The tables are set with beautiful centerpieces, the candles are lit, a welcome drink is awaiting you at the door and the music is pulsing with the party beat. The thrill of walking into a party still makes people’s heart beat.
Invitations to personal or business events connote an element of importance, favor and acceptance. In today’s lax environment of anything goes behavior, it is my belief that we could all benefit from a refresher on showing more appreciation and respect for invitations and to possibly relearn how to be a gracious guest.
Here are my tips for behaving as a gracious guest:
1. Most invitations contain a R.S.V.P. which is a French phrase, “répondez, s’il vous plaît,” which means “please reply.” A final guest count is important for a host for numerous reasons. These include:
a) Responding to a caterer for food count.Whether the caterer is on-site or the host orders and picks up from a restaurant, both will require a final count to accommodate preparation timelines and to confirm the host’s food costs. An on-site caterer will need time to secure an adequate staff to facilitate the planning, set-up, presentation, management and clean-up of food. This process requires a lot of work and organization. Additionally, most caterers will quote a price based upon a start and end time. If the timeframe is extended due to a variety of reasons, the host may have to pay them more.
b) Responding to a bartending service firm for staff and/or purchasing enough alcohol and/or non-alcoholic beverages to accommodate the guests.
c) Adhering to a venue’s maximum capacity as set by local law.
As you can ascertain, these three factors alone require planning and coordination. It is less stressful for the host, if a planner is not hired, to avoid having to make lots of last minute adjustments due to a lack of timely R.S.V.P.’s. Besides that, hosts and guests want to keep the party fresh and alive with plenty of food and libations for all.
Conversely, if you R.S.V.P., it is completely acceptable to inform your host that your availability has changed and you will not be able to attend. We all know the feeling of anticipating guests and then not seeing them.
2. Rentals. At times, it is necessary to rent tables, chairs, linens, dinnerware, etc. If that is the case, then the host will need an accurate attendance count for the rental company so that they can fulfill the order as needed.
3. Dress appropriately to honor your host, yourself and the venue. It is a matter of courtesy and respect. Once you R.S.V.P., you are a participant who agrees to partake in the host’s planned festivities. Have some fun and make some fun (please see tips five and six).
4. Bring a gift. Like a R.S.V.P., a gift is a gesture of gratitude. A gift does not have to be expensive. Something relevant and thoughtful is ideal.
5. Avoid overindulgence. Yes, the memo on this topic is still is either unknown or ignored. Please be conscious of the amount of food and especially alcoholic beverages you and your guest(s) consume. A free (open) bar is not a license to overindulge to the point of behaving belligerently including acting aggressively and slurring words. I have seen grown adults lose their bodily functions at professional events and it is never a shining moment for them or the host. Please demonstrate some discipline while at celebrations.
6. Act responsibly. This includes not damaging the venue, whether it is an employer’s private residence or a local venue. It also includes socializing with the other guests and participating in the fun.
7. Adhere to food etiquette. Do not put your hands in a platter of buffet food, stand over a buffet and begin eating, take multiple helpings prior to fellow guests receiving their first, use multiple plates when one will do, ask for containers to take food home in or stuff food into pockets or purses. This is disturbing behavior that I see at nearly every event. This is not your personal meal or kitchen space. The food is accounted for and set for numerous people to enjoy. I have also seen a brazen, arrogant guest put their fingers in a pan of cooking food at chef-attended private functions. This behavior is disgusting and inappropriate. Let’s stop being so self-focused and show some respect for everyone, starting with yourself.
8. Do not hover over or block pathways of chefs, caterers or other staff that are in the process of setting up food. Wait away from the area for the set-up to finish. Then wait for announcement that dinner is ready for everyone.
9. Clean-up your area. Even though staff are usually at an event to help with clean up, it is completely acceptable to take a moment to clean up your personal area and gather your plates, napkins and cups for disposal. If you dining with china, await the staff to gather your plates and silverware. There is a system for collecting dishware and disposing of food.
10. Thank you host upon leaving and mail a personal note of thanks. In your note, you can mention some of the event highlights for you and your guest(s) as a wonderful way to further build your relationship with the host and share happy memories.
Events are meant for everyone’s enjoyment. When we all do our part to behave like gracious guests, then more fun is typically had by all. When you host an event, you’ll appreciate your guests abiding by these same tips.