Monday, 26 November 2018  • Wine Country Life,

Emily Post, a popular author specializing in etiquette, once said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” Though it’s been nearly a century since her 1922 best-selling etiquette book was released, having good manners will never go out of style. And with the holidays in full swing, you might find yourself attending more social events than usual.
From Thanksgiving dinners to New Year’s Eve parties, it seems as if every occasion has its own set of etiquette rules to follow. So, what are the secrets to being a great guest? Our gift basket gurus have offered their best tips on how to dazzle your host and secure a return invitation to their next soiree.                   

1. Arrive on Time
If you only remember one etiquette rule, let it be this one: never arrive earlier than the time listed on your invitation. You will more than likely be greeted by a frazzled host who is still putting finishing touches on the meal or table before guests start arriving.
On the other hand, let your host know if you’ll be running a few minutes late. Keep the explanation brief, simple, and honest, and give the host permission to start dinner without you.

2. Don’t Come Empty Handed
Holiday parties and dinners are the perfect occasions to bring along a small gift for your host or hostess. Some tasteful items to consider gifting include a gift basket, a bouquet of flowers in a vase, a bottle of wine, a small potted plant, a scented candle, a holiday ornament, or boxed candies. Be discreet and hand over your gift after being greeted at the door. If you’re bringing along food or drink as a gift, don’t expect it to be served that evening. After all, your host likely spent time crafting the perfect menu and choosing the flavors carefully.

3. Don’t Bring Uninvited Guests
Unless your invitation explicitly states that you can bring a guest, don’t bring a plus-one without asking ahead of time. Surprising your host with an extra guest might put them in a tough spot since they will need to make sure have enough seating and food for everyone.

4. Ignore Your Phone
This is a modern-age etiquette issue we’re sure Emily Post never had to deal with! Make sure your phone is on silent and stashed out of sight during dinner. While there are some exceptions to this rule – such as an emergency call from the babysitter, or a fun group photo – your attention should be on your dinner companions for the evening.                                    

5. Wait for Your Host Before Eating
Even if they insist, don’t start eating before the host sits down. It’s considered customary to wait until everyone is seated and served before taking your first bite. Buffets and large gatherings are two exceptions to this rule since they are paced differently than a smaller sit-down dinner.

6. Give a Toast
Once everyone has sat down, it’s customary for the host to say a few words before digging in. However, if they don’t remember to raise their glass, feel free to jump in with some short, heartfelt sentiments of your own. Nothing adds a cheery note to a meal quite like a simple, “Very grateful to be here with you all, and for this delicious food. Cheers!”

7. Mind Your Alcohol
Your host wants you to enjoy yourself and unwind, but you never want to be THAT dinner guest who has a little too much fun. Be mindful of how much you’re consuming, and try to drink a glass of water between drinks. While it’s fine to let your hair down and enjoy that extra glass of wine, the last thing you want is to prevent your host from enjoying themselves because you’ve had a few too many.

8. Don’t Dine & Dash
When accepting a dinner invitation, plan to stay for the entire meal – including dessert. It’s considered rude to duck out early to attend another event, so avoid double-booking yourself. If the invitation doesn’t list an official ending time, take your cue from the host. Once they stop offering drink refills or begin cleaning up, this is typically a signal that the evening is winding down.          
9. Offer to Help – But Just Once
It’s perfectly polite to offer your host a hand with setting the table or clearing dishes away once the meal is done. However, if they insist that they have everything under control, don’t push. Many hosts prefer handling prep and clean-up on their own and continuing to insist that they accept your help can put them in an uncomfortable position.

10. Say Thank You
At the end of the night, seek out your host and thank them for inviting you. Then send them a quick thank you note the next day. Whether it’s a card, email or text, they’ll appreciate the gesture.

How to Be a Great Guest: 10 Tips from the Gift Basket Gurus