend, consider bringing a gift from your local area that the host can enjoy. For example, bagels from New York or maple syrup from Vermont. Or coffee beans from a great coffee shop in your town. Or baked goods from a well-known bakery. A small souvenir is always fun and novel.
Or, you can give a small gift that’s special but also practical. For example, a beautiful notebook, flavored olive oils, or a serving tray.
4. Bring something fun
Bringing a small gift is a thoughtful gesture. And if you want to go the extra mile, consider bringing something fun that the other guests can enjoy as well.
For example, if you’re a house guest, maybe you can bring a board game that you can play with your host and their friends or family.
If you’re a party guest, bring a fun, nostalgic food item like ice cream or bags of candy. The food throwback will not only get the other guests excited, but it will also make for a great conversation starter—people usually enjoy talking about their favorite childhood snacks which will then open up the conversation to other topics.
5. Offer to bring something specific
If you’re not sure what to bring, then reach out to the host and ask if you can bring something specific, like wine or dessert. This can be particularly helpful in a party situation—you never know if the host is running low on an item or forgot to pick up an ingredient.
6. Put yourself in the host’s shoes
The most thoughtful guests are always the ones who are looking out for the hosts and putting themselves in their host’s shoes.
More often than not, hosts are scrambling around trying to make sure that everyone is having a great time. Which means they’re usually too busy to enjoy their own party. By making your host’s life easier, not only are you being a great guest but you’re also giving them the chance to sit back and have fun.
For example, if you’re at a wedding, you can bring the newlyweds a plate of hors d'oeuvres so that they don’t have to go hungry while they’re taking photos or mingling. Or if you see that a wedding guest is all alone in the corner, go over and talk to them.
Hosts can’t be everywhere at once. By stepping in the host’s shoes now and then, you’d not only be helping them out, but you’d also be adding to the warm and festive atmosphere of their event.
7. Say yes
In addition to rsvp-ing yes, you definitely want to bring a “yes” attitude to a party or event.
If you’re a wedding guest, this can mean being excited for the first dance or cutting the cake, even if you’ve already witnessed them at other weddings. Or being excited to wear a silly name tag or accessory to help foster a sense of fun and camaraderie.
Or if you’re a party guest, you could give your full attention to the conversations at hand or any activities or games that are going on.
The hosts alone can’t be responsible for making an event fun. And as The Art of Gathering author Priya Parker writes: “guests have extraordinary power in shaping a gathering, too – particularly at the gathering.”
If every guest did their part to be excited and engaged, it would make for an incredible and memorable affair.
8. Send a thank you note
If a friend or relative has opened their doors to you, send them a handwritten card to thank them for their hospitality.
Make sure to include one or two specifics that you are especially grateful for. Like how welcomed they made you feel or the delicious dinner that they prepared for you. Not only is this a nice way to evoke the memories of your stay, but it lets the hosts know that you were paying attention and that you care.
A thank you card is a simple but powerful way to express your gratitude and be a good guest.