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The Art Of | Being A Good Guest & Great Host

Being A Good Guest & Great Host

Jo Bryant

Jo Bryant

Etiquette Specialist

Jo Bryant is an etiquette expert, offering a range of private tutoring and professional services, including business conduct and soft skills training, British protocols and customs, wedding planning support, and afternoon tea and dining etiquette. We caught up with Jo to discuss the art of being a good guest and great host this party season…


Party Season



Being a good guest is all about being social, checking the details of each event and having great, measured fun.

Proper timings

A good guest will always arrive at a suitable time. Wedding guests must be seated approximately 15 minutes before the ceremony starts, but for a summer party or dinner party with a 7pm start, guests should arrive 10 or 15 minutes late. For restaurants or ticketed events, be punctual.

Dress Codes

Adhere to the dress code on an invitation, for example ‘Black Tie’ or ‘Lounge Suits’. For smart summer events, check the website as some will have set dress rules (for example Royal Ascot, Glyndebourne opera or Henley Royal Regatta). Ask your host if in doubt.

Do your research

For some events, you may need to prepare in advance, for example reading-up on horseracing or polo, familiarising yourself with the plot for opera or theatre, or researching the sports players you will be watching. This will give you confidence and allow you to make good conversation.

Be social

The success of a social event is largely dependent on the sociability of its guests. Make sure you chat and circulate, and talk to both neighbours at a seated meal. Enjoy a few glasses and relax but pace yourself, particularly at longer all-day events – you don’t want to be the talk of the party for all the wrong reasons…

Say thank you

For small private parties, take along a bottle, some chocolates or flowers for the host. Afterwards, a handwritten thank you letter should be sent to hosts within a few days; for less formal occasions or very close friends and family, an email or text is fine.


Great Hosting



Great hosts think about their guests. Excellent planning, along with detailed preparation and endless generosity will ensure social success.

Consider your guests

When hosting, be sure to give your guests plenty of information, be clear on timings and expected levels of formality

Keep within your capabilities

Only invite as many as you can host comfortably and choose a menu that you can cook confidently. This will ensure that you are cool, calm and collected on the day.

Time management

There is nothing worse for guests than to be greeted by a panicking, flustered host. Do as much as possible up front – chopping, preparing, laying tables, etc. – and allow extra time for culinary emergencies. Work out what you are going to wear in advance and be sure to allow plenty of time to get yourself ready.

Meet and greet

A good host greets their guests and guides them into the party. The first priorities are to take your guests’ coats, get them a drink and make sure they have someone to talk to. If your guests feel at ease then the party will flow naturally and be an immediate success.

Be generous

Make sure there is plenty of everything – food, drinks etc. – and your guests will feel sated and cared for. Never ask people to leave at the end of the night; instead you can gradually lower the pace of the evening and bring things to a natural close.


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