How to Be a Well-Mannered Guest

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Whether you are attending a dinner party or spending a few nights with a family member or friend, knowing and following proper etiquette rules for guests is essential. Remember that the hosts have shown the generosity of their time and resources by inviting you, preparing their home for your visit, and entertaining you. Reciprocate by exhibiting good manners.

  • 01 of 09


    Addressing a Letter

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    You should always respond to an invitation. If you received the invitation in writing, follow up with a reply in writing. A verbal invitation can be answered either with a note or phone call. Contact the host as soon as possible.

    If you aren’t sure whether or not you can attend, explain your dilemma to your host so he or she won’t think you’re ignoring the invitation. Then as soon as you know for sure, go ahead and respond.

  • 02 of 09

    Host or Hostess Gift

    Woman giving her guy friend wine

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    It is always a good policy to show up bearing a gift for your host. You don’t have to spend a week’s pay, but it should be a thoughtful item that you know the person can use. Some examples of hostess gifts include candles, wine and wine glasses, themed baskets, coffee, and mugs, or gift cards to a favorite restaurant.

    Always be thoughtful and keep your host in mind. For example, if he or she doesn’t drink alcohol, you wouldn’t want to bring wine or any other type of alcoholic drink. You also wouldn’t want to regift an item that the host gave you for your last birthday.

  • 03 of 09

    Timely Arrival

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    It’s always a good idea to arrive within 10 to 15 minutes of the designated time on the invitation. If you get there too early, you might be in the way during party preparations. Conversely, if you get there an hour late, you might miss something important, such as dinner.

    There are times when it's essential to be on time, such as a concert, wedding, funeral, or an important life event such as a graduation or baby christening. Do everything in your power to be there and seated when the event begins.

    If something happens that's out of your control, contact the host and let him or her know as soon as possible. Be gracious if you're asked to reschedule.

  • 04 of 09

    Overnight Stay

    Filling dishwasher

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    When you are an overnight guest, ask if there are any special rules you need to follow. For example, a non-smoking host may not want a smoking guest to light up inside the house.

    Be wise with the amenities. Don’t use a bunch of dishes and glasses then leave them all over the house. Your host will appreciate your consideration if you place your dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Also, avoid using too many towels and washcloths and then leaving them lying on the bathroom floor. One towel and washcloth should be enough for a couple of days if you hang them to dry on the towel rack.

    Respect your host’s personal space. This means you should never barge into a room with a closed door or interrupt a conversation. Don’t expect your host to want to spend the entire day with you. Everyone needs a little time alone, and that includes your generous host.

    Clean up after yourself. Don’t scatter your personal belongings all over the house if you are staying overnight. Find a corner of the room where you are staying and return all your belongings there to prevent being a messy guest. Make your bed each morning and offer to strip the bed before you go home.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09


    Father and daughter hula-hooping

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    Children may or may not be invited to the event, so make sure you’re clear before you accept the invitation. A cocktail party isn’t likely to be child-friendly, so line up a sitter if you want to attend. A backyard barbecue, on the other hand, will probably be much more accommodating for the whole family.

  • 06 of 09


    Puppies playing

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    Unless your host or hostess specifically invites your pet to come along, leave Fido and Sylvester at home. Even if the host loves your precious pooch, there may be other guests there who don’t. Some people are allergic to pet dander, and having your animal there would make their visit very uncomfortable.

    If the host invites your pet, consider the animal’s manners before accepting. High-strung animals should be left at home. You don’t want your dog or cat to damage the host’s furniture, carpet, or your relationship with someone you care about.

  • 07 of 09

    Accidents and Awkward Moments

    Wine glass spill

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    Accidents and other awkward situations will happen from time to time, regardless of how much you try to prevent them. Be ready with an apology, a helping hand, and an offer to pay for whatever might be broken or stained. Never try to hide a spill or broken household item. Always remember the Golden Rule.

  • 08 of 09

    Know When to Leave

    Mother and son leaving party

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    All parties, personal visits, and overnight stays should end while you are still having a nice time. Overstaying your welcome might get you an express ticket to a future do-not-invite list. As soon as the party begins to wind down, express your appreciation to the host and make your exit. If you are staying overnight, leave on the day you originally stated.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Thank You Note

    woman writing thank you card

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    You should always send a thank you note after a party, long visit, or overnight stay. Do this as soon as you get home and put it in the mail. Thank the host, make a positive comment about some aspect of the visit, and end with a note about looking forward to seeing him or her again. You might even offer an invitation to your home.

Kindness and Courtesy

Being a guest with good manners means much more than just showing up and being the life of the party. The host put forth the effort to invite and entertain you, so you need to show your appreciation by being kind and courteous.