Etiquette Guide to being the Perfect Guest - Ribbon in My Journal

How to be the Perfect Guest this Season, an Etiquette Guide

Phyllis Lifestyle 26 Comments

I love the holidays and look forward to gatherings of friends and family. I have been asked by several people to write some etiquette suggestions for being a well-mannered guest this holiday season. Now, I do not profess to be the holiday etiquette queen, but I have learned a few interesting things in my life. Watching guests arrive and seeing the reactions of hostesses has always been a source of fun at dinner parties and luncheons.

So here are some humorous but true thoughts on being the perfect guest:

The perfect guest always arrives on time.

This is a biggy. Being late to any event where food has been prepared and timed for the appointed hour really drives a hostess mad. If you are going to be late, you probably know about it before the time to be there. Call, let her know, and tell her to go ahead without you. Then jump in at the course they are on when you arrive.

The perfect guest leaves the cellphone off the table and puts it away until after the party.

If you are expecting a call, excuse yourself from the table and check your phone. Using your cellphone at the table is rude and totally unacceptable. One lady I know has a cellphone box that she keeps at the door, and each guest is asked to place their phone in it. I have often wanted to see one phone ring and eight people dive for the box! Common sense should prevail.

The perfect guest does not bring another guest.

End of comment.

The perfect guest usually brings a hostess gift.

However, do not bring food unless the dinner is covered dish, where all guests are bringing food. There is nothing more irritating than when a guest shows up with a dish of food and expects it to be served at the meal. The hostess has planned the menu and isn’t expecting any additions. If you feel you must take food (being from the South, I know some just can’t help it, bless their hearts!), then take something for the family to eat at another time. If you want to make a dessert, then clear it with the hostess before you begin making it. If she says she has everything covered, take her at her word. Great hostess gifts include flowers (already in a container), wine, candy, or a book—something to show appreciation.

The perfect guest knows when to go home.

There have been times when I look back and remember dinners where I was still talking to a guest long after everyone had left and wishing in my heart that she knew how bad my feet hurt from standing and cooking. Not to mention that after guests leave, the cleaning begins. So leave when it’s over. If it’s your very best friend, then tell her to take her shoes off, put on an apron, and help.

The perfect guest writes a thank you note.

Just a few simple lines written by hand mean so much to the hostess who prepared a lovely meal for you.

Have fun, enjoy Thanksgiving, and remember to be the perfect guest!

What do you think makes the perfect guest?

Taste of the South Thanksgiving SIP 2015

Comments 26

  1. I take a lot of time to prepaid a home cooked really. I am appalled by someone attempting to sit down at the table with ball cap and or can of soda,beer! It won’t happen here.

  2. Excellent thoughts,but probably the ones who need to read this won’t see it. We just have to teach by example. Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. If there is one thing I hope I’ve taught my daughters,.. Always write thank you notes! No, a text doesn’t count, at my house! When they were toddlers I started this ritual. When they received money for any gift they had to draw and later write, then mail a thank you note before we would cash the check. Notes were written without a fuss!

  4. Great post, Phyllis. I have one to add: If you are a guest, for goodness’ sake, don’t take a Ziploc bag in your purse to take home the host’s leftovers! (Yes, I actually saw this!!)

  5. Great advice. Also, always use a coaster when placing a drink on furniture. Seems obvious, but yet we always wind up with water spotting on our maple side tables after a party. And I agree about never whispering comments at the table, that is so rude. I also dislike when people discuss their unpleasant medical conditions in detail at the dinner table. Very unappetizing! I always like to bring a gift for the hostess, and others have asked me “why?”. Old fashioned niceness is never out of style!

  6. Phyllis,
    A prompt thank you note is wonderful, but in addition to that, a phone call to thank the hostess puts forth a grateful sentiment over the top.
    Thank you for your timely reminders,

  7. Customs certainly vary from place to place. Where I live some parties held indoors will require all guests to remove their shoes at the door. Some parties, if held outside, will require guests to bring their own chair. And if the invitation says ‘bring a plate’ it definitely does not mean an empty plate to eat from. A friendly phone call to check the arrangements is always a good idea these days when so many people seem to have allergies or special needs.

