Yesterday, Sarah talked about hosting her first Thanksgiving at her house. I don’t think I’m that brave yet, but I’ve definitely been a guest at my fair share of Thanksgiving dinners. Growing up, we always traveled down to Florida to spend the week with friends down there. My parents hosted it at their house the year I moved back to Charleston, but the following year, my family all went to Andrew’s parents’ house and we celebrated together. Last year, Andrew and I spent the day with some of our best friends and their three kids. This year, Andrew’s older brother is hosting, and it’s both of our families again.
So, as you can see, I’m a pro at being a Thanksgiving guest at other people’s houses. Today, I’m going to give you some tips on how you can be a gracious guest at any gathering, not just Thanksgiving.
- Offer to bring a menu item. Especially for a big dinner like Thanksgiving, it’s always acceptable to offer to contribute to the menu. Everyone has their specialty dish for the holidays, and most hosts are more than happy to let you pitch in. This wouldn’t necessarily work for a dinner party (my brother-in-law throws themed dinners all the time!), so always double-check with your host, just to be sure. If all else fails, it’s definitely classy to bring a bottle of wine or even a bouquet of flowers.
*BONUS: If you have a favorite Thanksgiving dish, offer to bring that. Then you can be sure that it will be there!
- Be on time. When your host sets the arrival time, they plan their cooking according to that. If you arrive too early, they might be up to their elbows in cooking, and then you’re just left to stand there awkwardly in the way. On the other hand, if you arrive late, you interrupt the flow of the evening, and you take away the attention that is meant for the host and all of their hard work. If you’re bringing a dish, double-check with your host to see if they do need you to arrive at an earlier time, of course.
- Offer to help clean up. Clean up is the worst part of a party, in my opinion. It’s part of the reason I’m not a huge fan of cooking in the first place. I don’t mind making the mess, it’s the clean up that I dislike. But, it’s a necessary part of life. Some hosts prefer to wait until everyone is gone and to clean the whole kitchen all at once; some prefer to clean up after dinner, before dessert is brought out. At the very least, offer to help clear the table. If your host allows, though, help clean the dishes and put away the leftovers. Because, after all, many hands make for light loads.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. This can be a hard one to avoid, especially if you’re at a close friend’s house or a family member’s. Basically, just pay attention to your host. If you can see that they’ve hit the point where they’re looking tired, wrap it up, and wish them a good night. There’s nothing worse than wanting to relax at the end of a long day but still having guests to entertain. Some people love to have guest for hours, some are ready for them to be gone as soon as dinner is over. Be aware of your host. Also, if other guest are leaving, it’s usually best to go ahead and excuse yourself as well. This makes for the smoothest transition for everyone.
Most of these seem like common courtesy, but we can all use reminders now and then. As we come into the holiday season, we all need to remember to be gracious hosts and guests. Be appreciative of the time and effort it takes to prepare a meal for a group of people and to prepare one’s home to host them, as well. Always be sure to thank your host for their efforts too. Knowing that those efforts have been noticed and are appreciated always makes the work worth it.
Have a fantastic weekend!