After the isolation of pandemic lockdowns, many of us developed a newfound appreciation for simple social gatherings like dinner parties, housewarmings, movie nights and even casual afternoons watching sports on the couch. But now that such get-togethers have become more common again, it’s clear some people have become a little rusty in the manners department ― including the hosts.
“We often hear about etiquette crimes committed by guests, but certainly hosts aren’t off the hook when it comes to being polite,” said Nick Leighton, an etiquette expert and co-host of the “Were You Raised by Wolves?” podcast. “When it comes to manners and etiquette, we all have our part to play. A good host is gracious, welcoming, and makes their guests feel comfortable.”
Hosting a gathering is a generous enterprise that requires work, but don’t go overboard pressuring yourself to make everything perfect and accommodate every possible need. Still, there are some broader etiquette points to keep in mind.
Below, Leighton and other experts share some common rude behaviors when hosting guests ― and advice for avoiding these mistakes.
Not introducing guests to each other
“Once your guests arrive, it is the host’s responsibility to take the initiative to introduce everyone,” said Jackie Vernon-Thompson, founder of From the Inside-Out School of Etiquette. “Encouraging the guests to interact and establish some sort of relationship is important for everyone to enjoy themselves.”
Try to bring up common points of interest or other conversation topics that may allow your guests to connect with one another.
“The most obvious is how each person is connected to the host,” said Tami Claytor, the etiquette coach behind Always Appropriate Image & Etiquette Consulting. “Other topics include hobbies, recent travels or occupations. This action is proper party etiquette because it alleviates the awkwardness that occurs when people are in a room with strangers.”
Inviting people who will make others uncomfortable
On the topic of making your guests feel comfortable and encouraging them to interact with each other, be mindful of the people you invite and whether it’s a good idea for them to be in a room together.
“Curate your guest list carefully,” said Diane Gottsman, the author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “No archenemies, contentious exes or competitive business owners should be at a fun and relaxing gathering.”
Being unprepared when guests arrive
“While guests should know better than to show up early, a good host should be ready to receive guests at the advertised event start time,” Leighton said.
Don’t tell people to arrive at a certain time and then be totally MIA when that time comes.
“Sometimes the hosts become so comfortable with the fact that the event is hosted in their home that they think it is OK to be in their bedroom or bathroom grooming themselves to make that grand entrance one hour after the guests arrive,” Vernon-Thompson said. “Essentially, the host has taken the guests for granted and felt it was quite fine to show up late. That’s a huge no-no.”
The fact that the gathering is in your home is all the more reason to make yourself available to direct guests and set the tone for the event. Make an effort to greet people at the door and make them feel welcome. Invite them to sit, offer them a drink and take their coat.
“Cooking and setting up as people arrive prevents the host from properly greeting his or her visitors,” Claytor said. “I’ve arrived to people’s homes at the designated start time and the host was still cleaning the bathroom or getting out of the shower, which was really uncomfortable.”
Ignoring dietary restrictions
“When you invite guests for a meal, be sure ask for any dietary restrictions well in advance to avoid becoming a short-order chef during your event,” said Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Massachusetts-based Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting.
Providing a variety of food options can help minimize stress and ensure guests feel accommodated.
“Be sure there is enough food for your guests, including those who may have restrictive diets,” Vernon-Thompson said. “Never invite someone to your event knowing the individual has a particular diet and you show no regard. It goes without saying that a host should ensure that the food is palatable, and the guests will not only enjoy the party, they will enjoy the food as well.”
Offering only alcoholic drinks
Similarly, don’t forget to offer a variety of drink options to keep your sober friends in mind, even if that’s just making sure the Brita is full. Providing alcohol-free choices can help ensure those who do drink don’t go overboard as well.
“Especially for sporting events, be sure to offer plenty of nonalcoholic options and be sure to arrange rides for any guest who has had too much,” Smith said.
Poorly handling shoe rules
“If you are going to want guests to remove their shoes, you must let them know in advance and have slippers or socks for them to wear,” Smith said.
