Bringing a little gift of thanks is a great way to get off on the right foot. If you don't know the hostess too well, something as simple as a bottle of wine or box of chocolates will do. But if you're more familiar with what she likes, don't be afraid to personalize your gift and get her a unique set of coasters or candles.
Though you may be having a blast and could spend all night lounging around and chatting, your hostess has probably spent a good chunk of the day preparing for the evening and is exhausted. If you notice her energy has waned and the majority of the other guests have taken off, say your thanks, and head out.
Your hostess will likely be too proud to accept your help, but offering your assistance goes a long way and will be remembered.
Whatever you do, never bring a guest you have not cleared with your hostess. She has likely prepared exactly what is necessary for the number of guests she invited, and throwing in another person could cause her a lot of unnecessary stress. If you do want to bring someone, make sure to ask your hostess a week in advance so she has time to prepare, and don't be offended if she says there isn't enough room.
Chances are your hostess has spent days preparing the decorations and hours making the meal, so no amount of complimenting is too much. Offer as much honest praise as you can.
Your hostess has likely timed all her cooking to line up with the arrival of her guests, so showing up late can really throw a wrench into her plans and cause her to stress out. Be the ideal guest by arriving within five to 10 minutes of the set start time.
Unplanned changes, such as having to move the time of something slightly or an alteration in the agreed-upon meal, happen all the time. As a guest, it is your responsibility to make such changes as easy as possible for your hostess and reassure her that they aren't the end of the world.
Everyone has preferences when it comes to food, but making a big deal out of something you don't like can leave your hostess feeling hurt and unappreciated. If you aren't a fan of a particular dish, do what you can to make your tastes go unnoticed.
Lavishing thanks the night of is great, but sending thanks later on can really make your hostess feel appreciated. Sending a handwritten thank-you card or even a quick email the next day to say how lovely you found the evening will be an unexpected treat for your hostess.
If there's a chip in your plate or a hair in your food, do your best to let it go. Tiny flaws are only natural when your hostess has been slaving away all day, and pointing them out will only embarrass her. So be a gracious guest, and unless hazardous, let the little things go.
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