Modern Etiquette: Being a Gracious Host & Guest

by Grace Bonney

Illustration by Anna Emilia

Today I’m absolutely thrilled to be launching a column that has been in the works and kicking around my mind for years now. Growing up in the South, the importance of etiquette was instilled in me pretty early on. What was proper, polite and appropriate varied from family to family, but the general concept seemed to exist in every household. Etiquette often gets a bad rap as some sort of right/wrong, holier-than-thou rulebook that exists to make people feel bad. But for me, etiquette has been just the opposite. I didn’t learn to appreciate this until I was much older, but the guidelines I got growing up gave me a sense of comfort and confidence that allowed me to feel at ease in almost any social situation and taught me how to do the same for others. For me, etiquette is all about learning simple tools and tips for making the people in your life (and your home) feel welcome, loved and comfortable. It is with that spirit that I’m launching Modern Etiquette, where we’ll be sharing ideas and having discussions about what the modern interpretation of any given situation will be. From polite email and blogging techniques to clever and inexpensive ways to host a dinner party, I’ll be delving into these subjects with the goal of making all of us feel more confident about our day-to-day exchanges and our abilities to comfort, welcome and care for the people in our lives.

After polling our editors and readers on Facebook and Twitter, the question that popped up the most revolved around house guests — how to welcome them and how to be a good one. So today I’m tackling this topic by sharing what I’ve learned (and experienced) so far and hoping that you’ll share your tips, too. This column is really about sharing perspectives, so I hope you’ll join me after the jump to offer your feedback. Whether it’s a horrible guest experience or little things you noticed after a particularly welcoming stay at someone’s home, I hope you’ll share your insight so we can all learn from each other. xo, grace

*If you have requests for column topics/quandaries, please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll get to them asap!

Read on for gracious host and house guest ideas (including products to give for hosts + guests) after the jump . . .

Being a Gracious Host & Guest

If there’s one thing I appreciate most and strive for in my traveling life, it’s feeling welcome in a friend’s home. During the D*S Book Tour, when we felt the most run down, it was our friends and family in other states who took care of us and made us feel relaxed and comforted. What they did wasn’t expensive and didn’t take much time, but it made all the difference in the world. The goal was to add small touches that let us know they cared, while striking a balance between alone time and connecting time that made us feel comfortable. Let’s break down the basics:

Being a Gracious Host

The goal is to make your guests feel welcomed and comforted and like they have space to be on their own as well as ways to connect and be involved with your household. Here are go-to’s for welcoming any guest:

  • Pre-visit: Two days before a visit, I like to do a deep clean around the house, do laundry and stock up on essentials like toilet paper, paper towels and tissues. The extra day ahead of their arrival allows time for laundry delays, etc.
  • Basic Information: I always email and text my address, phone number, transportation information and my Wifi network and password two days before someone arrives. That way they have two ways to find their way to your home without getting lost.
  • Key Copies: Having a copy of the keys for your guest is always nice. It allows them to come and go as they please. I like to attach a little card with suggestions for places in the area to get coffee, shop, find transportation and eat.
  • Where to Sleep: I don’t have a guest room in my home, so my rule of thumb is to always let guests have my bedroom. For a night or two, I don’t mind taking the couch, so when in doubt, open up your (cleaned, with fresh linens) bedroom to guests if possible.
  • Bedside: Nothing makes guests feel more welcomed than having a few creature comforts. In addition to freshly changed sheets (which I like to spray with a mild scented linen spray) I like to provide: books/magazines, a carafe/bottle of water, a candle and matches, tissues, a tiny plant or flower arrangement, travel lotion and lip balm, a little snack (I like something location specific like Brooklyn-made chocolates or mints) and an extra blanket.
  • Bathroom: In addition to a freshly cleaned bathroom, I like to provide a stack of clean towels, washcloths and a toothbrush for guests. I put the toothbrush and a travel-sized toothpaste in a clean glass on the counter so they have a little landing space for their toiletries. (Amy’s sister keeps a drawer full of travel-sized beauty products and disposable razors for guests.)
  • Food: As much as I like to cook, I hate having to dirty the kitchen with a ton of dishes when someone’s visiting. So to cut down on cooking/cleaning stress, I like to make some simple recipes ahead of time that keep well in the fridge. Slow cooker chili and pasta salad are my faves. You can easily label and serve them (or let your guests have them when they want) as an easy meal.
  • Saying Goodbye: As polite as it is for them to offer, I always make sure I change the bed sheets and towels after they leave. (Though it’s nice for guests to stack their dirty sheets or towels if they have the time so it makes cleanup easier.)
  • After They’re Gone: I think it’s nice to follow up with an email, letter or text to let your guest know how much you enjoyed having them.


Image above: 1. DIY Key Tassels & Poms | 2. Mint Toothpaste $6.50 | 3. Organic Travel Shampoo $12 | 4. Mast Brothers Chocolate Bars $10 | 5. Fillable Toiletry Bag $12.50 (Fill with your own products to save money) | 6. Air & Linen Spray $16.95 | 7. Catbird Travel Candles $12 | 8. Polka Dot Bath Towel $78 | 9. Cotton Washcloth $8 | 10. Guest Toothbrushes $12.50

Being a Gracious Guest

Being a gracious guest is all about cleaning up after yourself and helping your host whenever possible. While the southerner in me insists on doing everything for a guest, it’s always appreciated when a guest offers to help out when they can. The main thing to remember is to be as tidy as you can and follow up with a thank you.

  • Pre-arrival: Sending your host your arrival information is always helpful. That way they can track your train/plane if you’re delayed and can’t update them. It also gives them a good idea of when to prepare for your arrival.
  • To Bring with You: I think a host/hostess gift of some sort is a must. It can be something as simple as flowers, a small house plant or a bottle of wine or, if you don’t want to carry something, an offer to take them out for a meal or activity. If these are too costly, simply cooking a meal at home and doing the dishes is a good option.
  • Around the House: Tidying up after yourself is a must. Doing your own dishes, making your bed and wiping down the counter or mirror after using the shower is always helpful.
  • Can’t Find It? This is the easiest way to avoid awkwardness. If you can’t find something or need something, just ASK. Poking around someone’s home looking for something can lead to all sorts of uncomfortable situations, so when in doubt, just ask your host.
  • Visitors: I personally don’t love having a ton of people at my home if I already have one guest there (my space is TEENY). But if you plan on having people join you — even for a bit — give your guest a head’s up to see if it’s ok. I think it’s most polite to meet others outside of your host’s home when possible, especially if they’re not a mutual friend.
  • Making Plans: If you have a schedule while you’re in town, let your host know. It helps them plan around your needs and know if they need to cook/provide for you or others.
  • When You Leave: When possible, it’s always a huge help when a guest starts the cleanup process. Stripping your bed sheets, stacking dirty towels and consolidating them in one space (or dropping them in a hamper or washer) is great. Just ask your host what’s most helpful for them.
  • Once You’re Home: A thank you note, call or email is a must. Letting someone know you appreciate their hospitality always goes far in being welcomed back again and again.


Image above: 1. Succulent Garden $19.99 | 2. Brooklyn Wines $29 | 3. Rifle Co. Thank You Card $4.50

These are the tips I’ve always followed, but what are your favorite musts, do’s and don’ts? I’m dying to hear both ends of the spectrum: nightmare visits and trips where you felt as welcomed as family.

Suggested For You


  • I love those Rifle Co. thank you cards, they’re so gorgeous. Thanks for this post, I hate having that anxious feeling that you weren’t the best host/guest you could have been.

  • Love this! I always make sure there’s a nice bottled water on the bedside table along with a fun little book about dream interpretations.

  • I think that this is a brilliant addition to D*S. I have tons of guests every summer here http://www.designsponge.com/2010/09/sneak-peek-annette-joseph.html
    I think one of the most important things in being good hostess is to be very flexible and zen when guests are staying with you {especially in a foreign country on vacation}. Most of our guests are very easy and helpful and fun, but every year I have one very difficult guest. Last year was not exception. No surprise that this was a young person who probably did not understand the rules above, or perhaps had never been taught the importance of being a good guest by his parents, it was a nightmare he could not have left soon enough. I have found over the years less is more so if a guest asks to stay with you, make sure you limit their stay to 2 nights if a. you don’t know them well. or b. you think that they are going to be difficult. Most of my girlfriends can stay with me for weeks they are so awesome. Over the years I have learned the rules of being a good host is to know your limits.

