Off the hook for hosting this year? Being a good guest is every bit as important. Here’s how to ensure you’re always at the top of the list.
Bring a Hostess Gift
Please, no scented candles. You want to be invited back, don’t you?
Some Like It Hot: Our new favorite hot sauces, from Phoenix’s Cutino Sauce Co., will be your friends’ favorites, too. They come in traffic-light colors and are packed with flavor (think tangy Verde, smoky Chipotle, sweet-hot Habanero, and just-spicy-enough Jalapeño). Opt for the four-bottle gift pack and shipping is free.
That’s My Wine: These reusable, brightly hued merino wool glass markers from Graf Lantz come in sets of 12, and they’re odor, bacteria, and stain resistant. Pair with a nice bottle of vino … no Three-Buck Chuck allowed!
Breakfast On Us: American Spoon understands the importance of a good breakfast the morning after the big bash (and so do you, Best Guest Ever). Their Fall Breakfast Box hits all the highlights with Wheat & Malt Pancake Mix, Maple Syrup, Bartlett Pear Preserves, Salted Maple Caramel, and Heirloom Apple Spoon Fruit.
The Spice of Life: In the history of host-gift giving, no one has ever been disappointed by a piece of home and tableware by designer Michael Aram. His designs are inspired by the shapes and patterns of nature, as with this glamorous nickelplate salt and pepper set.
Read the Invitation — and the Room
If the invite said 7 p.m., plan to get there at 7 p.m. — or a few minutes later. It’s a party, not a sold-out movie.
Do offer to help. If you unintentionally arrive early, (Hey, you can’t help it if your Uber driver has a speeding problem!) roll up your sleeves, tie on an apron, and start styling those appetizers.
Don’t spend the evening talking to one person. Sure, you know your neighbor — but that doesn’t mean you have to spend the whole night talking to her. Spread your wings, you social butterfly, you!
Don’t be the guest who wouldn’t leave. Unless you’re a weekend houseguest, you’ve overstayed your welcome once the host starts yawning pointedly. When in doubt, leave them wanting more.
Do say goodnight. Even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing, make the effort to touch base with your hosts and thank them for a lovely evening before reaching for your coat.
Remember, even if you don’t know many of the other guests, you all have one thing in common: the host! Work that angle, and work it good. Here’s a primer.
Step One: Introduce yourself. (“Hi, I’m Julie. I went to college with Josh back in the ‘80s! How do you know him?” is a reliable starter.)
Step Two: Establish a connection — geography works well — and remember to ask questions. (“I work in the city, but I live in Evanston. What about you?”)
Step Three: Work the connection. (“Winnetka? I know it’s a long shot, but do you know…” or perhaps, “Winnetka? I love Avli up in the Laundry Mall. Have you been?”)
Step Four: Know when to cut bait. If the conversation dwindles, smile and say you’re going to freshen your drink, find your spouse, etc. (“So nice meeting you! Happy Holidays!”)
Say Thank You
You brought a gift, you’ve thanked your host in person, you’ve waved goodbye. Guess what? You’re not done yet. According to modern etiquette site The Spruce, a written thank-you note is best. If you’re lazy, an email might suffice — but go the extra mile to make it genuine and heartfelt. Want to really impress? Send next-day flowers.
Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre.