16 Tips For Being A Gracious Guest
1. Ten points for sending in advance a bouquet of flowers or a gorgeous box of gift-wrapped chocolate truffles to your hosts, telling them how much you are looking forward to your visit. Or send them the day after with a fun anecdote you experienced at the party.
2. Leave some of your personalized stationery with the florist, wine merchant, or chocolatier you use regularly. Whenever you want to send a gift, simply dictate a message to be attached to the gift on your letterhead. This scores many points with minimal effort!
3. Always be on the lookout for creative gifts to buy and store for future hostess gifts. A few of my favorites include lovely bottles of imported olive oils, flavored vinegars, luscious honeys, and wonderful jams. Of course, a good bottle of wine or champagne is appropriate for almost any occasion.
4. Avoid regifting, particularly if you navigate a small social circle. What a bittersweet surprise for your host to receive the very same box of rosewater Turkish delight.
5. Make sure you're making eye contact with the person with whom you are shaking hands and state your name clearly. Repeat the name of the person you are meeting, to make sure you heard it correctly. You can also use the person’s name to segue into more specific conversation; for example, “I have a wonderful friend who’s also named Sheila. I was just speaking with her, and we were laughing about the time we…”
6. Focus on the person you are talking to, and focusing means more than nodding your head and mumbling yes every few seconds. It means listening and engaging.
7. Know how to exit a conversation if it is swiping more of your time than your attention span allows, saying: “I’m sorry to cut you off, but I see a friend whom I’ve been trying to get ahold of for some weeks. Would you mind if I excuse myself?”
8. Know that there’s not such thing as being fashionably late, only unfashionably tardy! An eight o’clock invitation to an intimate dinner party means eight o’clock, which allows time for cocktails and a sit-down dinner at eight-forty-five!
9. Refrain from bringing glassware from the cocktail party to the dinner table. When you excuse yourself from the table during a meal, leave your napkin on the chair. Only when the meal is done, and you’re getting ready to leave, should you put a used napkin on the table.
10. Refrain from taking a seat until the hostess and most o the other women have been seated first.
11. Have reverence for the bond that’s created when people are seated at a dinner table and make every effort to take any bathroom visits or cigarette breaks before being seated.
12. Know that good table manners are meant to be invisible- and are a profound reflection of who you are! Therefore, avoid slouching, leaning, lying. If you’re wondering which glass of water is yours, just remember BMW. From left to right, it’s bread, meal, water. Your bread plate, is on the left side of your plate and your water is on the right. Butter, spreads, or dips should be transferred from the serving dish to your plate before spreading or eating. Break a small piece off of the roll and leave the remainder on the plate until you are ready to eat another piece. Butter the small piece on the plate and eat it.
13. If asked for the salt or pepper, pass both together, even if a person asks for only one of them. Pick them both up and place them on the table within reach of the person next to you. They are never passed hand to hand. This avoids the search for one of the shakers around the table.
14. Turn your head away when coughing or sneezing and place your napkin over your mouth. Never burp or blow your nose at the table. If you need to wash your hands, and the host hasn’t offered a warm napkin, hand towel, or equivalent, you should use your own napkin, or excuse yourself and refresh in the bathroom.
15. Always accept the offer of a drink. If you don’t drink alcohol, you should say, “Thank you, I’d love to have a glass of something nonalcoholic, possibly sparkling water.” But you shouldn’t refuse the offering; by doing so, you remove yourself from the ritual that everyone else is sharing, and you should be able to raise your glass during a toast.
16. You had a fantastic time, thanks to the effort and trouble your host went through, and it’s better to acknowledge hospitality sooner rather than later. A handwritten thank-you note wins you maximum points; it only take a few minutes, and it makes your host or hostess feel appreciated.