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Entertaining at Home: Courteous Host and Gracious Guest

It’s that time of the year when we will start planning our dinner parties at home with friends, family and colleagues. Do you know what it means to be a courteous host? Do you know what it means to be a gracious guest?

Courteous Host Protocol

  • Always greet guests at the door and make them feel welcome.

  • Immediately take jackets and coats. You can hand them to another person to hang up or put them in a room for coats if you are having a large party and you do not have, or have not rented, a large enough coat rack.

  • If you are planning to ask guests to take off their shoes before entering your home, let them know before the party that you will be making this request. I do not, however, recommend a “no shoes in the house” policy if you are having a large party that includes new acquaintances, colleagues from work, or older people. Save this policy for close friends and family.

  • Take any gifts and follow the same procedure as the coats. It helps to have a designated table nearby on which the gifts can be placed.

  • Introduce arriving guests to friends standing in the area.

  • Give arriving guests directions to food and drinks.

  • After all the guests arrive, the host should circulate to make sure everyone has someone with whom to talk and is enjoying himself or herself.

  • Assign someone to make sure there is always enough food and a a variety of drinks out for everyone.

  • If you do not have place cards at the dining table, let guests know where you would like for them to sit at the dinner table. Place the male guest of honor to your right of the hostess at the table, and his spouse or date/companion to the right of the host at the table.

  • As a host, it is your duty to give the signal when to begin the meal by putting your napkin on your lap, and to give the “silent signal” that the meal is over by placing your napkin on the table.

Gracious Guest Protocol

  • Never arrive early for a dinner party, but try not to be more than fifteen minutes late.

  • Always take a hostess gift if you are going to someone’s home for a dinner party. Do not take flowers, since the host would have to take time from the party to put them in a vase. Nor should you take wine that you expect to be opened that evening.

  • Do plan to bring a pair of  ”indoor shoes” with you for the party if you have been walking in the rain or snow. And do take your shoes off before entering the house if  asked to do so; it is a host’s perogative.  (Hopefully, you will have been warned, and will be given slippers to wear in case you’ve forgotten to bring your “indoor shoes.”

  • If it is a large party and your host is not at the door, work your way through the crowd and say hello to your host before talking to the other guests.

  • Do not hesitate to introduce yourself to others and shake hands with them.

  • If you are talking to someone and a person unknown to him or her walks up, introduce them, following the rules of proper introductions.

  • If you spill something, let the host know immediately, and offer to help clean it up.

  • If you break something, let the host know, and offer to pay for the damage.

  • Do not bring another person with you to the party unless you have checked with the host first.

  • Do your part: be a gracious and entertaining guest. Make an effort to converse with your dinner companions and the other guests at the party.

  • Do talk or eat; don’t do both at the same time.

  • Always thank the host before you leave; and call or send a thank-you note the next day.

Source: “The Art of the Meal: Simple Etiquette for Simply Everyone” by Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick

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