The Art Of: Being A Good Party Guest

how to be a good party guest

Ladies, have I got a treat for you! I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was looking for contributors to The Glamorous Housewife and I received an overwhelmingly positive response. So many of you wrote in with your pitches and I loved reading every single one. I narrowed it down to a few ladies and I am thrilled to tell you that this is the first of the guest series.

Quite a while ago I did a little poll and one of the things that surprised me is how many of you wanted to read about everyday etiquette. Unfortunately this is not a topic I am well versed in. I mean I like to think I am a polite person, but I have been known to flip the bird a few too many times. When Sarah Carey suggested writing about the exact subject so many of you seemed keen to read about, I jumped at the chance! So please welcome Sarah to our little club here at the Glamorous Housewife. If you enjoyed this article be sure to mention it in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

How to be a good party guest:

Gracious living extends beyond the walls of our own homes. Being a lovely guest can help you not only to enjoy your own experiences, it can bring you closer to the people in your life and make you a welcome visitor at any gathering.

Photo 1 Lovely Invite

Respond Promptly.
Whether you receive an invitation via mail or email, over the phone or in person, the art of being a guest begins with a prompt reply. Your hostess is making plans, all of which depend on the number people attending, and she is kindly inviting you to be a part of her event. Delaying your response gives the impression that you are deciding if the event is worth your time, and declining politely is far preferable than never responding at all. You owe her the favor of an answer, and the earlier a hostess knows that you will be joining the gathering, the better to help her ensure that everyone has a wonderful time.

Photo 2 Flowers

Plan a Thoughtful Gift.
It is very kind to inquire if you can bring something to the party to help the hostess. If she has a specific request, by all means, follow it. Most often, she will wave off your offer of help, but do not take her response to mean that you should not bring anything at all. Rather than reaching for a bottle of wine, think about your hostess personally. What does she enjoy? Spend a moment or two to consider what might make her smile. Charming tea towels, gourmet olives or chocolates, special bitters for the bar cart, homemade jam … the list of ideas is endless. Flowers are always lovely, just make sure that you bring them in water to avoid having to find a vase upon arrival, and consider a smaller arrangement she might tuck on her bedside table since the party decor will be set before you arrive. Whatever you bring, be sure to include a little note; she  might not be able to greet you at the door, and you want her to know that you appreciate her kindness.

how to be a good party guest 3

Engage & Enjoy.
Your main role as a guest is to enjoy yourself. Nothing is less pleasing to a hostess than a guest who is bored, so assume that she has done everything she can to facilitate an event worth attending. The rest is up to you! Arrive on time, ask questions, and share anecdotes with friends, old and new. Ideally, you can leave your worries at the door and be open to enjoying the atmosphere. You do not need to be the life of the party, you simply need to be engaged. The most lovely guests connect with others and contribute to the general merriment of the gathering.

how to be a good party guest 4

Pay Attention to the Hostess.
Your hostess is focused on all of the elements of the party. She is mingling and assessing the mood of the gathering, all while keeping a watchful eye on the kitchen, the bar, and the time. A good hostess is always aware of the time as she is following an outlined schedule. An elegant guest is able to follow the party’s rhythm by paying attention to the hostess herself. This approach is truly what differentiates guests. An elegant guest is not simply aware of her own conversation partner, she is aware of the hostess herself. Has she disappeared? Perhaps a pop in to the kitchen to see if she might like any assistance is appropriate. Is she trapped in conversation with someone? Offer to invite them into your own conversation, allowing her to slip away to tend to the next course. Has her hand been empty all night? Bring a glass of water to her with a smile. If you are close friends, she might have shared the schedule with you, and you can help to make sure that things are moving smoothly in a direct manner by answering the door, helping to get drinks, or just ensuring that people move about at the right times. No need to be solicitous, the goal is simply to be kind. Take your cues from her, and remember that a pleasant word can go a long way.

how to be a good party guest 5

Send a Thank You Note.
No matter the size of the gathering or the reason for the event, a thank you note is always appropriate. Always. Address it to your hostess and let her know that you enjoyed yourself and that you appreciate her thoughtful efforts. Your note does not have to be formal and can even be sent via email if the invitation was electronic, but being specific is always a lovely idea and will help your note to feel much more personal. Although it is never too late to thank your hostess, it is best to send your note within one week of the event. Your words will be appreciated and long remembered. Being an elegant and thoughtful guest can help you to enjoy gatherings and also to strengthen your friendships. With just a bit of thought, your presence will be more than welcome and often in demand.