As a host, you don’t want to catch your guests by surprise, so advance notice is key. Gottsman suggested having some “fun, festive” socks on hand to liven up the atmosphere. Claytor noted that disposable booties can be an option as well.
“Notify guests in advance that there is a ‘no wearing shoes in the house’ policy,” she advised. “It can be quite embarrassing if guests are unprepared to remove their shoes. For example, what if someone is self-conscious about his or her feet?”
Failing to warn about pets
Speaking of advance warnings, remember you may have guests who’ve never been to your home and might be unaware that animals live there.
“Let them know you have pets in the event they are allergic,” Gottsman said.
Take the time to find out if anyone has allergies or other pet-related issues that would make them uncomfortable sharing space with your dog, cat, rabbit, hamster, bird or snake. If so, make the proper accommodations.
“A host should never fail to make arrangements for their pet to be comfortable in another area of the home or spend time with a family member or friend during the party,” Vernon-Thompson said. “One should never assume that everyone is comfortable being close to a pet of any kind. There may be guests with allergies or a guest who has a deep fear of a pet such as yours due to a previous traumatic experience. In addition, there are people who may be uncomfortable eating with a pet nearby.”
Demanding money at the end
“You may not insist guests Cash App you money at the end of the party,” Smith said.
Indeed, etiquette experts tend to agree it’s rude to charge your friends for a dinner party you’re throwing. Lots of people bring a nice bottle of wine as a host gift, which should be sufficient.
If you’re hosting a potluck, make that clear and ask people to bring various dishes. A fundraiser or donation-based event may also call for payment. Or there might be a situation where friends can agree to contribute money for a traditional dinner party, but this must be discussed in advance.
“One should not expect anything from the guests except for them to have a great time and mingle,” Vernon-Thompson said.
Of course, the no-Monzo request rule doesn’t apply to a more casual situation when friends are perhaps watching Sunday football games together on someone’s couch and decide to place a delivery order for pizza and wings.
Ignoring your guests
“The host should engage with all guests,” Claytor said. “Ideally, he or she should spend a few moments one-on-one with each person to ensure everyone feels special and welcome.”
Be present as a host. Monitor the space to see if anyone is alone or being left out of the conversation. Stay off your phone and pay attention to your guests.
“If the host receives a call during a party it is OK to briefly step away and tell the caller that you will call him or her back,” Claytor said. “After all, you never know if someone is calling about an emergency. But I recently attended a dinner party and after dinner the host was on the phone either texting or checking social media. Even though all of the attendees knew each other it still sent the signal that we weren’t as interesting as what was happening on the phone.”
On a similar note, don’t leave the scene of the gathering for an extended period with no heads up or explanation.
“Whether it is to powder your nose or change into another outfit, that should be planned so well that it literally only takes minutes and return to your guests,” Vernon-Thompson said. “The last thing a host wishes is for their guests to wonder where they are and feel abandoned. That is certainly not good form.”
Having expectations but not communicating them
If you have certain expectations for your guests and the event, you have to communicate these in advance.
“Be clear about arrival and departure times and offer up an attire level so guests know how to dress,” Smith said.
Try to convey the level of formality of the event and how large it will be when you invite people.
“Guests should never feel they are either overdressed or underdressed, nor should the number of people at the party surprise them,” Claytor said.
Cleaning up before the event ends
If your event has a start and end time, it should span that period ― barring any unforeseen happenings. So, don’t start shutting down the party while people are still enjoying their time.
“During a party, I have witnessed the host literally cleaning up around the guests while they are having conversations and mingling,” Vernon-Thompson said. “They have literally taken the broom and began sweeping around the guests, clearing tables, and moving the food items aside. This faux pas translates to the guests that it is time to go, and they are no longer welcome. It is a resounding message and that is the type of message you certainly don’t wish to send as a host, especially if the guests are there during the time you stated the party would take place.”