When I think about hospitality, I often consider ways my husband and I can bless others in our home. Which friends can we invite over for fellowship? Are family or friends in need of a place to stay while vacationing in the area? Can we host a baby shower or birthday party for a friend?
It recently occurred to me that I can encourage others as they provide hospitality. How? By being a good guest. Here are some simple things I believe we can all do to make sure we’re being good guests.
Being a good dinner guest
- Offer to bring something. Ask your hostess if she would like you to contribute to the meal. If she says yes, bring your contribution in a ready-to-serve state (it’s okay if you need to reheat it or something similar, but you don’t want to be in the way or delay dinner by trying to complete significant preparations onsite). If she says no, consider bringing a small gift, such as fresh flowers or some sweets. Though etiquette experts may argue with me, I don’t believe that a gift is always necessary—if you and your hosts are close and visit with one another frequently, it may make them feel awkward if you always bring a gift. Use your best judgment!
- Inform your hostess of any dietary restrictions when you accept the invitation. If someone in your party has dietary restrictions, it’s best to communicate these to your hostess early. Many hostesses are happy to accommodate special dietary needs; however, this may not be an easy thing for your hostess to do, especially if she is working with a limited budget. Be respectful when communicating you or your family’s needs. Personally, I believe it is kind to offer to help by bringing a side dish that is suitable.
- Arrive on time. It’s best to arrive when you’re expected because arriving early or late can catch the hostess off guard and interfere with meal preparations or serving plans. If something unanticipated comes up and you absolutely have to cancel, do so as early as possible.
- Silence your cell phone and set it aside. Unless you have a legitimate need to have the volume on your phone turned up (e.g., you’re a physician on call), silence it for the duration of your visit. Few things interrupt conversation like receiving call and text notifications or updating social media accounts.
- Overlook imperfections. Mushy rice? Hard rolls? A smudge on your plate? Pay these no heed. Focus on fellowshipping and offer genuine complements to your hostess about the aspects of your visit that are great.
- Have conversation starters in mind. You’ll likely have plenty to talk about if you know your hosts well; however, if you’re just getting to know your hosts you may experience lulls in the conversation. It can be helpful to have icebreaker-type questions in mind to stimulate conversation.
- Offer to help pick up. Ask your hostess if she would like help clearing the table and washing the dishes. She may decline your offer (I know I generally prefer to complete these tasks once my guests have left). If she declines, respect her preference. If she accepts your offer, cheerfully help in any way you can.
- Say thank you. Be sure to express your appreciation for dinner before you leave. It’s also nice to send an email or handwritten note expressing your gratitude. This is another time that your relationship with your hosts will dictate your approach—the formality of your thank you will likely depend on the nature of your relationship.
- Reciprocate. Perpetuate the fellowship by extending an invitation to your hosts to join you at a later date for a meal or activity in your home.
Have you ever given thought to how you can encourage others in their hospitality? What suggestions can you add for being a good dinner guest?