  8. Probably all of us reading your Blog would agree with your guidelines AND probably most of us practice the same guidelines being Hostess or Guest !
    Thank you for the “tiny book of etiquette” and such reminders .
    I wonder where manners have gone in the “high tech” and busy lifestyle of today ????? Lacking , for certain …
    As I appreciate a guest bringing flowers …
    ALWAYS place and take in a container !
    The hostess will be much happier if she is not searching for a vase and trimming flower stems !

  9. Such wonderful advice for our time. Thank you, Phyllis. We are becoming such a casual, nothing matters society. Parents should model proper etiquette for their children. The basics are so important. They make everyone feel comfortable.

  10. Be cordial, bring a great hostess gift and of course ask if you can bring something or make something! Offer to help clean up and please do not overstay your welcome!
    Enjoy your meal and keep the conversation light and try to keep most of the guests involved in the conversation, very rude to talk about things that some guests may not have a clue about…. One more thing never whisper at the table to someone! Wishing you all a very blessed Thanksgiving.

  11. HUMOR! From years of entertaining our seniors at our Retirement Community in San Diego, dinner parties ranged from 12 to 160 depending on the occasion and Holiday I always tried to introduce a little humor in good taste and compliment everyone in some way or another throughout the evening. Everyone is special or they would not be invited and humor can lighten up anyone’s life. Never talk negative.
    When we sold our Retirement Community many of the seniors told me I gave them the only compliment they have had in years. Many are still in touch with us. Carmel

  12. Great information! Also, the perfect guest doesn’t sit and wait to be entertained. Guests should mingle with others and engage themselves in conversation.
    Polite guests don’t come to a party to complain about how ill they are or discuss their latest surgery.
    Polite guests don’t show up to a party when they’re sick (yes, I’ve seen it)
    As a hostess I always hope that at least one of my guests will volunteer to come early to help me, when she RSVP’s.
    Oh yes – a perfect guest ALWAYS RSVP’s!!!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. I am a certified etiquette consultant having graduated from The Protocol School of Washington many years ago and I must say Phyllis, you have covered the basics! Etiquette isn’t always about table settings etc. Etiquette is about making the other person comfortable. Timely well written post!

  14. Phyllis — Always love reading your blog. By the way, just went to a dinner party last week and your books — Tiny Book of Tea & Treats and Tiny Book of Christmas Joy — were the perfect hostess gifts. Got a copy of each for myself, too!! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  15. I always help clean up the kitchen so my dear hostess isn’t left with the midnight pile of dishes. But if they say no, I honor that.

  16. Excellent information! Cell phones and apps manners are so rude everywhere we go. Also, boys and young men not removing their hats. You have really touched upon important rules for being a guest ~ thank you! Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving !


  17. I really like the one about not bringing someone with you. Don’t know how many times we have had “extras” because someone “just knows you wouldn’t mind”. Guess my Mother’s training about having plenty to eat has stood me in good grace, but really, is that person going to be comfortable especially if they don’t know anyone else. I am not from the South, but Mother instilled good manners in all her children. 🙂

  18. Perfect Phyllis! The perfect guest, I agree with Lady Beatryce, does not have vehement political conversations. And, the perfect guest sends a note, I personally usually call the next day to discuss the visit {and how wonderful it was!} if I have been a guest to the home of a close friend as well.

  19. Thanks, Phyllis. I appreciate all your suggestions on how to be the perfect guest. I would like to offer a few more that I have encountered.
    A perfect guest leaves politics at home.
    A perfect guest does not arrive really early. Even if she offers to help, the hostess has a rythym going.
    A perfect guest RSVP’s in a timely manner. Making the hostess call to see if you received your invitation is not an endearing quality.
    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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