The rules of social etiquette used to be clearly stated and formally adhered to. Now, with social gatherings running the gamut from formal dinner parties to ad hoc playdates, the lines get a little blurred. Regardless of the type of party or age of the guest, here’s our how-to rules for being the best kind of party people – those that get invited back!


Guest: Don’t arrive early

It’s hard enough prepping your home to be ‘magazine-worthy’ before a swarm of five year olds descend to trash it with sticky fingers, runny noses and unpatrolled toilet stops. Actually, the same applies for some adult dinner parties we’ve been to! Give the hosts a break – don’t arrive early, when you know they’ll still be doing the last minute patrol for random pieces of Lego / unwashed laundry / last night’s pizza boxes. It’s bad enough getting caught out in your ‘perfect party planner’ pretence – don’t make it worse by requiring the host to entertain you while she’s wiping down benches and not yet dressed.


Host: Don’t run overtime

Kid parties stick to a fairly consistent schedule: play, eat, play, cake, play, depart. Don’t drag the party on interminably by leaving the cake to the very last minute, and don’t run overtime. Weekends are hectic enough with sport, social and work commitments – try to stick to the schedule and if in doubt, leave it out. Kids won’t notice a game missing from a party, but parents on the ‘drop and run’ schedule won’t stop hearing about it if they arrive to pick up their child before the cake even makes an appearance. Same goes for dinner parties – we’re all tired, we all have busy schedules, so don’t bust out the seven-course degustation menu on a school night, and know when to call it quits.


Guest: Don’t bring uninvited peeps – your kids or your friends!

When you have more than one child, it’s hard to juggle the party sitch – when one child gets invited to an indoor play centre party, what do you do with the other kids? But here’s the deal: this is your problem. Don’t make it the party host’s problem by bringing the other kids uninvited, even if you’re planning on paying their admission. Talk to the host beforehand if you really have no other option, so they are not left short-handed with the cake and lolly bags. Yes, we know the other kids don’t need them but try telling an eight-year-old that she can’t have cake because it’s her sister’s friend’s party. The same applies for grown-up parties – don’t bring ‘plus-ones’ unless they are explicitly invited. We’ve all heard the one about the friend of a friend who got a little loose and embarrassed the host, the friend and everyone else. Don’t let it be you.


Host: Do be clear in your invitations

If you don’t mind that siblings – or adult friends – come to your shindig, make it clear on the invitation or follow up with the parent once they’ve RSVPd to extend the offer. If costs or seating are a factor and you really can’t accommodate hangers-on, make that clear too. A simple “Please RSVP as I need to confirm numbers with the venue” should do the trick.


Guest: Don’t spring dietary surprises on your host

When RSVPing, let your host know of any allergies or intolerances upfront, before your gluten-free, dairy-sensitive, preservative-allergic sweetpea launches face-first into the triple-layer, multi-coloured, cream-filled, candy-coated birthday masterpiece the host has spent the last two days making.


Host: Do ask for any dietary considerations

Tread carefully with your menu – if you’re serving seafood, nut-based dishes or more adventurous food (think hot spices, game meats, or other acquired tastes), let your guests know in advance unless you are sure of their palates. Better to lose the ‘surprise’ of your carefully curated menu than get another surprise resulting in a trip to the ER or an EpiPen!



Say thank you. Always. Prompt your child to say a proper farewell to the birthday boy or girl rather than running out the door with lolly bag in hand. And make sure they thank the party parents too. Manners never go out of style, and role modelling is the best possible way to teach – so make sure you do it too.



Say thank you. Always. For grown-ups, an email, text or phone call is sufficient to let your guests know that you enjoyed their company. A hand-written note is always a beautiful touch but don’t delay the thank you – so if it’s going to take you a week to buy the notepaper, write the note, forget to buy the stamps, lose the notes in your bag, then recover them a little worse for wear and decide not to bother sending them, you’re better off with the next-day-text. For kid parties, a photo of your child with the invitee messaged to their parents is great – as is one of them opening their present, if you delayed this until after the party was over. It’s a great reminder of the party, and a personal touch that shows you appreciated the gift from each individual.


Want more dinner party inspo? Check out the June issue of haven, out now. Plus don’t miss our annual party special in the August issue of haven!


Courtney Robinson

Courtney Robinson  

Courtney Robinson is a Gold Coast mum, passionate foodie, whole foods recipe creator and personal trainer certified in holistic digestive health and nutrition. Follow @athletist_ or visit athletist.com.au for recipes, workout tips and training hacks.