Party Etiquette 101: A List of 18 Do’s and Don’ts for Hosts and their Guests
February 16, 2018
Is it really important to RSVP? Can I wear a t-shirt to a cocktail party? Is Filipino time really that rude? Is it okay to drink till we can’t see straight? We gather 18 important do’s and don’ts that hosts and guests often forget during get togethers.
Never ignore an invitation. The term RSVP was invented for a reason. Derived from the French phrase repondez s’il vous plait (“please respond”), formal (and even informal) invitations almost always asks guests to let their hosts know whether they will be attending or not. It is only right that you decline invitations when you cannot attend, and always let them know if you can. This will allow your host to plan accordingly. Not responding often leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. They may even revoke your invitation for the next dinner party.
Never ask a host “Who’s going?”. It may give off a vibe that you are attending the event simply for the pleasure of others and not for the one giving the party. It may be acceptable to ask for small barkada brunches, but it is a big no-no most especially when one invites you to a birthday dinner or milestone event. The other guests shouldn’t even matter for those events. They want you there and that’s all you need to know.
After receiving an invitation, always inform the host of your dietary restrictions ASAP. If the party revolves around the consumption of a 27 day-aged premium cut of beef, maybe its best that you decline the invitation rather than making everybody feel guilty that you are now temporarily on a vegan diet. If you insist on being with your friends, bring your own food so that you don’t impose on your host.
If you must bring a plus one to the event, it is always a good idea to tell the host at least three days in advance to make the necessary arrangements. Gate crashers are never welcomed and often infuriates hosts who have prepared for a particular number of people. In addition, it may embarrass your plus one as well, especially when there are no seats available around the meticulously planned dinner table.
Although is it not 100% necessary to do so, it is always appreciated when guests come to the party with a little token or gift. It shows your appreciation in being invited. Nice gifts could range from a good bottle of wine, to a much buzzed about cake (we hear Rebecca Disini’s mirror cakes are divine), or even a simple cigar to offer the man of the house when drinking post-dinner brandy.
When arriving at a party, always find the time to say hello to your gracious host. If he or she is being spoken to, come back and greet them when they’re free. Never interrupt a conversation between the host and other guests. Do the same before leaving. French Exiting is no longer chic. Say goodbye to your host and thank them for having you. It’s the simplest way to show your gratitude.
There is fashionably late and there is very late which many consider rude. One is expected to arrive at a party on time. It is only acceptable to be half an hour late (a window for unexpected traffic), unless a real emergency comes up. Filipino time should never be considered as the host may be preparing a 5-course dinner which will surely be interrupted when you walk in late due to your dilemma of which shoes to wear. If you have a previous engagement and unsure of your arrival time, it is best not to join dinner at all and simply inform the host that you will arrive for drinks at the end.
Always observe the theme of the party. Nothing will irritate a host more than seeing you in a black t-shirt when the invitation says cocktail chic. You may not own a floral shirt for the next Hawaiian afternoon barbeque event, but there are always ways to incorporate themes into your outfit. Make Google your best friend. It may teach you wonderful tricks like using a floral tie as an accessory or how to make use of that Hermes scarf you bought on a shopping spree.
Only bring your kids or babies to the appropriate events. Barbeques, weekend gatherings and playdates are a good idea. If the host wants you to bring your kid for a day of swimming at her newly refurbished Dasma home, we are certain she will let you know. However, nobody wants to hear a crying baby at girly gossip time over mimosas or at the La Cabrera wine pairing dinner.
Host should never be uptight. Guest behavior and attitude will always depend on how you receive them. Put your blow-dried hair down and don’t expect the evening to go according to plan. Leave room for surprises, and we assure you that you’ll have a lot more fun.
Don’t make the conversation all about you. If you finally bought those No.21 satin bow mules you had your eye on, it’s okay to share the good news with your girlfriends. But don’t consistently talk about it that everyone’s attention are to your feet rather than your bestie’s new engagement. Dinner conversations such as gossip, politics, and religion are also big no-no’s on the table unless the host brings it up first.
Napkins should always be set atop your lap, whether you do this at home or not. In addition, make sure you fold the napkin slowly as you eat, to avoiding showing the food stains. It should begin fully opened, then folded in half, then by fourths and so on. When one side is done, flip it over and use the clean side.
Never put your knife into your mouth. We asked a society hostess (who consistently throws dinner parties at her Northern estate) what her biggest pet peeve is when entertaining. She said it is when people do not use their utensils properly, “They invented forks and spoons for your mouths. Knives are meant ONLY for cutting.”
When the cuisine is not to your liking, never announce it to the world. It’s not the host’s fault that he learned how to cook the world’s best steak on Instagram’s Tasty. Eat slowly and chew as if you have a secret. When you want to offer a tip on how to prepare a certain dish, it is best done between the privacy of you and the hostess and never around the other guests. They might appreciate that you know the supplier of the new Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook rather than the handle of the hottest IG chef.
Never waste good wine. Or any alcohol, in fact. If you’re not a wine drinker, don’t be afraid to refuse an offer. It’s better that they offer their premium South American wine (which they hand carried over a 24-hour travel period) to somebody who will truly appreciate it. Trust me, if you decline, they will offer something else. Who knows, they might have that Dalmore Constellation you’ve been craving for.
Don’t hoard the good stuff. The host’s aperitif table may be overflowing with Beluga caviar, seared foie gras and the best cheeses from Switzerland, but it may be seen in bad taste to overflow your plate when first arriving to the buffet. It’s fine to get a generous portion, but never wipe it out. You’re always welcome to come back for seconds when everybody has had their first.
Ask permission before changing the host’s music. You may not like to listen to their Best of the 80s playlist on Spotify, and we absolutely don’t blame you for not liking George Michael, Nena and Hall & Oates, but be respectful when plugging in your iPod before assuming that the host wouldn’t mind. He may be in the pool enjoying a drink, but he may still be waiting for Wham’s Wake Me Up Before You Go Go to play.
Alcohol is your friend but it shouldn’t be your best friend. Never drink more than you can handle. Not only will you embarrass yourself with your crazy antics or inappropriate conversation but you may become a bother to the party giver and their guests. Good alcohol should enhance the experience, but it should never be the experience alone. Drink what you like, but why go to a party when you can’t remember that you promised everybody a trip to Hong Kong on your credit card?
Text by Chino R. Hernandez