Preparing for a dinner party or an overnight stay at someone else's house? No matter how close you are to your friend or family member, you'll be visiting a space that's not your own. Even if your friend proudly proclaims "what's mine is yours" upon your arrival, you'll want to be your best self and respect their home. It doesn't take too much to be a good house guest—most of us already know the basic manners involved—but what about those unspoken rules or small tidbits that are easy to forget?
We chatted with a couple of etiquette experts so you can feel confident about staying in a place that's not your own and brush up on your own guest etiquette. If you find yourself ticking all these boxes and applying these tips, don't be surprised if you get an invite back!
Meet the Expert
You Offer Something in Return
While you don't have to bring an extravagant present or spend a large sum on your host, hospitality and etiquette experts and founders of Heart of Hospitality Magazine DeAnna Kane and Leslie Callaway note that you shouldn't come empty-handed. "Always show up on time, and bring a small host gift to an event or gathering," says Kane. "It doesn’t have to be big or expensive, but it should convey that you appreciate being included." She adds that it shouldn't be a gift that takes a lot of time to prepare either (like an untrimmed, vase-less bouquet of flowers).
You're Honest About Spills or Breaks
Accidentally shattering a candle or spilling on a throw blanket while staying at a friend's house is a surefire way to make your stomach drop. It's a pain and it's completely normal to feel embarrassed, but avoid literally and figuratively brushing it under the rug. "Be sure to clean up spills and messes quickly," says Callaway. "Don’t try to disguise your mistake, and if you happen to break anything, be sure to tell your host quietly and offer to pay for all damages."
You Don't Overstay Your Welcome
We all know the person who really likes to make themselves at home, even after everyone else is long gone. To avoid adding more stress to your host's plate, be mindful of the time and when the gathering or visit is over. "When you see other guests leaving, or the host starts to clean up and gather jackets, it’s time to wrap up your conversation, say goodbye to your host, and head out," says Kane. If you're staying over, help your host clean up for the evening. "If there is an exit time on the invitation, start gathering your belongings and saying your goodbyes approximately 15 minutes before the end of the party," says Callaway. "Be sure to send a thank you note to your host for their wonderful hospitality and that you look forward to seeing them again soon."
You're Respectful of Their Space and Time
It may sound like common sense, but if you're extremely comfortable with a friend or family member it's easy to forget boundaries and respect their personal space and time. Tami Claytor, the owner of Always Appropriate: Image & Etiquette Consulting, says to avoid snooping around in closets, bathrooms, and other rooms. If you need something, simply ask. On that note, Claytor adds: "Don’t consume things in the refrigerator or pantry without asking first." Time and scheduling are important to touch base on, too. "When discussing the arrangements let your host or hostess know if you have plans that do not include him or her," says Claytor, and discuss your intended arrival and departure times so they can plan accordingly.
You Give Plenty of Notice About Dietary Restrictions
You might be so used to eating a certain way that you forget it may not be standard for someone else. Whether you're vegan, celiac, or have another allergy or intolerance, Claytor emphasizes that you should notify your host in advance. It can be stressful for both of you if dinnertime arrives and it's not compatible with how you eat. Try to have an open mind, too, especially if you have no restrictions. You might discover you love the flavors of a dish you would typically say no to.
You Offer to Help Out Around the House
Hosting takes a lot of work, so it's always best to check in and see where you can alleviate a task or two. Three simple things you can do? "Always offer to help with household chores, offer to cook dinner, and make your bed," says Claytor. Before you go, make sure your bathroom is clean, strip the bed if you can, and see if there is a preferred spot you can empty any trash you've accumulated. These little things don't take up tons of time but are much appreciated.