Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cocktail Party Ettiquette

I thought I would take a moment and offer up some simple guidelines to everyone who is invited to cocktail parties. Any kind of party really! We entertain a lot and it always amazes me that there is always someone who comes to a party who seems to have been raised by wolves. An interesting thing to note is none of these people have ever invited us to anything in their home - no dinner party, cocktails, drinks on a Saturday evening or anything. They obviously have no idea how it feels to be on the hosting end of an event so they have no idea how to be a great guest. I am sure all of you know these tips already but it is always good to have a refresher!

1. RSVP. Every single time. Do not make a host/hostess chase you to find out if you are coming. When an invitation arrives in your mailbox consider this: Someone thought enough of you to invite you to their home - think enough of them to reply. Even if you cant make it, just call and thank them for inviting you and let them know you wont be able to come. When an invitation arrives simply look at your calendar and if you are free that day/evening let the host/hostess know you will be there. RSVP does not mean 'tell me you are coming'. It means 'respond please'. Respond either way. Please. If you cant make it and the host/hostess knows far enough in advance there might be a lot of people in your shoes. Lots of notice means the host/hostess can reschedule to a date the majority of invited guests can come.

2. Once you have RSVP'd you must stick with these plans. People who host parties spend a lot of money on food, drink, decorations, favours and other nice touches. That money and time is spent before the party which means you owe your host/hostess the honour of your company. They have forked out to feed you in other words. Do not let the host/hostess know on the day of the event that someone you haven't seen in 10 years is in town for one day only and you wont be coming. That isn't fair. In fact it is very rude. If this happens the correct response to your long lost friend is 'I'm sorry, I already have plans.'.... Not, 'Sure! Let me get out of my plans!'.

3. If you let the hostess know you would be coming as a couple please arrive as a couple. Do not come to a party to tell your host/hostess your spouse just didn't feel like coming. Your host/hostess was planning on that person being there! And ladies, lay down the law and get your husband dressed and at the party. It makes it a lot easier to get the other husbands there if your husband comes. My husband does not want to be at girls night because none of the husbands would come.

4. Offer to help or bring something. Most of the time you will be thanked and told to enjoy and relax. But every once in a while you might offer and be asked to bring something. If you are willing to bring something like food, please understand you host/hostess is now counting on you. Please bring what you said you would. Nothing is worse than a guest who said they would bring macaroni salad but shows up with fruit flan because they thought it looked more festive than a side dish.

5. Arrive on time. Unless you have told your host/hostess you will be late, the latest you can be and still be polite is 15 minutes. Please don't leave your host/hostess sitting there wondering if you are coming and if they spent $400 on food for no reason. If you realise you are running late please call your host/hostess to let them know.

6. Arrive on time. Yes, I know I said this already but this time I am talking about arriving early. Please don't arrive 30 minutes early to stand around and chat with your host/hostess. They will be busy running around making everything look fabulous for when you arrive, on time. In the past we had a guest arrive early and I didn't get to put makeup on! I had left it until right before our guests were due and had plenty of time - until someone rang our doorbell 30 minutes early! Please bear in mind your host/hostess aren't expecting you early so circle the block if you need to!

7. Wear something nice. After putting in the effort, time and money no host/hostess wants their party brought down by people in ratty jeans. Cocktail party means wear something appropriate for cocktails. A cute dress, nice pants and a top, a skirt and a nice sweater or anything else nicer than something you would wear to the playground. You really don't want to be the person everyone talks about after the party. Don't kid yourself, we talk! If you don't have anything nice to wear, borrow an outfit and make a note to buy yourself a cute party outfit the next time you are clothes shopping. Ladies, make sure your husband has a nice go-to outfit as well! A shirt and nice pants go a long way towards making you look like a superstar!

8. Host/Hostess gifts. Not necessary but always appreciated. If you are thinking about bringing flowers please be sure your host/hostess isn't allergic. The same goes for nuts! A host/hostess gift does not have to be expensive or elaborate. A simple tin of cookies or candy will never be turned away! A nice candle or soap is another lovely idea.

9. Come armed and ready to socialize. If you are in a bad mood please check it with your coat. Going to a party is a happy occasion! So come prepared to add to the festivities. I always make sure I have read the paper that day so I am up to date on current events and have topics on hand to keep the conversation going. A party is only as good as it's guests so help things along by keeping interesting and lively topics in your mind in case there is a lull. Your host/hostess will appreciate not having to keep things going themselves for the entire evening. Consider a cocktail party a wonderful chance to make new friends, network and make connections. You never know who will be there and you would hate to be remembered for your surly mood when you are trying to strike a deal or get a loan.

10. Please leave your cell phone off or in your purse/pocket. There is nothing worse than watching someone texting while at a party. If your children need to reach you please feel free to give them the phone number of the home you will be at or put your phone on vibrate. Texting while at a party is rude and unnecessary.

11. If you come from a dinner to a cocktail party please leave room to enjoy the lovely food the host/hostess is passing around. When we figure out how much food we need to buy/make we are counting on you bringing your appetite. On the other hand, don't come to a party with a hollow leg! Your hosts/hostesses want you to enjoy and eat and drink but they also don't want to run out of food because you ate 10 servings of one thing! Try everything! You might not like tuna but you might just like the curried tuna your host/hostess whipped up!

12. Leave at an appropriate time. I hate having to shoo people out of my house when they don't take the hint it is time to go home!

13. If you have been drinking please don't put up a fight if your host/hostess wants to call you a cab. I may be little but I have no problem taking down a 250lb drunk man while wearing kitten heels. Please don't force me to do it. If you get drunk, accept the ride home and you can get your car the next day.

14. Follow your host's/hostess's lead. If the music is turned up and dancing starts, get up and dance a little. If food is making it's way around, eat some. If they tell you ahead of time what they will be wearing, meet their level of dress. Here is an interesting conversation I overheard at a party recently:

"Hello Mrs Guest! It is so nice to see you! What can I get you to drink?"

"Thank you for having me Mrs Hostess! It's OK, I have a can of pop in my purse."

"Oh! Well I hope you didn't think we wouldn't have refreshments! Bring it in the kitchen and I will get you a glass and some ice."

"I had it with me anyway, and it's OK, I don't need a glass."

"No really Mrs Guest! Let me get you a glass and some ice!!!"

Our gracious hostess had created a lovely atmosphere free of mundane items like pop cans and beer bottles and our fellow guest just didn't seem to get it! This is a good example of when to follow the host's/hostess's lead. If your host/hostess wants you to use a glass like a proper lady/gentleman, get on board. You can chug from a can at your own party.

15. Send a thank you of some sort. Call, email, or write a thank you note. It takes 2 minutes and will ensure you are always invited in the future! If you took photos at the party please get them to your host/hostess within a week of the party so they can share them with the other guests.

15a. Reciprocate. A few weeks after a party invite your host/hostess to your home for drinks, dinner or a party. They like to be on the receiving end of hospitality too!

In closing I would like to suggest a fabulous book! I know not everyone is socially confident and parties can be very intimidating. I often suggest this book to my shyer friends and I love watching them putting the tips into action! The book is called The Art of Mingling and it has lots of great tips for socializing with ease.


1 comment:

a H.I.T. said...

What a great post. We have a few friends that always arrive too early so I've learned to factor their arrival into my getting ready routine, but some friends also arrive late. I once had to start dinner without all of our guests because it was about to go sour! It's always nice to remind people of these little tips that really make everyone's night much more pleasurable.