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Sep 24, 2007 09:29 AM

What is good guest etiquette? [Moved from General Topics board]

And how do you set up your dinner/lunch parties to facilitate it?

So yesterday I had some friends over to lunch. I live a ways away from them, in the country, and I had been looking forward to having them over for quite a while. So this was a bit of an event.

I roasted an organic chicken with organic lemons, a la Marcella Hazan. I made an orzo macaroni and cheese (also for a baby that came along). I baked bread. I served my best olive oil as a dip. I bought good wines. I put my homemade preserves on the table. I drove around putting together ingredients. I cleaned my house furiously to make the place ready.


They got there an hour late because one of my friends insisted on taking the long way. Then they left immediately after eating, leaving me to feel like they had dined and dashed.

I realize that where I live, while beautiful, is out of the way for people. But I think that dining and dashing is really bad manners, particularly when I put so much effort into feeding people well.

So I ask you: what is good guest etiquette and how do you facilitate it?

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  1. I am so sorry to hear that your Herculean efforts fell upon ungrateful guests. It is rude to arrive late, then dash. I am much like you and go to great pains to put out the best ingredients and homemade food that I can.
    Not staying to "visit" with you, or even offering to help clear the table is very rude indeed. It conveys a lack of apprecitation for your hard work.
    If they call to thank you, I'd say something along the lines of "gee, time flew so fast, I wish we had more time to visit". Maybe they'll pick up on the hint.

    2 Replies
    1. re: monavano

      Sounds like you did everything right, just seems you guests were quite rude. The only thing I can think of that may facilitate a longer stay is maybe do it on a Saturday afternoon as some people need to work on Monday and may feel they have to get home early or leave early to avoid traffic. I know when my husband and I are invited to dine with friends that live a fair distance from us we get a hotel nearby so we can visit longer, would be hard on a Sunday as Monday is a work day. Sounds like a lovely lunch sorry you didn't get to visit with your friends.

      1. re: bubbles4me

        So how do you guys act as good guests? For me, helping to clean, complementing the chef and really appreciating the work and creativity that goes into serving food is a must. And then, in a way, repaying my host by being an entertaining guest.

        A few months ago I read this article about sugar peas. This guy said that when it's pea season he will sometimes put out a bowl of raw sweet peas, but only if he knows that people will appreciate it. At the time I thought that was a bit precious but now I really get it.

        Anyway, thanks for empathizing with me!!!! Monavano, I'll definitely visit your blog.

    2. Yikes! I don't blame you for feeling a bit taken advantage of, to have guests dash for the exit the second they've swallowed the last bite of a dinner you put so much effort into.

      I'll usually make a point of asking guests if they have any specific preferences I should remember. Better to know in advance that they hate onions if I'm thinking of French Onion soup, or that they've become vegetarian before I stick a chicken in the oven.

      I'll also mention in the invitation "feel free to arrive anytime after x, and dinner will be served at y" so that there won't be grumbly stomachs while I take care of last-minute prep, and to let people know exactly when I want them there.

      As for your guests, I don't think the faux pas is on their end, not yours. It's generally okay to show up an hour late for a cocktail party where lots of people will be mingling (though by then you're pushing the "fashionably late" envelope a bit)... but it's NOT okay to show up for a sit-down meal a full hour late - the food would be stone-cold or completely overdone by then!

      1. Sorry to hear about your rude guests. You sound like a great host/hostess. Had similar experiences with family, not friends, tried this and it worked. Every holiday is at my house, my family used to just show up late without notifying me, eat & leave. One time I had a $60 prime rib roast that would be ruined. My husband, Mr. Meat & Potatoes, was furious as he was looking forward to the roast. My kids and husband insisted we eat without them. We did. When they finally showed up 90 minutes later, the table was cleared and the kids were doing the dishes. We sent them home. It has never happened again. I think they were so shocked.

        You need to find a way to explain your feelings to your friends. You need to share how much you invested in the get together and how disappointed you were. A lot of people these days simply don't have manners and you need to educate them what a dinner party means to you. If they can't allow the time, find another date & time. If they are good friends, they will realize your viewpoint once communicated to them.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Diane in Bexley

          Diane, I am a big fan! Good for you that you didn't put up with such inconsiderate behavior.
          I do agree that somehow, the friends need to know how you, the host, feels.

          1. re: Diane in Bexley

            Diane, you're my hero. Glad hubby and kids insisted you eat rather than let a nice cut of meat go to waste.

            Believe me, if there's prime rib on the menu, I might arrive 90 minutes early just to make sure I get some! :)

          2. The baby mention jumps out at me. When my kids were little we used to joke about "living by the nap". It wasn't really a joke. It was true. Because if a baby misses his or her nap, everyone suffers. Maybe they needed to get going to accommodate the baby but they should have made this very clear to you.

            1. piedsdesanges I wish I could have been your guest - I'd have arrived on time(but not early), with something for the host, and helped with dishes etc afterwards because I know what it's like to cook for people and then be faced with the clean up. I don't know that Ms. Manners would suggest helping with clean up is required but at least offer to help and chat awhile after dinner...

              What your dinner companions did was just plain rude. Showing up an hour late? Disgraceful. Even if there's a drive and someone takes "the long way" they should have planned for that in advance and left earlier imho.

              I have three kids six and under so each of them is at varying stages of learning table manners and the finer points of etiquette. The best way we've managed to teach them is to be a good example ourselves. Perhaps (although these aren't six year olds you're dealing with) your guests will catch on when you're invited to their home and arrive on time, with gift and help with clean up?? (I'm not saying you don't do this already...just that leading by example has worked for us).

              Otherwise if you're really close to these people maybe talk one on one and explain how hurt you were? We have one friend who, when he makes a faux pas, would rather hear about it (in private of course) than go on making the same mistake in more formal company (like in front of his boss) so he appreciates the feedback...

              I don't know if I'm being any help here... best of luck with your situation.