Party Etiquette Tips for Guests and Hosts

Have you ever wondered what RSVP means? It’s an acronym for a French phrase – Repondez S’il Vous Plait. In English, that means “Please respond.” When you receive an invitation with “RSVP” or “Please Respond,” it means just that. Let the host or hostess know within 48 hours of receiving the invitation if you are able to attend or not.


If you respond that you’re going to attend, you must attend even if you receive an invitation for something better that same day. If you have an emergency or you get sick, then of course, it’s okay not to attend. Sorry, the season finale of Mad Men does not constitute an emergency. If you do come down with the flu or have a true emergency, let the host know as soon as possible, not five minutes before the party starts.


Perhaps you responded that you couldn’t attend the party. It’s important to not show up after all. The hostess has ordered food and beverages for the number of people who said they could attend. If you, and others, show up after stating you couldn’t make it you’re putting the hostess in an uncomfortable position. And, I know you wouldn’t want to do that.


A few more party etiquette tips:

  • When invited to a dinner party, if you have any food restrictions, be sure you let the hostess know, if she doesn’t ask. If the restriction is easily accommodated, such as you’re a vegetarian or are allergic to shellfish, do let the hostess know. If your restriction is more complicated, you should either decline the invitation or offer to bring a dish that you know you can eat.
  • If you’re the host, be sure to ask your dinner guests if they have any food restrictions and then do what you can to accommodate them.
  • When attending a party, always bring a hostess gift. Some great hostess gifts are cocktail napkins, a bottle of wine – if your hosts drink, some nice chocolates, a favorite tea, or jams or spreads. Be sure to hand the gift to the host/ess so that s/he knows who brought it.
  • When you receive a hostess gift, there is no need to serve what you were given at the party, nor do you need to send a thank you note for the gift. Just say thank you when you receive it.
  • Lastly, when you are a guest, do send a thank you note, preferably handwritten, after the party to the host/ess for inviting you to the party.


Happy partying!


Arden Clise, president of Clise Etiquette, is an etiquette consultant, trainer, speaker and columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal. Contact Arden if you’d like more information about her one-on-one coaching or corporate trainings in customer service, business etiquette and communication skills, or to book her for your next event.