6 ways to host graciously (+6 ways to be a gracious guest)

Illustration of a table set for a dinner party.

Whether it’s been a while since your last party, or if you’re just wondering how you can make the experience even better, this list is here to help! Here are our top tips for being a gracious host AND guest.

6 ways to host graciously

1. Ask beforehand if they need anything extra

Include a note on your invitation asking your guests to let you know if they have any food allergies/sensitivities/restrictions, pet allergies or anything else you should take into consideration. This way, you can plan to accommodate their needs ahead of time, and they can feel comfortable RSVPing “Yes” to your get-together.

2. Curate a harmonious guest list

Balancing various groups of friends, family and coworkers can be tricky when it comes to party planning. Make sure everyone has someone they can chat with and that the group as a whole can mix and mingle with ease.

3. Make your guests feel at home (and make introductions!)

Once your guests arrive, show them where they can leave their coats, bags and anything they brought to the party to share. If they aren’t familiar with your home, give them a quick tour—or at least show them where the bathroom is! Let them know what things they can help themselves to on their own and what they should go to you for if applicable.

And make sure you introduce them to their fellow revelers. If they’re meeting someone for the first time, try to work a little personalization into the introduction (example: Have you met Samantha? We work together, and she has the cutest corgi!). Give your guests something beyond just a name to ease them into starting a convo.

4. Remember what each guest likes

This is a fantastic quality to have as a host! From their go-to drink to an hors d’oeuvre you know they love, presenting them with their favorite things before they ask will win you major hosting points. It wasn’t uncommon for hosts back in the day to keep a written record of guest preferences, and frankly, it’s a pretty great idea to bring back.

5. Give your guests something to do

Put on some good tunes, play a movie in the background or set out some games for people to enjoy. All of these are great ways to get the conversation flowing and keep your guests occupied.

6. Thank your guests as they leave

Make sure you say goodbye to each guest and thank them as they depart. If they brought a gift or dish to share, comment on it to let them know how much you sincerely appreciated their gesture.

BONUS TIP: How to (politely) get your guests to leave

As fun as a party is and as much as you may adore your guests, eventually, they have to leave. You can include an end time on your Evite invitation, but if you don’t (or if your guests forget that part), don’t worry, there are other ways to nicely wrap up your party.

  • Clear away the dishes and leftover food. Once the food disappears, the guests are likely to disappear too.
  • Ask your guests if they’d like anything packed up to bring home or if they’d like a cup of coffee before they go. It’s a gracious but firm way to let them know the party is ending while offering them something they may actually want.
  • Turn off the music. It’s not super subtle, but it is generally recognized as a “time to go” signal.
  • If they’re still there, let them know that it looks like the party is wrapping up and make a comment about something you need to do before you go to bed. Then ask them if they brought a coat or if there’s anything else you can get for them before they go. Thank them for coming, and then walk them to the door!

6 ways to be a gracious guest

1. Show up on time

Some parties are a bit more relaxed about the start time. But if it’s something like a wedding or dinner party, arriving at the stated start time is very important. Also, don’t show up early unless you’ve checked with the host beforehand. They’re likely still getting everything ready and won’t have time to dedicate to welcoming guests just yet. And don’t bring an extra guest unless you’ve checked with the host ahead of time!

2. Bring a host gift

A good host/hostess gift never goes out of style. Check their Evite invitation to see if they have a “What to Bring” list created. If not, bring something like a bottle of their favorite beverage, fresh flowers, boxed candy or a nice candle.

3. Respect their home

Before you step into their home, ask them if it’s a “shoes on or shoes off” home. If you need something like Tylenol, ask them first before looking through their cabinet. And don’t go through their books or music without asking first if it’s okay.

Don’t smoke or vape indoors, or ask to. If you smoke or vape, excuse yourself and let your host know that you’re stepping outside for that. If they tell you it’s okay to do it indoors, only then is it okay.

Pick up on cues like a stack of coasters left out (use them if they’re there) or when people start to leave/your host starts to clean things up. If you sense that the party is wrapping up, start saying your goodbyes and make sure to thank your host for a lovely time.

4. Compliment their home

Hosts LOVE this! It’s their personal space, after all. With all of the work they’ve put into making their place theirs (and probably making it extra beautiful for the party), tell them that you love what they’ve done.

5. Don’t spend all your time on your phone

Taking a photo or two of you and your friends is fine, but if you’re glued to your screen, it means you aren’t engaging with the rest of the party. Parties are about getting together and spending time with the other people there. If you aren’t doing that, you aren’t really at the party, and your host may wonder why you aren’t enjoying what they’ve carefully planned.

6. Offer to help

While many hosts prefer to load their dishwasher themselves, there are other things you can help with at their party. And even if they have everything under control, they’ll still appreciate your offer!

All right, now go forth and be the best host or guest in town!

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