  • Thank you for starting this column– I’m excited to see what you have planned for the future :)

    One small gesture that I always appreciate is a bottle or pitcher of water by the bedside. It circumvents a midnight trip to an unfamiliar kitchen

  • A much-needed column. When I first got out of college and started living in the real world, I pored over many etiquette books and read from cover to cover everything by Emily Post and Miss Manners. One of the world’s best posts on thank-you notes — exactly how to write them, sentence by sentence — is from The Morning News. It is a classic from 2003 and it’s right here: http://www.themorningnews.org/article/how-to-write-a-thank-you-note

  • We always place a couple of bottles of nice water in the bathroom for those that may need a sip in the middle of the night. As you mentioned, we keep ample travel size toiletries well organized in a drawer in the bathroom as well, including antacids, aspirin and ALEVE, hand and body lotion, a small manicure set, and some seasonal bulb flowers on the sink counter, just because everyone loves fresh flowers. And if we know our guest and their ‘druthers, we always keep their favorite softdrink/juice, etc. ready for them.

    • jim

      aspirin/advil is a great idea. i feel bad asking for that in someone’s home because it always leads to them thinking i’m sick or upset, so it would be nice to be able to take it without causing anyone concern :)


  • Grace, THANK YOU for this column. Being a Southerner myself, I constantly feel the desire to show other people respect in an etiquette sense, but find our modern situations make it complicated more often than not. Emily Post just can’t quite cover everything for the modern woman ;)

  • I love this column, Grace! We live in Athens, GA and always have visitors at our house throughout the year, especially during football season. I love all of your tips and agree 100%. I received a written thank you note from a gal pal after a stay last fall, and I thought that was the sweetest thing. People don’t WRITE thank you notes anymore! I am always a fan of snail mail — for me and for others — just to say “thanks.”

  • great idea! looking forward to seeing this column evolve. i also come from the south(west) and feel that etiquette/graciousness is sometimes lost on new yorkers. i would love to see a post about thank you notes, especially in this digital age.

  • Looks like a lot of hard work just paid off! Congrats on the launch! Very happy for you and looking forward to more to come from this column.

  • I adore this series Grace! Being a Georgia peach myself, this topic is close to my heart. Some other recipes I like to make ahead are banana bread, gazpacho soup and “Georgia caviar” for snacking.

  • Love this column, but I think the level of etiquette depends on the relationship. I have friends who’d feel bad & uncomfortable if I went out of my way to do all of the above (e.g. , giving up my (and my spouse’s) bed, providing lip balm, etc.) and, conversely, I might feel resentment if I felt internal pressure to be such a perfect hostess and have everything lined up. My friends know they’re welcome to crash anytime, and they can help me cook dinner. ;)

    On the other hand, for my in-laws, definitely, roll out that red carpet and Uggs guest slippers. :)

  • I’m from Boston and now live in Memphis. My feathers are a little ruffled that you think southerners are more polite. In my experience they like to think they are. Take the woman in the check-out line who is being all friendly and chatty with the cashier (a stranger) because it would be rude not to chat, right? While the line behind her is getting longer and longer. Just because you say “Yes, Sir”, doesn’t make you better at etiquette. Northerners send thank-you notes too.

  • Great column. Looking forward to future posts. I also like to leave some type of pre-packaged snack (granola bars, crackers, pretzels) in a basket on my kitchen counter/table so guests can help themselves to snacks.

  • I love this column! I’m not a southerner, but I have always been obsessed with etiquette books, it’s so fascinating to see the ways manners evolve or stay the same. Plus, there are so many nice stationery items that come with formal etiquette that it ought to make a comeback. I think a great feature would also be comparing the little differences between good etiquette in America versus some other cultures.

    • Chloe
      I agree. I have family and friends from all over the globe. There can be slight nuances or variations to the way we receive our guests or situations that arise as a guest.
      A topic such as this would be appreciated.

  • this column is a great idea! I feel like we always have guests coming and going at our home, and have had our fair share of good and bad ones.
    Our favorite guests have been some friends-of friends that I didn’t know very well, but one thing they did that was so considerate: they took some time on their own, away from us, every day. This gave everyone a little breathing space – something both hosts and guests need on a visit!

  • I LOVE this new column!
    Etiquette is something that I think our culture/generation is really lacking these days. I would love to see a similar column on dinners and parties.
    I have a friend who, when invited over for dinner, always takes the initiative to start doing the dishes right after dinner (which I would be happy to leave until they’ve gone home). I love that!
    On the other end of the spectrum with parties: I would never tell guests it’s time to leave if it’s getting late, but I feel that when I start cleaning up, doing dishes, sweeping, and putting the rooms back the way they were, that’s a very clear sign that it is definitely getting late! I have another set of friends who always ignore these cues and stay until I can barely keep my eyes open long enough to say goodbye.

  • I love the idea of leaving a book about dream interpretations on the bedside, Kim!
    I’ll sure enjoy this column, as I’m really nervous about hosting or being a guest. I’m always unconfortable on both situations!

  • Love this column! I agree with the notes about meeting up with friends, the worst guest experiences I’ve had were when strangers got invited over to my place, so awkward in a small apartment. I slightly disagree with stripping the bed. For some reason I find it uncomfortable for my guests to see the bare mattress, even though it’s a nice one! The room looks so much prettier with the sheets on the bed, just leave them there and I’ll deal with it after you leave!

  • This will be a fun column to read. Thanks for adding it to the site. I have a pet peeve about some guests but don’t think it’s polite to mention it to them so I stew about it. Should let it go–there are more important things to do with mental energy–but..it’s guests who keep the guest room a mess when they stay. They don’t make the carefully dressed bed, leave clothes on the floor and clutter the loving styling I’ve done to the desk and nightstands. I guess if it doesn’t bother them I shouldn’t ruminate over it but, ahem, I was trying to create a tranquil place for them.

    • Well, as much as you liked doing it, it was (obviously) totally wasted on them. I’m just like you in that sense, and I feel your pain. My sister and her wife left our guest room in shambles (my husband called what they created in there a “nest”), which is strange considering they both have master’s level educations and are white collar executives (my SIL was an attorney for the Bill Gates Foundation). Basically, they are sophisticated women. But…they slept in late, didn’t follow the natural rhythm of the house, nor did they bother communicating with us about their arrival time (it was a road trip and they blew us off for about six hours so they could visit with another friend who lived along their route). My husband and our two children and me were waiting in excited anticipation of their arrival. We were expected them around 2pm. We wound up holding dinner over for them…. and then we didn’t see them until very late into the evening. While they were here my sister spilled coffee under the bed (she set it down on the carpet next to the bed and it all went underneath) and she DIDN’T tell me. I discovered the day after they left when I vacuumed the room.. She also knocked a book shelf, causing a photo frame to fall over and break. I watched it all happen, and instead of apologizing she blamed the “rickety book shelf”. She took zero accountability. And to think, those photos in the guest room were carefully chosen to make her feel welcome–they were of her and her wife on their wedding day, and some were of various other close family members. God—you just never know with people. We do what we want to do out of the goodness of our hearts, but they can be so disrespectful. It kind of shows you where you really stand with a person.

  • To be a good guest, ask/observe if the host wears shoes in the house. We don’t, and it drives me nuts when my parents walk across my floors with their outside shoes on. I’d never demand shoe removal though, but it really irks me.

  • Can’t wait to read the new column. I DO have some etiquette questions for you:
    -Leaving weddings early feels disrespectful but I feel like many weddings today run way later than I’d like. Is it horrible to leave early? How early is ok? After the cake?
    -I always love posts on what to wear to different occasions.
    – I love meal trees for new moms etc. Can you recommend good dishes that travel well and are generally liked when you’re cooking for someone’s family?
    -When we leave town our friends are nice enough to dog sit. I always return the favor. What are the acceptable parameters of length and duty to ask of a non-professional (volunteering friend) house sitter and how to thank them appropriately?
    -We’re taking an overseas flight with my 8 month old. I plan to make goodie bags for the people around us with a little letter from him, earplugs and candy. I know long flights with babies are horrible for everyone and I want to soften the blow to other passengers. Ideas for proper etiquette when traveling with a baby….or when confronted with a traveling baby?

