Ps, Qs, & What To Do: How to Be a Gracious Host & Guest | Do Say Give

Ps, Qs, & What To Do: How to Be a Gracious Host & Guest


Party Hostess Checklist
Today in our etiquette refresher series, I’m going over the basics of what to do when you host a party or get invited to one. This goes for adult events, school events, and even children’s birthday parties!


How to be a Gracious Host

A host’s priority is to make his or her guests feel welcome and comfortable. Whether the occasion is casual or black-tie, a gracious host manages the tasks of the event all while being attuned to the needs of her guests.

Here are some easy ways to be a gracious host: 

Offer guests something to drink upon arrival.

This helps guests settle in and feel welcome (especially important if it’s a new acquaintance). Whether it’s an iced tea or cocktail, a drink in hand quickly puts guests at ease. 

Play music to lighten the mood.

It’s amazing what a little background music can do to set the tone of a party! It also helps fill in the space if there’s a lull in conversation. Ina Garten has several curated playlists on Spotify that are great for dinner and parties.  

Introduce guests to one another.

By doing this, you can make sure your guests know one another and ensure everyone feels included. If you need a little extra help with this, be sure to read our Art of Gracious Conversation post for quick reference!

Don’t leave guests unattended for too long.

And if you notice someone standing by herself, connect her with someone else at the party with tips from this post.

Don’t make guests feel trapped. 

Emily Post once said that people like to come to homes where there is a “happy combination of some attention of the part of the hostess and the perfect freedom of the guests to occupy their time as they choose.” In other words, you want to attend to your guests but not hold them hostage. Don’t invite people to a dinner party at 5:30 if you aren’t going to serve dinner until 8. An hour is plenty of time for cocktails. And don’t wait until the bitter end of a birthday party to serve the cake. (Halfway or two-thirds of the way through a child’s birthday party will give the guests that need to leave early an easy exit.) And at a wedding or baby shower, don’t require guests to play five games before getting to the opening of gifts. It is about being thoughtful of guests and their time!

Always have plenty of food and drink.

More is more when it comes to sustenance! You don’t want guests to feel guilty about taking the last hor d’oeuvre off of a platter or the last glass of wine. A bountiful kitchen is a blessing to friends and family. And if you have leftovers, send home with guests!


Sounds easy enough but the tasks of hosting can sometimes bring on stress. A gracious host never wants her guests to feel guilty or uneasy. A pleasant demeanor makes guests feel loved and welcomed. 

Thank guests for coming when they leave.

Letting people know that you appreciate them being at your party, event, or gathering goes such a long way — and sends them off on a happy note!



How to be a Gracious Guest


The first way you can be a gracious guest is to RSVP. This helps the host make proper plans. It’s good to get into the habit of RSVPing as soon as you receive an invitation as this will take the stress out of potentially forgetting and RSVPing too late!

Be on time.

Unless it’s a drop-in party, arrive on time or within 15 minutes of the start time. If you will be late, let the host know ahead of time.  

Hostess Gift Idea

Bring a hostess gift. 

From birthdays to dinner parties, it’s always a nice gesture to bring a gift — even a small one. It’s never about the cost of the gift, it’s truly about the thought. We have lots of ideas for hostess gifts here and here

Don’t be the center of attention at a party that isn’t your own.

The attention should be on the host or the guest of honor, and try to do what you can to make the party a special and positive experience. On that note, be mindful of how much you have to drink while you’re at any event. There’s nothing worse (or more embarrassing) than acting out of character by over-drinking.

Don’t monopolize the host’s time.

Chances are, the host of any party or event will have plenty of things to do to ensure everything runs smoothly. Keep conversations short out of consideration for their hosting duties. You can always call or text them the next day to chat!

Ask what you can do to help.

Offer to help fill the water glasses or taking things to the table. But remember to respect their wishes if they decline!

Avoid hot topics in conversation.

From politics to religion and any hot-button issue in between, these should be off limits in terms of social conversation topics. We never know how another guest might feel about any given subject matter, so it’s best to just avoid these!

Take cues from the host.

If they start blowing out the candles, it might be a hint they want to retire for the evening! 

Thank the hosts before leaving. 

Before departing, be sure to thank the host for a lovely time. A thank you note is a nice gesture for a seated dinner or or other special occasion. 



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