Inner Chef

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Manners for Guests

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You have been invited to a party and there is a dish that you have been dying to try. When you ask the host/hostess if there is anything you can bring; they politely say, “no, just yourself.” Do you bring the dish anyway?

Absolutely not and for a couple of reasons; this is not the time to try out a new dish (it may not be as good as you anticipated) and you may offend your host/hostess by bringing in your own foods. But there are ways that you can help:

Offer to help when you can.  If you’re visiting with the host/hostess in the kitchen as they prepare the food, be specific when you offer to help:  “I’d be happy to work on the salad or fill the water glasses.”  Even if your offer is refused, your gesture will be appreciated.  When the party’s end draws nigh, you could also offer to help with the cleanup. (Note that some hosts/hostesses may prefer to be “guest free” in the kitchen, so ask before entering.)


You are going to a party; do you bring a gift to the host/hostess?

A gift for your host or hostess is a lovely way to thank them for their hospitality and is always appreciated. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive; simply consider the nature of the occasion and local custom when making your choice. Here are a few tips on what to bring when:

Casual dinner party: Dinner party guests usually bring a hostess gift unless they are close friends who dine together frequently. Gift possibilities include wine, Champagne, flowers (preferably in a vase), a potted plant, chocolates, specialty food items such as jams and jellies or other condiments, fancy nuts, olives, olive oil or vinegars, or items for the house, such as cocktail napkins, guest soaps and lotions , a picture frame, or a scented candle. A CD or book is also appropriate if you know your host’s taste.

Formal dinner party: Gifts aren’t usually taken to large, formal dinners.

When there’s a guest of honor: If it’s a birthday, anniversary, graduation, or shower, bring a gift for the honoree.

When you’re the guest of honor: Bring a gift for your host or hostess, or send flowers before the party. After the party, send a thank-you note.

Weekend visit: Either bring or send a gift. Your gift of choice will depend on the length of your stay and how elaborately you’re entertained. While you don’t have to break the bank, your gift should be sincere, thoughtful, and personal.

Housewarming: t’s customary to bring a gift to a housewarming. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be something lasting for the house. Possible gifts include guest towels, a houseplant, a patio or garden plant, glasses, dish towels, a picture frame, specialty foods like a great olive oil or preserves, or a cheeseboard and/or cheese knives. Update an old-fashioned housewarming tradition of giving salt, and bring fancy sea salt and/or a saltbox or saltcellar. If the housewarming is for a neighbor new to your town, consider putting together a welcome kit containing area maps, the town paper, restaurant menus, bookmarks from your favorite bookstore, transportation schedules, and information on local parks and recreation facilities- anything that will make it easier for her to feel welcome and at home in her new community.

You friend asks you to lunch; does your friend pay for your lunch?

Years ago when you were invited to a restaurant; it was the inviter that paid for the meals. Some people don’t think about that anymore, and there is nothing wrong with that. You can agree ahead of time to go Dutch (pay your own way), split the bill evenly or acknowledge that this one is on you.  There is one rule of thumb that should be remembered when inviting and accepting: When saying or hearing, “Hey, let’s have lunch”; more than likely the bill will be separate. When saying or hearing, “Would you like to have lunch” or “Would you care to join me for lunch”; it is more likely that the inviter will be paying.  Always bring your wallet just in case.

A friend or relative invites you over to see their new home; do you bring a gift  (even if they are just renting)?

When a friend or relative invites you to see their new place; be it rented, renovated or purchased; there is no rule per say on bringing a gift. It is completely up to you if you desire to bring a houseplant, picture frame, preserves or a bottle of wine. Bringing a household item such as towels, linens, tablecloths may be a bit tough because you do not know the color schemes.


How late is “fashionably” late?

Punctuality is generally very important and a part of being a well-mannered and respectful person. Being punctual not only makes it easier to make plans and coordinate schedules, but it shows others that you respect and value their time. So in general, you should strive to be punctual. There are certain exceptions to this rule, but first a few tips on timeliness:

  • If you are meeting friends for a meal at a restaurant, make sure you arrive precisely on time.
  • When meeting someone for a movie, try to arrive at least five minutes early.
  • If you are meeting a friend at his or her home, make sure to arrive on time.
  • If someone is meeting you at your home, be sure to arrive at least 10 minutes before the appointed time, or at least call your friend to advise upon the time of your arrival.
  • If you are going to be more than five minutes late, call the person whom you are meeting and let him or her know where you are and when you’ll arrive.
  • If you know in advance that you are going to be late, call as soon as you know to reschedule your meeting time.
  • If you’ve made a date long in advance, call earlier in the day or the day before to confirm the time you are meeting.
  • If you are meeting someone in a restaurant, shop or other establishment and you are going to be late but cannot reach your friend on the phone, then call the establishment and try to get a message delivered to your friend.
  • For funeral or memorial services, arrive on time.
  • For wedding ceremonies, plan to arrive about 15 minutes early.
  • For work appointments, of course you should always be prompt.

Is it polite to ask to take leftovers home from a dinner party?

While this may let the host/hostess know that you thoroughly enjoyed the meal; it is rude and puts the host/hostess on the spot (they may be saving the leftovers for something or someone else).  Instead; tell your host/hostess how much you enjoyed the meal and politely ask for the recipe. You may find that you walk away with more than the recipe.

How long after dinner should you leave a dinner party? When does it become “overstaying your welcome”?

Don’t settle in as others are saying farewell, unless you’ve been invited to stay. In general, dinner guests are expected to stay for about an hour after dinner. If you need to leave early, let your host know before the party or when you arrive so they aren’t surprised (or worse, insulted) by your early departure.



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