  • Some light reading material and a good bedside light are a must in my opinion, it is not always easy to get to sleep, on the first night in an unfamiliar space.

  • I love having guests in my teeny apartment. I have learned to be upfront at the beginning of the stay — people WANT to be “good guests” and so it helps to be honest and avoid awkwardness. For example, tell them what time you usually wake up and what your schedule is like, or tell them which dishes are for “everyday use” if you care about that stuff. I also make sure to leave my guest alone a little bit so they can have some privacy. My apartment is so small that it’s nice for me to leave for 20-30 minutes on an errand so they can have some peace and quiet, use the bathroom w/o feeling rushed, etc.

    Grace — would love a future etiquette column on eating out with large groups of people!

  • When we moved into our home I had, for the first time, a guest bedroom. How exciting. I thought of all the ways in which a stay at another home would make me feel more comfortable and designed the room around that. I’ve got a bookcase tucked into the corner with some quick-read stories, a few beloved childrens books (we have grandkids), and a design book for Just Looking. The room has a dresser for their things and a full size mirror as well as a place for make-up and good lighting for just that. Most importantly, however, was a light by the bedside that had a dimmer switch. I find that staying in another home, I get disoriented or cannot fall asleep right away. Wanting to be a good guest, I hate the idea of bright lighting spilling under the doorway indicating that I’m up way late into the night. A dimmer light allows me (and now my guests) to read until their heart’s content or keep a low light on to avoid bumps in the night. It’s right by the bedside, so they have enough light to read by or a little light to sleep by.

  • As as house guest, I think it’s important to be able to fly solo for a while. The worst house guest I ever had stayed for a week (too long) and whined when my boyfriend and I had to work and couldn’t entertain him all day. He had his own car and we lived in LA, where are a million things to do. I guess my point is, if you are staying with someone, don’t act as if they are on vacation too.

  • I like sending fun surveys out a few weeks before people visit. I’ll include questions about their favourite breakfast or tipple and also ideas for things we can do during their visit. That way I have a better idea of what they’re interested in and can book things in advance. Sometimes I’ll also include a small present, like a sleeping mask for the plane!

  • Love the new column idea. As a guest, I appreciate it when the host mentions the morning routine of the household: times the shower(s) are generally available, when breakfast is eaten, etc. That way, I know how to blend my routine in to theirs. I try to pass the same information on to my own guests.

  • Love this column! A question I have is how to deal with family who aren’t the greatest guests. For instance, I love my cousin and don’t get to see him often, but when he comes to town, we find it difficult to fully enjoy his stay (e.g., his last minute planning for visits, changing up his plans mid-visit on which days he’ll be with us, uncertainty about when we’ll connect, etc). I appreciate that he’s trying to be spontaneous while traveling, but it does feel like a burden when we don’t know what his plans are and accordingly have to be on our toes throughout his visit. I wish I could be more laid back but I also get annoyed feeling like a hotel at times. Any thoughts on this kind of situation and how to preserve relationships even when our friends and relations have different expectations than our own about guest/host protocol? I didn’t offer for my cousin to stay here for his upcoming trip and I’m nervous he’s going to ask to crash anyway last minute.. and feel guilty about the whole thing!

  • A welcome column!
    I appreciate all your comments on guests and hosting.
    One thing I would add: the best houseguest just pitches in and helps without asking “how can I help?”.
    It is also considerate for a visitor’s arrival and departure times to fit in with our own family’s work/school routine, as much as possible. Late night arrivals, even for a most welcome guest, can be disruptive.
    One visitor who stayed with us sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers as a thank you AFTER she had left and I thought that was a lovely hostess present as well as a delightful surprise.

    I look forward to reading more of your etiquette columns.

  • I love reading about etiquette. Everyone has her own opinion, and I enjoy hearing them all!

    One question about thank you notes: I always leave a thank you note on the bedside table when I am leaving someone’s house. It’s just something I’ve always done, but now I’m thinking- is this odd? Should I mail my thanks instead? I just like to write the thank you card the night before I leave so I’m able to remember specific things about my trip.

  • This new column is so fantastic!! What a great way to kick off a new year. I look forward to many posts on the subject… My Southern soul is warmed Grace. Thank you. XO!

  • Most of this should be common sense, but some of it seems a bit overbearing. If someone Texts AND emails the same info, I’d roll my eyes and assume they think I’m a complete flake. A huge amount of “comforts” on the nightstand seems borders on the “look at me, I’m such a good a host”. Personally, my guests are friends whom I don’t need to impress, and who would find several of these gestures a bit awkward.

    • APW

      This column (and the suggestions) are merely meant as guidelines, which you can customize as you see fit. For example, I would do different things for my Mom visiting than a friend from college. It’s all about customizing things to suit that particular guest’s need. If your guests don’t want things by the bed, you don’t need to do that. But I would wager that most people don’t mind some water and a magazine.


  • I will add to the chorus of praise for this new column. Another southerner here, as well.

    I really like your idea of a hostess gift being, at the very least, a cooked meal with clean dishes. What a great idea for those who maybe can’t afford a formal gift.

    I would like to second Starkville’s comment about shoes in the house. We don’t wear shoes either, but I also don’t feel comfortable asking people to take them off. When I traveled to my husband’s home country I was amazed when we’d go to friends/family’s houses and there would be slippers by the door for guests! I loved that! They weren’t fancy or anything, but it was nice to have the option of walking in slippers instead of my socks.

    • Steph

      That’s a great idea. I’ve always wanted to do that rule in my house but always feel weird asking people. Maybe inexpensive socks would be a good option for guests? I think having some option is extra nice if that rule is in effect.

      Grace :)

  • What a great idea for a column! I was both the worst hostess and had the worst guest last fall. A friend of a friend came to stay for what I thought was a weekend, but it turned into a week.

    Right before she arrived, my boyfriend left me and moved out, so I was pretty much a grief puddle with no linens, no amenities, and no patience. I was met with very little understanding, and combined with a language barrier, I eventually snapped and told her to get her own sheets or find a hostel. Ugh. Luckily we eventually got friendly over a few beers, but that was a LONG week.

    After that I’m a little put off by the idea of hosting, but since I’ve settled into a new routine I think I can take these tips and try again!

  • One of the things I loved about growing up in New England was that things were very proper in an oddly frugal and down-to-earth way. I miss that, often. When someone goes out of their way to make me feel comfortable, it’s amazing. It helps so much and means so much. It’s so memorable and amazing. But, it’s also such a treat to prepare for a visit from someone…it feels good to do things for other people.

    I loved hearing the story behind this new series, and congratulations on bringing your longtime concept into reality! I like the way it fits in with the other series on d*s. It’s always interesting to see new topics and projects emerge, here.

    ps. the illustration is super!

  • I am a New Englander living un Spain. Etiquette was always of great importance in my mother’s home and is in mine as well. This column is a great idea! I like to leave a case of earplugs on the bedside table. Nothing worse then finding out your guest didn’t get a good night’s sleep because of some random sounds in a different country.

  • I think these tips are great, but disagree with not feeling comfortable asking people to remove their shoes in your home. If it makes you uncomfortable, why not ask politely for people to respect the rules of your home? In Asian cultures, shoes are not typically worn indoors, so, in my home at least, my husband’s relatives automatically remove their shoes without being asked. I usually have to remind others, but once they’ve been to my home a few times they should know the deal :)

  • We have a guest room and plenty of visitors year round… some of our friends even call us “The Aldana Hostel”. We’ve had great friends who can be the most caring guests ever! (surprising me and my husband with dinner and cleaning after themselves), and we’ve even had the akward uncle who suggests we change the car we let him use, because he rathers SUVs… Sometimes a party of visitors arrives the next day after the other visitors left.
    It can be exhausting having one visit after another. How can we “close” the Hostel temporarily to take a break without seeming unfriendly? We think we might seem rude to turn down friends requests to crash.

  • Love this column! I also love the idea about guest slippers. We don’t wear shoes in our home either and had a recent experience with guests not taking their shoes off. Long story short, our mostly white rug got covered in muddy footprints one night. That may have eliminated the problem.

    @Lauren, I love the idea of goody bags for fellow travelers when traveling with an infant. I am dreading taking our new baby to see my husbands family on the west coast.

