It’s that time of the year!
If you aren’t hosting guests this holiday season, you’re probably planning to be a guest at someone else’s home soon. While this is usually an enjoyable time for hosts and guests alike, it can also mean some amount of stress for both parties!
Whether you’re heading home from college for Christmas break, flying a whole passel of kids to a close friend’s house for a few days, or just attending an evening Christmas party for your church fellowship group, here are some tips for being the perfect guest.
Before the Event:
- Determine that you’re going to be an enjoyable guest.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen people use gatherings as a time to air their negative feelings or wear a prominent frown. Maybe someone’s words offended them last week, and they want to make it clear they’re not over it. Or maybe they’ve had a hard day, and they’re looking for an opportunity to vent.
Putting on a kind smile isn’t being fake; it’s being considerate of others. While you may legitimately need to vent, find a quiet place to do that with God or a trusted friend. Leave grudges at the door and embrace the spirit of the season.
- Be clear about what you’re expected to bring–or not bring.
The hostess may welcome an extra dessert. Or she may have slaved on that 3-layer cheesecake all day and not care to have competing options available. Respect that!
OR . . .
Your hostess may be happy for you to bring your new puppy. Or she may not be overly excited about having your chihuahua running underfoot. Just make sure expectations are clear before you arrive.
- Consider bringing a thoughtful gift.
Are you and your friends night owls likely to hang out till midnight? Bring something for the hostess to have for breakfast the following morning–muffins or granola with her favorite coffee. If she’ll have guests late, she may appreciate not having to think very hard about breakfast the next morning–especially if she has a family to think about.
Is the hostess single or not much of a breakfast person? Maybe she’d love a container of frozen cookie dough instead.
- Make sure the timing of your visit is convenient for your hosts.
This is another common-sense tip, but if you’re staying for an extended period of time, make sure the timing of the visit is convenient for the hosting family. I once postponed a huge trip after learning the hostess hadn’t had a week without visitors in over a month!
- Consider bringing a tote to keep up with your stuff.
Think of all the stuff we drag around with us these days! Depending on your situation and whether or not you’re bringing your family, you may have phones, books, chargers, purses, wallets, hats, toys, diapers, etc. to keep track of.
Rather than letting these things get strewn around the house or risking them getting mixed up with other guests’ belongings, find a way to contain everything. A tote is a great tool for helping you stay aware of where your belongings are.
During the Event:
- Determine not to be high-maintenance during your stay.
. . . But also communicate if you have serious food or pet allergies, or if there’s anything else important that the host may need to know.
Being a guest doesn’t mean you’re entitled to being waited on hand and foot. If you think it does, you’ll probably find that you’re invited places less and less often! Go with the flow, but don’t be afraid to speak up when necessary. Even though she may be perfectly willing, your hostess shouldn’t have to go out of her way for you.
On the other hand, if the hostess asks your preferences about something, don’t be wishy-washy. Tell her exactly what you want or need, but be very gracious in your response.
- Pay for at least one meal out if you’re staying with someone for a few days.
Of course, if you’re a college student staying with family, this tip isn’t likely to apply. =) But in many cases, a meal on you will be a kind and much-appreciated gesture to your hosts.
- As a general rule, limit your stays to no more than two nights.
Exceptions obviously apply, but unless you’re staying with very close family or friends, keeping your stay on the shorter side is just considerate.
- Be prepared to entertain yourself if your hosts have to work or take care of other business.
If at all possible, clarify these details before you arrive. Hosts can feel a lot of pressure to entertain. You can make your stay more enjoyable for yourself and the host if you have a plan for downtime.
Unless you know your host loves cooking big breakfasts, prepare to be independant in the morning. If you drink coffee and you don’t know if your host does, be prepared to bring your own coffee-making supplies, or scout out the local coffee shops online before you arrive.
Generally, the more you do for yourself, the better!
- Don’t resist being pampered, but (again) don’t demand a lot of your host’s time.
Be appreciative of your host’s efforts to make you comfortable. Be prepared to help, but also know how to graciously take a seat when your host insists she’s got everything under control.
- Clean up after yourself.
(And if you have children, make sure they clean up after themselves, too.) When you leave, rooms should look like they did when you arrived. There shouldn’t be a trace of Starbucks or your late-night-Taco-Bell-run wrappers anywhere to be seen.
- Be mindful of your host’s bedtime.
If a gathering is running late or you’re staying overnight, notice if your hosts are starting to glance at the clock or mention how late it’s getting! These may be signs it’s time to call it a night.
After the Event:
- Thank the hostess.
. . . But don’t just say, “Thank you.” Tell her a special touch in particular that you noticed during your stay. SO much work goes into parties and hosting, and your hostess will appreciate that her hard work was noticed.
A thank-you card may also be appropriate, especially if you were invited to a party or stayed over a few days with non-family. Take a moment within a few days after the party/visit to hand-write (and actually mail!) a thank-you note.
- Consider whether the thank you calls for something special.
Some neat ideas I’ve seen lately:
- If staying a someone’s house saved you money on a hotel room, consider sending your hosts a bouquet of flowers after your stay.
- Print a photo from a memorable moment of the party or your stay, and mail it to the hosts along with a thank-you card.
What are some special things you do or take into consideration as a guest? If you’re hosting this year, what are some things you think guests should keep in mind?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!