Let’s just say it. Los Angeles is notorious for its casual attitude to proper etiquette. As a frequent hostess and long time caterer, I see it time and again- guests who don’t RSVP, guests who bring additional “surprise” guests with them to a party, guests who are no shows. Since it is National Etiquette Week, it seemed the perfect time for a tune up re: proper etiquette, so I checked in with a couple of experts on the subject to get the low down on proper guest behavior.
RSVP’s- It should be obvious- a host needs to prepare for the right number of guests. Whether the party is catered, or the host is preparing the food himself they need to know the numbers. Caterers charge a per person food costs, and need to know several days ahead of the party how much food to order and prepare, as well as how much staff to assign to the party. If the hostess is preparing food and drinks herself, she may need even more time, if she has other things (like a job) that need her attention during that time.
“Historically, guests knew they were to always respond to an invitation within a week of receiving it. Now, most invitations contain a respond-by date- do it!” says Paula Dabney, Founder of Image Will Impact.
“Frankly, it’s just poor manners to not let someone know whether or not you plan on attending their event. Put yourself in the place of the host or hostess: if it were your party, how would you feel if people didn’t even bother to tell you whether or not they planned to show up? What if you were stuck with too much food…or worse, didn’t have enough because you didn’t have an accurate headcount.” says Corinne Gregory, Founder and President of Social Smarts.
No shows, etc. -Along the same lines, and much for the same reasons, it is unacceptable to attend an event unannounced, or to be a no show.
“Let's say you forgot to respond. As soon as you know you definitely want to attend, contact the host and say, ‘Please forgive me for not responding by the due date. At the time I wasn't sure I could attend. Now I know I can. Is there space still available?’ " Dabney advises.
Uninvited guests- It is also not acceptable to bring uninvited guests.
“If you think you’re going to bring someone not on the invite list, have the common courtesy to ask the host or hostess if it’s ok. There may be a limit to how many people they can accommodate or other restrictions, particularly if kids are involved. Do not assume. If your host says “no” then respect that and don’t pout.”says Gregory.
“We must accept the host's plans, and be mindful of the high costs of throwing parties”, adds Dabney.
Hostess Gifts- “it’s a common courtesy that isn’t so common anymore” states Gregory. Hostess gifts are always a thoughtful and welcome gesture, if you are attending a party in a private home. Dabney cautions, however, “Be sensitive to personal and cultural differences. With such a diverse population in our society, it is important to learn something about a person's ethnic, religious, and cultural practices along with their personal likes and dislikes, before you present a gift. For example, giving a bottle of wine to someone who does not drink alcohol could make the receiver less than overjoyed with your gift.”
Thank you notes- They are absolutely in order. "Hand write a thank-you note as soon as possible following the event. A thank-you telephone call or e-mail is appropriate only among close personal friends." offers Dabney.
"It’s a really nice touch if you can say something personal about the party. Don’t just resort to a 'had a great time'. ” adds Gregory.
The bottom line- Your host has expended time, energy and money to make you feel welcome, and to show you a good time. It's only right that you respond courteously.
"Most bad manners is just lack of sensitivity for others. If you really stop and consider how you would feel if you were treated poorly in similar circumstances, you’ll find it much more natural and easy to do the courteous thing." concludes Gregory.
Gisele Perez, aka the L.A. Party Planning Examiner, is the owner of small pleasures catering in Los Angeles, where she helps her clients plan fabulous parties. Her contact info is: Gisele@smallpleasurescatering.com.