  • Oh this is a great column! I am inspired to be a better host!

    I haven’t had a terrible guest in a long time but I’m wondering how you would address the situation if a guest is being inconsiderate of your home i.e, clothes on the floor, unmade bed, things all over the bathroom, dishes in the sink etc. I’ve had this situation in the past and felt the the best option was to just get through the visit and remember this in the event of a proposed future visit. It seems a bit ridiculous to have to ask a guest to be considerate of your home but also ridiculous to be a hostage in your own home. How would you recommend handling the situation?

  • Grace I LOVE this column idea! And I’m having an overnight guest tomorrow! What perfect timing.

  • We don’t have kids, but over the last few months have had friends with kids as both dinner and overnight guests. Sometimes there are things a kid does that are totally fine at home, but maybe not at another person’s home.

    Example #1: Young children eating or drinking while wandering around the apt. I would prefer they don’t because its way easier to clean up crumbs and spills if they are in one location (which I have learned from experience!). It would be nice if the parent either instructed the child to stay at the table to eat or else asked if it would be ok to wander. If this doesn’t happen (which can especially be the case if adults are walking around minging and eating), I just say someting like, “We saved a spot at the table for your kids!”

    Example #2: Jumping off furniture. I understand kids need to play, but please don’t assume it is ok for them to jump off my furniture just because you let them jump off your furniture in your own home. Some of the furniture in my home may not be as kid friendly as what you’ve got in yours. Parents: if you are not sure about furniture and jumping, just ask!

    Example #3: Tolerable noise levels (from jumping and shouting, for example) in an apt or condo may be much lower than what is acceptable in a stand-alone home. Remember, your hosts still have to face their neighbors after you and your kids leave.

  • To GQ: You might consider taking it as a compliment when guests are messy in the guest room (though when the “room” is a public space it should be cleaned up each morning). That probably means they are comfortable with you and not worried you are going to see their room and be seething or find them to be ungrateful!

    Re: shoes being removed, as a shoe-non-remover, it really doesn’t cross my mind to remove my shoes unless there is a pile of shoes at the door, and to be totally frank, I find it annoying to remove my shoes (especially if there’s no carpeting!) That said, I would much rather be asked to take off my shoes than have my host be secretly mad that I haven’t taken them off because I hadn’t realized I was supposed to. I think providing slippers or those cushy fuzzy socks is a lovely gesture to acknowledge the slight inconvenience (and gives you a way to say it politely).

  • This new column is great. I was taught nothing about hostessing or ettiquette. I’m learning by trial and error. Guidance and suggestions totally welcomed here!

  • I keep an extra alarm clock (and batteries), hair dryer, hand sanitizer, and charging station on/in the nightstand. If guests are coming through town for a purpose other than hanging out (i.e. we may not cross paths a lot), I put sticky notes on the kitchen cabinets so they don’t have to guess where we keep our glasses, plates, silverware, etc. I always let guest know that they don’t need to bring shampoo/conditioner, hair dryers or toothpaste. It saves them space in their suitcase and they don’t feel uncomfortable asking to borrow the item because I’ve already offered it.

    And I always try to remember to explain how to work the shower on the “tour” of the apartment. It’s so easy to forget how odd your shower is since you use it everyday. Nothing more awkward than someone in a towel peeking their head out of the bathroom because they can’t figure out the shower (which happens every time I forgot to explain it).

  • This is brilliant! I am a HUGE believer in etiquette as a means to make people feel more comfortable. But I do have a question perhaps you could help me with.

    When we have guests in our home, I go to the trouble of doing the kinds of things you’ve listed above, but my husband doesn’t get it. Once, when his sister was coming for a visit, he suggested her friends who were joining her could just sleep on a mattress in our unfinished basement (really), and he’s also expressed that he doesn’t understand why sheets should be changed after someone’s slept on them only once (if we have two different guests coming on two different weekends, say). Help! What can I say to him to get at the root of WHY etiquette is so important? It’s not something I’ve been able to articulate, and I get the feeling that if he doesn’t expect people to do things for him when he’s a guest, he also thinks it’s okay to not do those things for others.

    Any suggestions?

  • My mom always keeps a basket of travel-sized toiletry items/shampoos/aspirin/bandaids with a note attached that people should feel free to help themselves as they need it. I loved that touch–and it’s come in very handy now when I visit and am a guest there myself. :)

    Also, as a parent of small children, I love it when my mom offers to stock up on appropriately sized diapers and baby food when we visit, so we’re not stuck trying to haul anything beyond what we need for the journey there.

    My parents/in-laws and I also do reciprocal checks with each other for any staple food items that the guest would like to have on hand–a preferred cereal/beverage/sandwich condiment so we can have some of their favorites readily available when they arrive.

  • I loved this post and am very looking forward to the column, thank you!
    I especially love the idea of written thank you notes.
    As a Northern European I am not use to the idea of providing travel size beauty/hygiene products to my guests, and find it bit awkward that someone would be travelling without their own personal stuff, I wouldn’t for sure! Good tip tough, should start to stock up for emergencies/american guests… :)

  • A good idea: Create a guest book for your home. The front of the book should have your tips on local restaurants, sights, etc (you can also tuck in a map). The rest of the book can be filled with entries from your guests over the years with their own suggestions and stories of their time staying with you. My parents have a guest book at their cabin (which gets lots of visitors) and it is so fun to look back at the memories created there.

  • I’m not sure of a polite way of saying this, but I always like to leave some antacids/diarrhea medicine because I know that traveling can make people sick and it is embarrassing to ask your host for some! I put some travel-size bottles/packages in a nice basket by the bed.

  • As a non-southerner, I’ve used a lot of these ideas when we’d have guests stay over. I have always tried to make sure the creature comforts are available, especially since our guest stays normally happen when we’ve needed help with something (one friend stayed with us during a move, so the comforts were smaller, but still appreciated), or in an emergency situation (sudden snow storm with highway closings).
    I have a set of things just for these times: travel hand lotions, guest towels, toothbrushes and toothpaste, etc (if I have women over, I sneak a few “feminine products” hidden in the bottom of the basket). Or I have some unique items to give these extra personality like our footed glasses and a carafe for water from a garage sale (these are gorgeous!).
    Since we live on the main public transit in the area, I always have a $10 bus pass ready for them so they don’t feel stuck at our place, and if it doesn’t get used, I will use it too.

  • Great idea, Grace! I have a couple of additions to the wonderful array of suggestions already given. Because we are lucky enough to have a real guest room, we keep the door closed so that it is a “pet-free zone” for those guests who might be allergic to our 2 cats and 2 dogs. If we’re expecting guests, we ask if they have any food allergies (or food hatreds) so that meals can be planned accordingly. And a suggestion for those who don’t wear shoes inside: cheap throwaway slippers (like they give in hospitals) can be had in supply stores. Or the Dollar Store. And a realtor friend of mine uses those blue shoe covers (from a hospital supply place, I think). One more thing: both my SO and I like to read in bed, so consider putting a light on EACH side of the bed.

  • Wow, great column and great comments. I learned lots from both! I live in Western Canada, but I have a southern-raised mother in-law who lives in New England. So there, proof positive that I need all the help I can get from all you. One thing I’ve noticed as a guest in other people’s homes is that try as I might not to disrupt their routine, it’s just a fact of life. So because I know they are taking time from their daily lives to host me, I try try try to do something from their routine: can I walk the dog, fold some laundry, help in the garden, cook dinner? One of my favorite guests ever was someone who saw the mountain of clean, unfolded laundry in my house and, while I cooked dinner, she just folded everything for me while we chatted. Interesting side note: I had never met her before. She was the sister of an old friend. But after she had folded all our underwear, we certainly felt like fast friends!

  • Love this new column! Lots of good tips and ideas here. My mother is coming to stay with my husband and me for the first time and she is bringing a friend of hers that we don’t know very well. Thanks for the ideas to help my mom’s friend feel welcomed in our home.

  • love it! i look fwd reading your modern approach to this very important and overlooked subject. also – can i just say wow i thought i was a pretty good hostess until i read your list! your guests must feel so special and welcomed… i have to step up my game. inspired… thanks Grace!

  • If at all possible, I have found that it is important for a guest room to have a bedside lamp as well as a clock!

