We all enjoy being invited over for a meal and conversation, and I see plenty of people talking about the proper ways to host. One thing I don't see often, however, is how a person should act as company. I host at least twice a week, often three times, which means I invite people into my home 104 - 156 days a year. That's a lot! My husband and I enjoy hosting, and we've made huge efforts to hone our hosting abilities and make our home one that is easy for others to be welcomed into.
Because we do so much hosting, there are problems I sometimes run into with company. Nothing so serious it would ruin an evening but things I would guess people aren't aware are bad etiquette for company. Here are some things you can do to ensure people love hosting you.
1. Offer to bring something. If the hostess says not to worry about it, do not insist.
This is something I have often struggled over with hosting. It can be incredibly frustrating when I invite someone over for a meal, I have all my bases covered, and someone insists on bringing something. I work hard to provide a balance in the meals I prepare, and it can be difficult to suggest something else to someone without either being too specific or being redundant. Because this became such a point of contention, I eventually began suggesting fruit automatically when a person insisted.
2. When your hostess asks about allergies, do talk about foods you have difficulty tolerating (those foods which are not like typical allergies but can make you uncomfortable or ill). Don't talk about your typical eating habits.
Although, as a hostess, I always aim to adjust my cooking specifically for the people I am inviting, I am not trying to prepare exactly what they would have every other days of their lives. I want to make something special! I've asked people if they had any allergies and they've said things like "I don't like farm food" or "we avoid unhealthy foods" or, even worse, "we try to eat small meals; we don't like to overeat."
These kinds of comments are incredibly rude. Not only are they unhelpful, think about what you could be implying about your hostess. Do you think she normally eats greasy food? Do you think she overeats? Do you think she serves steak and potatoes every single meal? Even if you aren't trying to imply something like that, you are - intentionally or not - making it clear that you have a standard for meals. This makes you an uncomfortable person to host, and every time you come over, your hostess will be anxious about whether or not the food she prepared will stand up to what you normally eat.
3. Don't ask what is in the food you are eating.
I don't know why people think this is an okay question to ask. It may seem innocent, but it is far from being so. When you ask this, it implies that there might be something in the food you won't like. Just eat it.
There are three exceptions to this rule, the latter two of which can wait until you're done eating.
- Your hostess didn't ask about allergies and you suspect the food might be a problem.
- You want the recipe so you can make the dish yourself.
- You are interested in how the dish is seasoned.
4. Have at least a little of everything served to you.
You don't have to have a huge portion of green beans if you normally don't eat them, nor do you have to have a huge piece of cake for dessert if you aren't used to a lot of sweets, but you shouldn't pass over these things. Your meal was prepared with a great deal of thought and love. Be appreciative. The only exception would, of course, be an allergy or intolerance.
5. When you arrive, don't enter the kitchen unless invited.
It's kind of you to offer to help with preparation, but most of the time, your hostess will probably be mostly ready. There may be a few last minute details, but your presence will only make things more complicated. Your hostess may be thinking: "should I finish preparing the dressing or make polite conversation?" If she wants help, she will tell you so.
6. Leave your cell phone in the car.
I remember the first time I hosted and my company didn't even have cell phones in their pockets! It's so rare and so appreciated. My husband and I work hard to entertain, and when your company has a cell phone out, it makes entertaining much less fun. We set our own cell phone to silent as soon as company gets here, putting the phone out of sight, and it's nice to be given at least equal consideration.
7. Say "thank you".
If you can manage it, send a card. I've only gotten three or four in my nearly four years of hosting, and every one was a gem. But you don't need to send a card to make your hostess feel appreciated. Tell her as you leave how thankful you are for her time and preparation.
Those are tips from an experienced hostess! Are there any you would add?