Jan 11, 2009

She's Classy, Not Trashy...

I hosted girls’ night in last night and an old friend reminded me of an important lesson: a good hostess deserves good guests.

It was a casual gathering, just a few bottles of wine and a huge cheese plate that substituted for dinner (a favorite for that crowd). My friends came, we ate & drank, talked & laughed and at an appropriate hour they helped carry the remnants of our spread to the kitchen and wrapped up the leftovers for me. It was only after I had finished the dishes, put the living room back together and gotten ready for bed that I noticed my friend had slipped away at some point in the evening and left a thank you card in my bedroom. It was such a sweet & thoughtful gesture and I got into bed, not only exhausted from the evening, but smiling from the knowledge that my friend recognized & appreciated the effort I’d made. It made me want to invite her over again right away!

Here's a quick checklist to see if you’ll be invited back again…

How to be a good guest:
This goes beyond good manners – how is your hostess supposed to plan for enough food & drink if she doesn’t know how many people are coming? There’s nothing more stressful for a hostess (or, I imagine more embarrassing for the inconsiderate guest) than having to re-set the table at the last minute to accommodate another place setting or figuring out how to turn ten servings of chicken into eleven so everyone gets some dinner! On the flip side, don’t cause your hostess to spend unnecessary time or money if you know you’re not going to attend. It’s far better to politely decline an invitation than to simply not show up or call at the last minute to cancel.

Be on time.
Recognize that your hostess has put considerable planning and preparation into the event and make the effort to arrive no later than ten minutes after the invited time.

Bring a hostess gift.
A bottle of wine, a beautiful candle or interesting book – your gift needn’t cost more than $10-20. Flowers are tricky because your hostess may have to stop what she’s doing to find a vase & put them away. Try to bring a pre-made arrangement or potted plant instead so that you don’t disturb her party prep. One of my favorite gifts to give is a bottle of French Savon de Marseilles hand soap. For about $18 it comes in a chic glass bottle and a variety of fabulous, fresh scents – it’s incredibly stylish & fun in a kitchen or guest bath.

Know when it’s time to go.
I once co-hosted a holiday party for over a hundred guests. It was terrific fun – a true whirlwind of food, drinks, stories & raucous laughter. But we weren’t laughing in the early morning hours when all but two people had gone home, we were exhausted and desperate to clean up & go to bed and they wouldn’t leave! There’s comes a time when it’s clear the party is over – be respectful of your hostess’ time and leave before the lights come on & the vacuum comes out.

Send a Thank You.
While my friend showed forethought & grace by bringing a note with her, sending a short handwritten card a few days after the event is just as classy. These days it’s more common to send a quick email but taking the time to write a note, address & stamp it shows your genuine appreciation. You get bonus points for mentioning something specific about the party that you especially enjoyed, i.e “Dinner was delicious! You’ll have to share your recipe for ______, it was the best I’ve ever had”.

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