    The lamp can soften the room for them as they ready for sleep, and the clock can help a disoriented traveler discern what time of night it is, as well as when they might want to get up without disturbing their hosts (or to avoid oversleeping in a host’s home).

    Great blog post, I look forward to more!

  • I can’t tell you how timely this is! I regularly host friends who come to town, one of whom is arriving in just a few days! Hosting is something I enjoy but I’m always looking for ideas to go the extra mile. This page has just been bookmarked. Seriously looking forward to more in this column.

  • Great idea! As another Southerner who has lived around the world and learned how different etiquette norms can be, perhaps you could also give tips for visiting other countries. For instance, in France and Germany you greet people when entering and exiting the elevator and offices… something I’d never done before but was actually quite nice.

  • What a great column! We live in a great city (NYC!) and are from Europe which means quite a lot of visitors. Our last horrible experience was when my 15 year-old cousin stayed with us for 2.5 weeks. We have a small apartment (and have 3 young children) and she was sleeping on the pull-out couch in the living room. She would never put the mattress back, spent the day in her T-shirt and underwear (my husband had to tell her to please wear shorts!), would whine when I did not act as a daily travel guide, never helped with any chores/tasks (laundry, cooking, clean-up, nothing!) and would leave the table without bringing anything to the dishwasher or putting it back in the fridge. We got no thank you from her or her family and while she did bring some gifts for the children, she expected us to take her out and pay for her activities and restaurant bills continuously. This was 1 year ago and I am still definitely irked about it!!!
    On the other hand my parents-in-law were just staying with us for 3 weeks and I am having difficulty finding my footing again without their amazing thoughtfulness and help! :-)

  • I think that’s a really kind idea of Lauren’s but I would feel a bit uncomfortable being presented with such a goody bag on a plane – it’s inviting a rapport that’s not really required, some people can be difficult and might refuse the gift which would be awkward for Lauren. I recently flew from London to Cape Town and was directly behind a couple with an 8 month old and a toddler. Unfortunately both children cried for quite a while as they were trying to get to sleep and even more unfortunately the entertainment/headsets function and the reading lights were out of action in our part for the aircraft for the first couple of hours! However, I think everyone understands children can cry, the main thing was that the parents were incredibly diligent in trying everything they could to soothe the children, that’s as much as can be expected. International flights have headphones and the back of seat tv so Lauren shouldn’t worry about ear plugs. And, the noise of a crying child can carry beyond your immediate neighbours so you can’t worry about everyone! Plus, there will be so much baby stuff to carry on board there won’t be room to bring extras for other travellers!

  • I love reading these ideas. One change I make though is this: Since I do have a guest room for my visitors, I DO NOT want them to strip the bed for me. I like to do this at my leisure, maybe even a week later. I don’t want to have a pile of sheets etc. lumped on the floor. I don’t think all guests should automatically do this, but should ask the host first.

  • Great idea…I would add the simple addition of a few plug-in nightlights that go on as it gets dark in the bedroom, hall, and/or bathroom. It is easy to be disoriented in the middle of the night in a new house.
    As a more mature person who happens to be engaged, I would be very interested in modern etiquette in planning a 2nd, very casual wedding. Specifically- it seems presumptive to “register” for gifts, but some guests might find it helpful- what is the status quo? Secondly- there are many young couples that invite us to their weddings, but we do not hang out with them at other times, so what is the best way to construct the guest list???

  • I can tell this column will be a regular read for me. Thanks!

    One question I have is about whether or not it’s okay etiquette for guests to leave their toiletries on the counter in a shared bathroom (assuming a dedicated drawer or shelf space in the bathroom for guests is not possible). It’s awkward to tote stuff back and forth, but it seems just as awkward to leave personal stuff lying around.

  • Love this column! We’re Southerners by way of Charleston and Savannah, so we LOVE hospitality and making people feel welcome and special in our home.

    I second all of your suggestions and would add:
    1. I’m on the hunt for a couple bathrobes for guests. They take up too much suitcase space for guests to pack, but nice to give guests an option for covering up PJs quickly to come right in the kitchen in the morning.
    2. For hosts, even if you don’t usually drink coffee or tea, figure out your guests’ caffeine of choice in the morning and stock it. Nothing fancy, but as a guest who likes coffee, it’s been awkward when my husband has had to wander out in a strange city for coffee for us (obviously if we were in NYC it wouldn’t be a big deal, but suburbs are tough).
    3. Both parties: tune in. Guest – If you are visiting during the week and your host has a hectic work schedule, don’t jump in the only shower when you can tell your host is itching to get ready and get out the door (but is trying to be polite). If you’re on vacation, you can wait 15 minutes. Host – If you live in a real vacation city, recognize that your guests probably want to do their own thing/ have places they want to see that you’ve been 20 times. Let them! Conversely, if you live in a small town without a lot of tourist attractions, your guests are probably there for YOU more than the city. Suggest a movie, plan to go to a park, or something similar. Just sitting around the house for 3 days can get a little old!

  • I love having guest slippers at the door, but also think that in the event of a dinner or cocktail party either A) they should not be required or B) event guests should be told they will be required to remove their footwear. I recently went to a dinner party where everyone was told to remove their shoes… and rest assured, I would not have worn stockings and a skirt if I had known that was the case.

    Thank you for starting this column. It is really extraordinary how we (as a culture) have forgotten basic civility. I look forward to reading more!

  • Grace I think I would truly LOVE to be a guest at your house. You are so thoughtful and think of all of the wonderful little details (which I do myself but have never had anyone else do for me).

    I would like to request part of a column dedicated to email etiquette. I seriously do not believe people have a clue. I am a person who loves hand written cards, notes and letters and have a real problem with the lack of thought people put into an email. I also get confused when to take offense by something or not when it is sent via email, as so much can get lost in that form of communication. Plus I have a father who is the WORST emailer in history and is constantly cc-ing everyone all the time.

    Thanks Grace. You are precious.

  • Grace,

    I noticed the place setting in your article illustration was improper. Both fork and napkin are on the right instead of left, with knife not being blade inward and closest to the plate on the right. Though, perhaps I am unaware of a widely accepted modern place setting etiquette.

    To explain- when I was very young, raised in Massachusetts, my mother made me take an etiquette class at the art museum and I’ve retained a few things. Though as a twenty-something in Portland, OR my interactions with others are entirely casual and my knowledge seems trivial… I bring this up because I am interested in etiquette in a modern context, seeing as place setting etiquette is often neglected at most resturaunts and homes of friends, and seems most prevalent as a nostalgic idea from my childhoods.

    Or perhaps this note is too fussy and not casual enough for a modern etiquette column, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

    Best wishes,
    Breanna Goodrow

    • breanna

      ha- i can’t believe i missed that! i hired a finnish artist to do this, so perhaps it was a change made based on european tradition? either way, i’ll try to have her update it ;)


  • Lovely reminder, thank you.

    I agree with the above, with some additions in my current almost guest-house role for people living in the country and passing through my town for work or transit:
    1. Leave the sheets and towels attached to the guest room in the cupboard there, along with new toothbrushes and toothpaste and soap and point them out so that they can manage themselves if needed.
    2. Show how washing machine works and note rules of appt building for hanging laundry.
    3. They get keys and my schedule so they can be independent and we discuss a common time for a shared meal if that isn’t obvious (or indeed, to note that it won’t be possible)…I LOVE it when they say when they are planning to be in or out so that I can plan for it (make sure I’m appropriately dressed or have treats I know they like for a chat and a nibble)
    4. Breakfast and other goods are shown and the not-for-now wine is kept in a less visible place than the daily stuff.
    5. I have a book for the loaning of books. I know that I won’t get all back but it is a reminder and it seems to work for some.

    I am renovating an old house in France, SLOWLY, and canvassed friends about their wishes for the guest rooms. They said:
    – dark curtains so they can sleep regardless of the time of day
    – a stock of classics, things they may have read before and may wish to dip into, in both primary languages
    – a place to be able to write or sit and read away from the general throng (big house, so not too much to ask)
    – maps and suggestions for restaurants. I will leave a house GPS with main restaurants, shops and tourist sites already saved, as well as HOME very clearly.

    My parents and now friends instituted a scheme of a tree for the garden as a gift for those who use the house as a holiday destination. This is for people who would otherwise pay for a hotel. These can be small or large but they means that they feel OK about electricity and etc, as it is the rule of the house.