Sarah Carey is a housewife who strives to apply the graciousness and style of the past to modern living. She has a passion for fine stationery and needlepoint, collects teapots of all sorts, and dabbles in photography. Sarah resides in Washington, DC, with her husband and their two adorable dogs, Clarabelle and Buddy.


  1. Fashionista says

    Thank you for a lovely post that reminds us of our responsibilities as guests. If I may blow my own trumpet for a minute with an anecdote. Last Saturday night we attended my dear friend C’s 50th birthday party, there were lots of our mutual friends there along with members of her and her husband R’s extended family. I always set myself the challenge of having a conversation with every single person at every gathering I attend. And yes I have had some, er, interesting, conversations over the years! And I have met some fabulous people. But can you imagine how boring it could be otherwise?! But I digress.

    So, off on my challenge, I chatted with every single guest at some point. The next morning I texted C to thank her for a wonderful night (and I also asked did she want a hand cleaning up which she graciously declined). She replied thanking me for being a fun sociable party guest and especially for chatting to the relatives. I felt quietly pleased with myself that I had contributed in a small way to the success of her evening.

    • BethanyThe Glamourous Housewife says

      What a great story! I think I shall use the same goal the next time I attend a party where I don’t know everyone.

    • Sarah Carey says

      What a delightful guest you are, and what a great challenge! Your thoughtful behavior was a welcome addition to the party, no doubt, and how kind to chat with other guests who may not have been as familiar with the group as you were. You should definitely feel pleased!

  2. Barb Yankoski says

    I am someone who loves to entertain and that cute guy I married and I are spontaneous party animals. Full sit down dinners and impromptu come for easy light suppers. Because I know the hostess role inside and out, even though I do most of the prep ahead of time, when I am a guest, I try to watch the hostess and help if she or he lets me but your story had a few hints I will use in the future. Thanks so much. Nice story. Hope some of my people are reading this.

    • Sarah Carey says

      I am sure that your get togethers are a real treat! I hope that your guests appreciate all of your efforts.

  3. says

    Lovely, lovely post. I have been fascinated by etiquette since high school and have Emily Post’s books on personal etiquette and business etiquette. (As a matter of fact, I just bought some Crane notecards for business use today.) This is a wonderful topic idea. I don’t host that often, so I found some great tips in here on what a hostess would appreciate. Sarah is a charming addition to The Glamorous Housewife!

    • Sarah Carey says

      Thank you so much for your kind words. How wonderful that you value etiquette in business and use personal cards in that manner.

  4. Tabitha says

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post and would love to see future articles on etiquette from The Glamorous Housewife! Does Sarah Carey have a blog or webpage I can follow?

    • Sarah Carey says

      I have always been too shy to have my own blog or website, but I am an avid reader of The Glamorous Housewife and am so glad that you enjoyed this post.

  5. says

    Sarah Carey wrote it well.
    I honestly enjoy these type of articles: they are educational, interesting and relaxing read.
    For me, two most important things to consider are not while the party lasts – they are the one BEFORE and the one that comes AFTER the party.
    R.S.V.P. is an essential sign of well mannered person. Answering promptly shows good intentions and it tells your future host you are looking foreward for the event. NOT answering at all (and showing up) may cause great truble – because your presence is not planned.
    Second – a THANK YOU note. People no longer send cards, but a simple text saying you have enjoyed the evening will do.

    Manners are not obsolete, nor a thing of the past.
    Good behaving is (I dare say) important for our entire Civilisation – how are we to call ourselves “civil” if we don’t behave accordingly? 😀

    I got carried away.


  6. says

    This is really fantastic advice, I just wish we lived in a society where etiquette mattered a bit more!
    I am 22 and would love to host a sophisticated dinner party like this but I am sad to say I am at an age where most people in my age group just wouldn’t get it. I tried to host my first dinner party at 19 and let me tell you it was a disaster – I need to wait until I am in my 30s and my friends have grown up a little.

