12 Tips For Being A Gracious Host

10 Tips For Being A Gracious Host

1. Always help a woman on and off with her coat, hold the door for her, stand until she takes her seat at the table, and offer to fetch her a drink if she’s empty-handed (the same holds true for male guests!).

2. Omit job titles when introducing people in nonbusiness situations, since doing so would imply you define them exclusively by what they do for a living.  (There are exceptions however. If a host is introducing a prominent person, such as a judge or a member of the clergy, it’s a mar of respect to use their job title: for example, “Justice Samuels” or “Reverend Thomas Means.”)

3. Make it easy on yourself and those with you by always introducing others as soon as possible to include them in the conversation.

4. Never leaves a conversation with an uncomfortable vibe floating in the air.  

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5. Ask your guests beforehand if they have any dietary restrictions. If a couple keeps kosher, or if the host is aware that their culture or diet has dietary guidelines, the host should ask exactly what they can and cannot eat. Fad dieters should eat their head of cabbage and eleven grapefruits beforehand and not expect anything special!

6. Deal with tardy guests by keeping on schedule with your dinner and remove the late guest’s place setting. If the guest shows up half an hour later, murmuring a traffic excuse, the host should greet his late arrival warmly and make the proper allowances, even if it means squeezing in an extra chair… and he should feel free to think twice about inviting that person again.

7. Separate spouses around the table (they have the rest of their lives to chat with each other!) and seat men next to women. This helps balance the energy in the room and makes for more sparkling conversation. However, there are a few exceptions. If the host is giving a party for someone, he sits at the head of the table and seats his guest of honor directly to his right. If a couple is hosting the event, one spouse sits to the left of the guest of honor, and the other to the right.

8. Serve the women at the table first. Usually, the hostess is the last woman served before the men are served. The host serves form the left and clears from the right. A good host will ask guests to begin dining when three or more plates are on the table. A lot of time, thought, and energy went into the food preparation, and the meal should be enjoyed while it is still hot. If there are six or eight guests, the host waits for the entire table to finish before he begins clearing, or else guests will feel rushed.

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9. Serve one to two glasses of wine per course and offer a preferred nonalcoholic beverage to those who do not drink.

10. Engage your guests, monitor the flow of the conversation, and do your best not to let one person dominate. If the conversation is lacking, pick a current subject- a hot movie, an article you’ve just read, a vacation destination- to get people animated. Steer as clear away from politics and religion as possible!

11. Signal that the dinner party is over by getting up from the table, this gives guests an unofficial license to leave. If guests are still lingering, you can be more direct: "I hope you'll excuse me, I have an early day tomorrow." If the host's closest friends are lingering over after-dinner gossip with the host and clearing the last of the plates, you can afford to say, "I need to get some sleep, but thanks so much, and let's talk in the morning."

12. Unless you're related, don't let guests help with the dishes! You could be taking them up on an offer they were hoping you'd refuse.  

--Colin Cowie

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