    Friends also give the name of a cleaning lady for those who stay for a while when the house is normally empty, so that all can be put to rights. I VERY much appreciated knowing that I could go for an early flight without worrying about putting things back into perfect shape in the dark.

    There is a trick to knowing how to make people feel comfortable. Somehow I think that giving the rules up front makes that easier. Finding a perfect house and not knowing about the shoe policy can be uncomfortable. Be clear, with a smile, and it works…or I prefer it, at least.

    One of my more common guests used to leave me with a supply of smoked salmon and a bottle of champagne in the fridge after longer stays….he is sadly missed.

  • This is a great idea! I have several regrets in the past about being a less-than-ideal house guest, mainly just because I was a traveling and broke 20-something and didn’t think I could afford to bring or leave a gift (I still did the dishes and cleaned up after myself at least!). I should have bought them a bottle of wine or something! I’d like to know, in that situation, if thank-you gifts, even years later, are appropriate? And what kind of gift? What if they live in a different city or country? For example, I would love to get something for family in London but have no clue what an appropriate gift would be.

  • Wow, what an amazing column and commentary! Love Amanda’s note to leave earplugs…

    But I’m surprised no one has mentioned smoking. Whether host or guest, it’s very important to be clear about whether or not you or anyone will be smoking indoors, outdoors, nowhere in sight, etc. A friend of mine had plans for us to stay overnight with an old school chum and was told they didn’t smoke, but we arrived on a very late flight and this friend had taken up smoking…like a chimney. I couldn’t sleep all night and it was too late to find a hotel.

    Likewise, let smokers know if they can’t smoke indoors, where they can. Too many smokers think an open door or window or the front step is okay, when often that smoke comes right in, but they just don’t know where to go, and might really crave a smoke after a stressful flight.

  • This is great. I’m especially intrigued by the comments re: shoe removal. I feel SO weird when someone asks me to take my shoes off at their house, as though they’re asking me to undress. (Once I’d put some foot powder on just before, and I felt so awkward being barefoot! A friend once told me she felt weird about mismatched socks.) And offering me your slippers, which I seriously doubt are washed between every wear? No thanks!

    I think the only gracious way to handle this is to remove your shoes, and if the guest is comfortable doing so, they’ll follow your lead. Anything else feels really uncomfortable to me.

  • What a wonderful idea! I love reading your tips as well as all the other comments! I was raised with a certain amount of knowing how to be a good guest but we rarely hosted so these tips are great to put in my arsenal.

    I recently joined a Tea Society and I would like to know what the protocol is for giving hostess gifts, mainly, what makes good hostess gifts, when do you present them, etc. Also, I can’t always stay afterwards to help clean-up. Is there something else I can do to let the hostess know I appreciated the time and effort that went into the tea? We have a tea every month so I will be getting to know these ladies quite well. Is sending a thank you note every time overkill?

    I’m also interested in the e-mail etiquette. I e-mail on a daily basis for work and I hate when I receive communications that are too informal or worse, in all CAPS. Oh how annoying that is because I feel like the person is yelling at me :)

    I so look forward to reading this column. Thanks again!

  • @Angela I think if the host is opening their home up to guests, it’s important that people respect the rules of the house as long as they’re reasonable. It may be “awkward” for some guests, however, the host may have her own reasons for not wearing shoes in the house (allergies, cleanliness, new floors) and would ask people to respect that, much like a non-smoker would ask smokers to take it outside.

  • Living in Australia, we have the pleasure of entertaining plenty of house guests coming down under for a holiday. For me, culture plays a big role in my hostessing. American guests are often comfortable helping themselves to things from the refrigerator, or making their own plans and informing me of them. Our Dutch family, however, is much more formal and as a hostess I have to work much harder to make sure they feel taken care of. For them, it would be rude to initiate any eating or activities without my invitation. Over the years I have learned how to entertain both sides of our family by clearly stating how our household runs, and what can be expected. Culture is a huge component!

  • Before going to bed each night I get out the breakfast things and put them on the counter. That way if guests are up earlier than me they can help themselves (and I don’t feel compelled to get up at the crack of dawn just in case they can’t find the cornflakes!)

  • This column is a wonderful idea! Here’s a topic for future consideration–we recently moved into our first house, and I have no idea how to get to know my neighbors! They did not come knock on my door to say hello and welcome us, and now it’s been a few months and it feels quite awkward to go knocking on their doors. Is there something I can do–some little note or gift to introduce ourselves and open the lines of communication? I don’t need to be best friends with everyone around us, but it would be nice to be able to greet them by name. Any suggestions on neighborliness would be appreciated!

  • Along with so many others, I’m eagerly awaiting more posts in this column. The comment I relate to most is @Annette. Way up top–“know your limits.” Over the years I have hosted lots and lots of guests in my home, and they have ranged from lovely to horrible. These days I rarely agree to it. (Meaning only 2-3 times a year.) It’s so much work changing linens and accomodating folks. Don’t get me wrong; it can be very rewarding as well. It’s just good to know your limits. I would add for guests–it’s good to get out of the host’s space a bit on your own to give them some breathing space.

    I would love advice on how to handle awkward conversations. For instance, how do you finesse those inappropriate personal questions? I seem to think of the perfect answer two days later.

  • This is a wonderful idea for a column, and so informative! Everything was right on point, and some things I never even considered like the copy of the keys? Amazing!

  • Great column! I second the request for a column about hostess gifts- what situations, when to give them, etc.

    A tip that my dad told me about guest rooms, that I think is super smart: always spend the night in your own guest room! If you actually try out your own guest room, you will quickly find out what it’s like. I’ve stayed in guest rooms that have no counter space for toiletries because the hostess has decided to decorate within an inch of it’s life. The bathroom looks fabulous when no one is in there, but then there is no where to put my things that I travel with. She clearly didn’t think about it, because she hasn’t used it. Another thing, you find out very quickly that there isn’t any freaking light to do makeup in- a huge annoyance for me, because then I have to hog the bathroom so that I can see to do makeup, instead of doing it in my room. If you try out your own room, you will know if your guest bed needs a new mattress, or if your air vents rattle, or any of a million other annoyances.
    So give your room a test run!

  • This is a great piece and I am excited to read more. I live in TN and also have a guest room, which is such a treat after years in a city apartment. I have two boxes with lids that I keep in the guest room. One has snacks, waters, chips, granola bars, etc for midnight munchies. One has a full variety of travel toiletries, toothbrush, sewing kit, mini hair dryer, antacid, advil, etc, q-tips, razors, lotion, etc. The whole shebang… basically anything that anybody might forget to bring. I just say, “Snacks and drinks are in this box, and a million toiletries are in this one, so just find whatever you need.” I do have to restock these boxes, so I know they get used.
    I also don’t like it when guests strip the sheets. Just tidy up the bed a little and leave it at that. You are a guest, not a worker.
    I don’t mind it at all when people ask me to remove my shoes, however I actually prefer to know ahead of time. I’d prefer to hear, “just a heads-up that we take our outdoor shoes off in the house, in case you want to bring your own slippers. We all have slippers/wear socks/whatever.”
    Lastly, as someone who has many friends and family members who have allergies, I recommend that you not spray your sheets or burn incense or other scented candles when your guests are visiting. It can put them in the awkward position of having to ask you to either put the candles out, for example, or suffer through a night of sneezing and wheezing.
    I also let folks know that I am a sound sleeper. I’ll say something like, “Feel free to stay up late or get up early, futz around the in kitchen or talk on your phone. It doesn’t bother me one bit and in fact only makes me feel cozy.” This always gets a smile and makes people feel at home.
    Definitely have a set of keys for your guests… no need to hold them hostage to your schedule or make them root around under dirty bricks and flowerpots for your hidden spare.
    I keep a local map and lists of my favorite stores/restaurants/parks on my computer and print out whenever I have guests. I also leave books, paper and pens, and plenty of surface area.
    When I am a guest I find it uncomfortable when people have loads of family pictures and figurines or other fragile stuff on every surface. It makes me anxious that I will break something or not know where to put it back if I have to move it.
    Enjoy your stay, y’all!