    • Sarah Carey says

      How wonderful that you are interested in hosting! I certainly understand that it can be difficult to host a full dinner party when it is not the social norm of your group, but how about a little something different? Perhaps you could host a small group of ladies for cocktails or wine & appetizers, or a few friends for a casual brunch, or even just have a couple of friends over to watch your favorite television program — serve some specialty popcorn and a sparkling wine, and any evening becomes a little special. Your dinner parties will come in time, but in the meantime, have plenty of fun with other events!

      • jazzgirl205 says

        This is a bit late, but this might be a solution to Harlow’s problem. She and her friends could attend the ballet or the symphony together and then congregate at her house afterward for late night hors duerves. and cocktails. Her friends would already be dressed up and in a happy, grownup mood.

  7. says

    What a gem of a post! I have thoroughly enjoyed your conversation and all the wonderful advice especially at this time when the concept of good etiquette seems to be more extraordinary rather than the cultural norm these days no matter what the social circles.

    It’s a topic has interested me over the years. In fact, I have a collection of vintage etiquette books that make for good reading!

    I always write a handwritten thank you note no matter what form the invitation arrives. I do this because I desire to give my recipient the experience of receiving a beautiful card to leave a more lasting impression. In fact, my card may be left on a desk for days or put away in a drawer to be enjoyed again later whereas I don’t have this opportunity with an email.

    For the etiquette historians out there, you may be interested in knowing that the word “etiquette” originally stems back to Old French “estiquette” meaning “ticket”. One might suggest simply that a ticket will open doors and provide opportunities. How lovely!

    Thank you again for a wonderful post!

    • Sarah Carey says

      I, too, love vintage etiquette books & history, and I always love connecting with others who feel the same way. I appreciate your kind words.

  8. says

    I think one thing this article left out is that you can’t overstay your welcome as a guest! I cringe inside when I notice the hosts giving cues that it’s time to shut down, while a guest opens another bottle of wine and settles in for another lengthy conversation. Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of this too (usually after too much vino), and even though it’s sort of a compliment to the hostess (her party is too good to leave!) it’s still uncomfortable and a little bit rude to stay too late into the night. And then, there are always exceptions.

    • Sarah Carey says

      You are so very right — knowing when to leave is an important element of being a guest, as is understanding how to leave gracefully. Modern customs certainly do not always lend themselves well to polite behavior.

  9. says

    This is great stuff, what a well written post – well done Sarah! I enjoyed reading it and will make sure I measure up to these standards next time I’m invited to a gathering. I’m afraid that I may have been in a complete world-of-my-own in former years and not followed some of this. I think each year that passes you become more aware of things like this!

    I’ll report back…

    P x

    • Sarah Carey says

      It is never too late in life to be a lovely guest, and do not judge your past self too harshly as I am sure that your hostesses were thrilled that you were having a nice time.

  10. says

    What timelessly excellent advice. It’s a sincere shame that more folks don’t take the time to do these relatively simple steps very often these days. So few handwritten thank you knows find their way into mail boxes, or slipped through mail slots, any more, which only makes the act of giving or receiving one all the more special and meaningful.

    ♥ Jessica

  11. says

    This is a beautiful post! I realize that, as someone very introverted, I am not always thinking of my host or hostess at a party. This really gives me a new perspective on things, so thank you!

  12. Cy says

    It is not true that people don’t send thank you notes anymore. I started doing it again, because in my profession it is common courtesy. I have gotten thank you calls because of my thank you notes! Yes, it is rare that’s why it is wonderful! People are very impressed and they will remember you! It only takes a few minutes and believe me whether for business or pleasure, it is always a good idea. I often find cute inexpensive cards at Target or make one if yourself. It shows class and style.

  13. Sarah Carey says

    How lovely that you have received calls in response to your notes. What a treat for your friends & associates to receive your kind words.

  14. Erica says

    This article was so enlightening and helpful, thank you! I am quite young and still stuck renting with other people, but dream of someday being able to host and enjoy parties like the ones eluded to in this article. Knowing how to behave at something other than a college-age kegger is very helpful (and also fills me with hope for future engagements!)

  15. Sharon says

    I just wanted to send a little note of thanks. I love being a modern girl, but I still have “vintage” ideas about hostessing, and being a guest in someone’s home.

    As someone who entertains often, I can relate to both perspectives, the hostess and the guest. The article was a pleasure to read, and I look forward to seeing more of your contributions.

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