Top 5 Rules for Hosts and Houseguests


Lizzie Post

With Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas nearly around the corner, many people are assembling their travel plans for the holidays. Whether you are visiting - or hosting - your friends or your family, sometimes the visits can turn from delightful to overly eventful, in a negative way.


To help avoid guests and hosts from ruining each other’s holidays, we consulted  Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, the Grande Dame of Etiquette, the author of How Do You Work This Life Thing, and a modern-day source of etiquette advice herself, and asked her help us put together some rules for hosts, hostesses, and guests to keep in mind.


Before you pack your bags for Grandma’s house, or get ready to welcome your sister, her rambunctious kids, and yappy dog, we suggest you sit down with a cup of tea and read our rules. They will help to make everyone’s holidays a little more merry and light.



Rules for Hosts and Hostesses:

  • Make sure that your guests are clear on who is invited. If it’s a girls-only holiday getaway weekend, make sure your friend’s hubby stays at home. For the family Christmas party, ask whether the pooch is invited, too. You want to be clear on who you will be expecting, without being harsh.


  • Spend a night in the “guest room” before hosting guests. Whether it is your pull-out couch, or a large guest suite, understand what your guests will experience when they visit, and make any necessary improvements. Maybe it’s a placing featherbed or folded blankets underneath the sheet on the pullout couch for extra padding, making extra quilts and pillow available in the closet in case the guest wishes to use them, or re-washing the sheets if they feel scratchy. You want your guests to feel at home and comfortable during their stay.


  • Always put out clean towels for your guests. Check the toilet paper and leave an extra roll under the sink. Make sure there is a light and a clock by the bedside. My friend’s mom would always pick a gardenia blossom for my bedside when I would visit – flowers are always a welcome touch.


  • Make sure to clear space in closets, drawers, and in the bathroom so that your guest can put away his/her belongings and toiletries, if they so wish. Also, make sure to tidy common areas. No one wants your kids’ homework materials sprawled all over the coffee table.


  • As the Host or Hostess, you should also be warm and friendly. Even if the oven dies while the roast is cooking, don’t stress out and scream at your husband in a fit of panic. As well, you are a part of the party – engage your guests in conversation and until all are done eating before going to clean dishes.



Rules for Guests:

  • RSVP! Make sure your hosts/hostesses know you’re coming, who is coming with you, and at what time you expect to arrive. You don’t want to show up on the wrong day, to have them holding up dinner for you, or to not even have them be expecting you.


  • Guests staying for an extended period of time (a week or more) should take the host/hostess to dinner(s), or offer buy the groceries needed for shared meals. If visiting for just a night, you can opt bring a traditional hostess gift with you. Or, you can arrive with a gift basket of breakfast goodies to take a load off your hosts in the morning. As well, sending a lovely flower arrangement or foodstuff treat as a thank you gift after you leave is a great alternative.


  • Offer to help with setting up for, and clearing after, mealtimes. It can be as simple as setting the table, filling water glasses, or loading the dishwasher, but every little bit helps. Plus, working as a team makes even the crummiest job more enjoyable.


  • Don’t snoop around your host’s house. Getting caught would be mortifying, and you wouldn’t want someone to do that at your house.


  • All guests should always send a handwritten thank you note. Preferably via snail mail. A proper thank you will never grow old.



The most important thing for both hosts and guests to remember: Lizzie’s Golden Rule - Get start and end dates to visits. No guest wants to overstay their visit (and hosts need to know when they will get their guest room back).