  • I absolutely love this column! I’ve been watching too many hours of Downton Abbey this weekend to admit publicly. I’ve been wondering how to infuse a little Crawley etiquette into my everyday, and here it is on Design*Sponge. Thanks for getting me started!

  • Wow, advance notice of having to remove your shoes at someone’s house? That seems a tad bit uptight and presumptuous to me. Guess I’ll be avoiding house guests in the future :)

  • Such a lovely idea, and it is refreshing to know that you can still be a wonderful hostess even if you don’t have a spare bedroom! Loving all your suggestions xx

  • This is fantastic! Love it and your rules of etiquette are so spot on – perfect! As someone who hosts a lot of out-of-town guests, and has a young baby to boot, I would like to make a suggestion for the guest etiquette list if I may: Please also let your host know when you plan on leaving either before you arrive or, at the very least, when you arrive. It’s amazing how often we have guests (usually family) who don’t let you know how long they’ll be staying! As a hostess, I try to be gracious, of course, and roll with the punches, but it’s still stressful and a bit annoying to not know how long you’ll be making meals for/cleaning up after and just generally putting life on hold for your guests :) Thanks for the fantastic column!

  • SHOE REMOVAL: Please let people know ahead of time if you don’t allow shoes. As someone with bad feet, I HATE being asked to remove my shoes. I need the support, and I even wear special toe spacers (which would be impossible to wear outside shoes, and I can’t remove them when wearing tights in the winter). I have never been back to a house where I was required to remove my shoes.

  • @Lauren I guess you will never be visiting anyone who observes traditional Asian cultural practices because many do not allow outside shoes to be worn in the home.

  • Very excited to see the next edition of this column! Much needed and who better to kick it off than D*S? I would love to see more Modern Etiquette do’s and don’ts regarding social media sites and situations. I think this is an area that sadly most people are completely lost in. Thank you!

  • Gosh. You’ve received so many comments, it seems silly to leave another. Especially one not very original. Just want to add that I too really love the content of this new column. I think it’s what makes D*S great. Very pithy, useful articles

  • Towels. Always let guests know where spare towels are or put spares out for them. Also if it’s a shared bathroom, let guests know if your household hangs towels up for repeated use, and where they can hang theirs (or give them something to do this on in their sleeping area), or if towels go straight for laundering after one use.

    I grew up in a family who had lots of guests, and I figured out early on that guests who never do anything to help, especially if they are there more than a couple of days and aren’t using your place as mainly for sleeping, is a pain. For my family, it was rude, given my mum had 4 kids and a billion things to do everyday. Try not to be a ‘drain’ on the energy of your hosts and give them some space.

    With hosts/guests from different cultures, I think if a host or guest is unfamiliar with the culture, it’s useful to find out about etiquette of that culture beforehand, so you at least have a general idea of what they’re used to at home. It can help avoid big social faux pas, like wearing outdoor shoes inside or turning down food (it’s considered rude in many cultures – unless you’re allergic, just eat a little if you are not hungry).

  • What a great idea for a column! One thing that I would like to add – I always like it if there is a digital clock in the guest room, it means that if I wake up in the night I can check the time without having to fumble around for my phone/watch/iPod/whatever. I can’t wait to see what else you write about, really looking forward to it! :)

  • This is an excellent column idea Grace and I love all of the comments that add value to it. What an informative read! I have several suggestions to add –
    1. Power Strip with surge suppression. I have put one the the guest spaces in our home because everyone comes with a bizillion things needing charging. I don’t want them on my kitchen counters! I also pack one in my bag because even hotel rooms don’t seem to have enough convenient plugs for both my husband and me.
    2. Soup! When entertaining overnight guests I always make a big pot of savory soup and have it available in the fridge. I tell the guests that it is their for them to help themselves whenever they are hungry. We generally eat around 8 PM and that is too late for many. They might have a bowl of soup at 5:30, or for lunch, or a late night snack. some have even chosen it as their breakfast. Here is a link to my post on one soup for company (with recipe!).

    And weighing in on the changing of sheets – My opinion is based entirely on who the company is. I was visiting the ski home of my son-in-law’s family. Clearly, during the ski season this beautiful home is filled with revolving guests. The hostess put the next change of sheets in every bedroom and on your last day it was the guests’ responsibility to change the bed and bring the dirty linens to the laundry room. Such a smart solution for providing a way for everyone to help. Now, in my house, when the kids come home, I do the same thing. When they leave, there are clean sheets on the beds. It depends on each guest as to weather they get the sheets or not. As with all good rules, they are applied with consideration!

  • The other thing I like to do as a host is to give my guests a little snack bag as they leave. Not many people like airport food, or fast food if they are driving. So, if they are on a road trip, I send them off with scones, fruit, maybe some cheese & crackers if they have a little cooler. For people heading to the airport — some nuts, dried fruit, and maybe a fancy PB&J to hold them through the flight.

  • I wish you column was read by one of my boyfriend’s cousins from New Zealand.She stayed with a friend , at my boyfriend’s mum’s house for more than 2 weeks, and as it was around Christmas, and sort of my turn that year, I cooked the Christmas dinner and had my boyfriend’s parents around, I invited the girls to the Christmas dinner as well ( AND bought them a present).
    This is two years ago- and neither my boyfriend’s mum or me have ever heard from them again!! Not even to say they are still alive ( we know they are !! ).So just a note with thank you and we are OK and back home would just be nice… and they weren’t even teenagers but girls in their twenties..O boy! This column should be required reading, hahaha!

  • I have a question about family coming over and bringing someone who is on their in law side. However, I know this person very little. Is it wrong to feel uncomfortable to have this other guest in my home alone if they decide not to partake in the family outside activities?

  • No one ever discusses this, but bathroom situations can and have been nightmarish. Nothing is worse than realizing too late that there is no more toilet tissue around. It’s always nice to have some extra rolls and some air freshener in plain sight.

    I have also been to houses with what I call “trick toilets.” Ones that require a handle jiggle or a slow flushing one that takes a certain amount of time to hold down the handle. I don’t care how friendly you are with the host or hostess, you do not want to have to ask for a plunger during your visit.

    I’d say the #1 rule (and usually implied rule) is make sure your bathroom is in shipshape before guests arrive! :) If I wouldn’t want to be in a certain situation, I don’t put my guests in that situation.

  • Should a guest who stays in your house for multiple days offer to buy you dinner. Or should they just pay for their own expenses equally. For example, groceries for a cookout where the guest goes to the grocery store with you. Should you expect a guest to at least buy you a drink as a show of appreciation. Or should you expect no monetary show of appreciation on a verbal one?

    • I would never expect a guest to pay for anything. If I’ve invited someone to stay at my house and then I suggest we go out to dinner at some point, I’m only suggesting dinner because I am prepared to pay for it. We have guests all the time and although money isn’t an issue for us, we know that it is for some of our guests. My mother stayed with us twice over this last month and she wanted to pay for our family dinner out one night, which would have cost her around $200. Because I appreciated her gesture very much, and I knew that it was important to her to reciprocate our generosity, I handled it this way: I said, “Mom, there are so many of us here tonight. We invited you out tonight because it is our treat, so I cannot allow you to pay. However, how about you pay for our lunch out tomorrow?” This was a great compromise, because it gave her an opportunity to pay for a meal to show her respect and appreciation for us, and it didn’t break her bank. I don’t think guests should feel like they have to offer to pay for a meal, but I admittedly like being asked because it shows respect. If a person cannot afford to drop $$ on a meal, they shouldn’t offer. Instead, they can offer to pitch in and help cook at home, or else bring a token to the house, such as a bottle of wine or a box of scones. Something like that.

  • I love this web site and it helped to settle a few issues in our home. I do have a question….is it polite for a guest to leave $$ on your kitchen counter and then follow it up with an e-mail that says it is for groceries or perhaps a new yard game? The guest was a relative.

  • Do you have any creative gift ideas for a cousin i stayed with in California for 9 weeks? He took 2 weeks off work and toured around with me along with several other days. It was the first time i had met him and we got along extremely well. I just wanted to thank him and his family with meaningful but grand gifts to let them know how much i appreciated their hospitality. I wanted to give the family something like a beach getaway weekend with his wife and 2 kids. I was also looking for other creative ideas. They are just starting to spend time together as husband and wife, and as a family so i thought of sending staggered gifts in the mail like a picnic basket, then candles for date night etc..

