Don’t Be a Jackass – Guest & Host Etiquette

Recently I have received a bunch of questions via messenger regarding etiquette rules. I have to chuckle each time I get one of these questions. Who do they think I am, Emily Post? While I am no expert on anything, I DO try to have decent manners and try to adhere to basic etiquette guidelines. Keep in mind that etiquette changes drastically with the times and what was appropriate at one time, are now seen as affectations or bizarre – calling cards, gloves, and hats for example, and THIS thank goodness. Still, some things never go out of style. When in doubt, bring flowers because as Uncle John says, “bitches love flowers”. I have addressed this topic before. Click here and here. This one is a little more tongue in cheek and peppered with foul language. Consider yourself warned. And just because I love Colin Firth, enjoy this on how NOT to behave.

I’ve put on my prettiest Miss Manners hat and here is some of MY etiquette Q&A for you. Many of these are real questions people asked me, except the last one. Disclaimer – Miss Manners would never use foul language and these are NOT her answers.

Bubbles are always nice! (photo from Unsplash)

Q – I’ve been invited to a dinner party. What should I bring?

A – It depends on the party and the host. If it is a catered or planned event, don’t fuck up the menu by bringing a dish the host will feel obligated to serve. A bottle of wine* (something with bubbles is extra nice), a potted plant/herb, or flowers are thoughtful choices. If it’s a potluck, work within the meal’s theme and find out whether the host needs an appetizer, side, main or dessert to round out the party.

Q – While traveling, we’ll be visiting several friends’ homes. I don’t want to pack extra stuff, so how do I handle proper Host gifts?

A – Politeness and etiquette dictate that as an overnight guest you gift your host with a little something. Once at your destination, hit up a liquor store* or florist for above mentioned gifts. Alternatively, when you get home, send something special from your neck of the woods (this can also be done in advance). You can also keep an eye and ear open for things your host might find useful. Friend Lisa stayed with us over Thanksgiving weekend and a GORGEOUS new red tea kettle arrived in the mail a few days after her return because she knew I had been looking for a new one.  And send a handwritten thank you note because everyone likes to get snail mail that isn’t a bill!

Remember “Bitches Love Flowers” is Uncle John’s etiquette rule for every occasion. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Q – I am frequently invited to parties, I always ask “What can I bring?” and I am always told nothing. What does etiquette dictate I do?

A – Find your hosts’ fave resto and get them a gift certificate so they can enjoy after your departure. EVERYONE appreciates food & drink! This works really well for when you are travelling. Also, see Uncle John’s rule above.

Photo by Nino Ubezio on Unsplash

Q – I hosted a sit down dinner party and one of the guests arrived 90 minutes late with no apology or excuse. Do I ever have to invite them again?

A – FUCK NO! That bitch is off the list. Had it been a “drop in” or casual affair, tardiness would have been permitted. When I extend an invite for, “Cocktails at 6 and dinner at 7” and a guest shows up THAT late (with no prior notification, apology or decent excuse) they never get another invite from me…for anything. And for the record, you aren’t obligated to invite anyone to anything you host. Guests – if you KNOW you are going to be late, a simple text, call or FB message is enough to grant you forgiveness in most cases. And guest – make your apologies as far in advance as possible to honor your hosts’ and the other guests’ time.

Q – I was invited to a dinner at a friend’s house for “Cocktails at 6, dinner at 7:30”. I was on time and dinner wasn’t served until 9! Can I just show up late next time?

A – FUCK NO! Maybe your host had a recipe issue, appliance issue or something else too embarrassing to share with the guests. If it really pisses you off, the best option is to let the host know you’ll miss cocktails and be in time for dinner (see above about letting the host know you’ll be late).

Q – At my party, an inebriate got WAY out of line, making some guests uncomfortable. I am embarrassed and don’t want to invite them back for another event. Because we share many mutual friends, am I obligated to include them?

A – FUCK NO! It’s your house! You aren’t obligated to invite ANYONE to anything. That being said, if you are close friends with this person, you should tell them their behavior was out of bounds, and explain why you were embarrassed. If you aren’t close friends that could be an awkward conversation so use your best judgment. Let me repeat, you aren’t OBLIGATED to include ANYONE for ANY event EVER.


Q – I RSVPed to an event and have since gotten a better invitation. Can I politely back out of invitation #1?

A – Only if you want to be an excellent example of an etiquette Jackass! Both hosts thought enough to include you, but #1 asked first and YOU ACCEPTED! Don’t be THAT PERSON! In this day of social media pics everywhere, your cancellation could really hurt host #1’s feelings (and let’s face it, etiquette and manners are all about not hurting someone’s feelings). If possible, go to BOTH events! Let host #2 know you will be late, let host #1 know you’ll have to leave early. EXCEPTION #1 – etiquette dictates weddings trump everything. If you RSVPed to a wedding you go, barring a true emergency, because the happy couple has probably already paid for your meal. If you get a wedding invite after RSVPing to an event, call host #1 and beg off citing the wedding invite – they will understand. EXCEPTION #2 – if Event #2 is work related, call Host #1 and explain that you won’t be able to attend.

Q – I received an invitation that says “Adults only – no kids please”. Can I bring my infant?

A – In most cases no. The invitation is pretty fucking clear. EXCEPTION – if you are a nursing Mom with an infant (and I do mean INFANT – not toddler), call and ask if it’s ok to bring the baby BECAUSE you are nursing. Years ago, I had to do this when I was invited to a wedding and Jack was just a couple of weeks old. The Happy Couple said yes, so I went. John would have attended the wedding without me had the answer been different. I’ve had to turn down an out of town wedding invite because I couldn’t bring my school aged son and I had no one to watch him. I was sad to have missed it, but sent a gift anyway. I had several people not attend my own wedding because of my “no kids” policy. And Hosts – don’t be afraid to stand your ground on this issue – it’s YOUR event!

Q – Several of my guests brought lovely Host Gifts to a party I hosted recently. Are thank you notes warranted?

A – No. The gifts you received were “thank you” gifts to you for your hospitality. It’d be like writing a thank you note for a thank you note. Ya dig? Where would it ever end?

Q – My guests didn’t bring me Host Gifts? Should I invite them back?

A – Don’t be an asshole! If you invited them because you thought they would bring you gifts, you included them for the wrong reason, you asshole! If you enjoy their company, their presence should be gift enough.


*Know your audience! Don’t bring wine or other alcohol to the home of someone who doesn’t drink. Sparkling Cider works really well too!