  • You actually make it appear so easy together with your presentation but
    I find this topic to be actually one thing that I think I’d by
    no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and extremely
    vast for me. I am taking a look forward to your next submit, I will attempt to
    get the dangle of it!

  • I was recently a guest at my brother and sister in law home, along with my 83 years old mother and her 87 year old friend. My brother and husband went golfing, and the other 4 of us went to the casino. We had an early breakfast of scrambled eggs and a piece of toast, and when we arrived home from the casino, it had been over 5 hours since we had eaten. The boys were not back from playing golf. My sister in law wanted to wait to have lunch when the they arrived home, at least another hour, but I was hungry (so was my mother). My sister in law believes I was a rude house guests because we did not wait for the boys to eat a sit down meal together. I believe a hostess should feed her guests when they are hungry – Can you tell me what the proper etiquette is in this situation?

    • LeAnn

      I agree- I think it’s best to feed your guests when they are hungry. That said, if she was planning a larger meal in only an hour, she could have provided a small snack to tide you over until the main meal, too.


  • I’d like to offer an idea for Cheryl who’s cousin indeed showed himself to be a very gracious host who has also recently married. This might take some extra effort to find but to my mind a thoughtful and unique offering. A compass. Not just any compass found at any sporting shop. A compass that is of art and workmanship. I found a beautiful one at a boutique that offered a selection of nautical type items. I gave one to my husband on our 24th anniversary as my gift to him as our family has traveled though out our beautiful country. If you find this to be unsuitable to your idea…maybe a small collectable globe. This will show your travels with your cousin will forever be a memorable time for all. Many thanks, Vanessa

  • I was recently a houseguest. She mentioned at breakfast that they were having some
    friends in for lunch. I offered to come down early and help. However, I was told I wasn’t
    invited, and it was suggested that I go out for a walk – hardly comfortable for me with two
    bone on bone knees – very painful to walk – which was why I was there in the first place
    prior to surgery. Am I right to feel offended?

    • That was rude! I think there could have been a better way to convey that it was a private meeting. And, it would have been better still if they could have agreed to change the meeting place to a cup of tea or coffee at a local shop. Goodness!

  • @Barbara Wow, I would be completely offended. That was incredibly rude and insensitive. Regarding sheets and towels, I don’t like when guests take it upon themselves to strip the sheets or gather the (usually still wet) towels. I say leave them be. Chances are that I’m a little tired after hosting and may not feel like starting a bunch of laundry. I would much rather do it at my own pace.

  • Any etiquette rules on time zone changes/people being on different internal clocks? I live on the west coast and pretty much all of my guests are at least two hours ahead of me (central or eastern time zones). On top of that, I wake at arund 8 AM, while they might wake as early as 5 AM (their time). So I have guests going to bed at 6 PM my time, and waking at 3:30 AM my time. I feel badly, like they are waiting around, bored, while I sleep for hours. Then, when I wake up, they ate showers, ate breakfast, and are more than ready to go and I’m still in PJs and feel I need to wake earlier or hurry way up. And they are typically hungry for dinner mid afternoon. It’s steady, like I have to change schedules and have double the meals to make (ones for those of us west coasters, and those for visitors). What is the best way to handle this? I live in a vacation friendly area with year round nice weather, but live too far from attractions to walk or do much of anyrhing. I have frequent guests but this time zone thing is killing me and I have a toddler, who is difficult to keep quiet while guests are turning in at 6 PM ( and guests wake the baby and dog when they get up). What’s the best way to handle this? I being made to feel “lazy.”

    • hi mary

      i think guests have the obligation to entertain themselves if they’re not on their host’s time. that said, it is incredibly kind and good host etiquette to think ahead and provide them with options like:

      1. if you have an auto coffee machine, either show them how to use it the night before or set it’s timer so it’s ready for them at 5am when they’re up. the same with breakfast- either show them where to find food in the pantry to make or leave out things that are easy for them to eat, like a basket of muffins, bread, etc.

      2. the attractions in your area are in your time zone, too- so they shouldn’t expect to enter those earlier or later than normal. i think it’s nice to not, say, sleep in until 10am when you have guests waking up at 5am, but it’s not too much to expect them to wait until 10am to leave and drive to whatever attractions they have planned.

      in summary- just leave out things to make it easier for them to entertain themselves a bit. newspapers, magazines and books to read (or just explain how to turn the tv on, etc.) and leave food and coffee accessible for the morning.


      • How about the other way around. If your guests are on a later schedule than you? If the host goes to bed at 10 pm and the guest is not tired yet, should they go to bed at same time as the host and get up around the same time? Or is it perfectly acceptable to stay up later watching a movie quietly till midnight as not to disturb the host and sleeping in a bit later than the host as long as it doesn’t affect the plans for the next day?

  • So many great comments and love the column! I am stymied on this issue though and could use some advice. My cousin is stopping by for a few days from overseas. Normally I would put everything on hold but we just saw him over New Year’s at his house. My husband and I have tickets to a Broadway play one of the three nights he is visiting. The show is sold out and we are going with another couple. Do we give up our tickets to be good hosts or leave him at home with the kids? Do I tell him in advance so he can make alternate plans? I am afraid it will make him feel unwelcome… help!

    • hi marina!

      did you buy the tickets before knowing your cousin was visiting? if so, i think you’re fine to attend the show. but perhaps invite your cousin to meet up for dinner or drinks after the show? if not, it might be nice to gift (or sell) the tickets to someone else.

      grace :)

  • I have a situation with my boyfriend. I usually spen the weekends with him and I showed up while his best friend wad there as they both did some clean up at my bf’s home. They were proud of themselves and showed me all that they accomplished.
    However, my bf and I had plans to go get pizza and come back and relax. On our way out, his friend who is btw very high strung was having problems with his headlights going out on his truck. My bf looked for a possible cause and couldn’t find any. We decided to go get the puzza and come back since the pizza pave was getting ready to close.
    Long story short, we came back and my bf offered his friend some pizza and we were all talking. However his friend is a talker and I was being polite and engaging in the conversation. I noticed my bf left the conversation and got on the computer, then went and took a shower. When he came back to us he asked his friend about looking at tge headlights and his friend asked for a ride home which my bf obliged.
    Niw after droppung his friend off and I asked if we coud go to my house to let the dogs out, he mentioned it was already after midnight (I haf an oblugation at 7:00am) and he says ” well if you hadn’t talked to Les for 2 1/2 hours, we could have spent a few extra hours together. Needless to say, I am livid with him as I thought I was being polite as a guest and my argument is this is your housr, your friend, you should have interrupted us and suggest something.
    He doesn’t see it tht way. He continues to blame me. This is Sunday as I write this and haven’tseen him since after midnight on Friday because I was offended and went home.
    My question here is who is at fault here and whose responsibility is it to say something when its getting late?
    Please advise.

    • Sherry

      I think if you visit him every weekend and this happened once, I would let it go. It sounds like the friend was helpful to him, although it would have been nice for your bf to acknowledge the experience wasn’t what either of you expected.


  • I have a situation. We had guests stay with us this weekend and when I went to “close-up” the house I noticed a HUGE stain on the coverlet of the bed they slept in. It went through all the way to the sheets and then they covered it up with the comforter so I wouldn’t notice. I want to ask my friend what the stain is so that I can get it cleaned but I think this may not be proper etiquette. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Ro

      That is indeed unfortunate. I think I would let it ride though. It might cause embarrassment and if you can get the stain out, it may be best to just let this go. But if it’s a sign of other poor treatment of your house during their stay, perhaps the invite doesn’t get extended again.


  • Great article. I have a question. Do you know the term used when hosts and their family consciously eat less to make sure there is enough good for the guests? This usually occurs when it seems there is not enough food.

    • Hi Linda –
      I think you’re talking about FHB – Family Hold Back. The idea is that the family holds back so that the guests can eat their fill or have the choicest pieces of food. -Amy

  • I was very happy to have stumbled across this blog on the Internet. I hoping to get some feed back that will help both my sister and myself.

    We are in our sixties. We live about 600 miles from our brother. He and his wife have been invited year after year to either my home or my sister’s home for Thanksgiving. We spend a lot of time preparing for the dinner that many of our friends and family attend. We prepare a special area for our brother and his wife to stay while visiting. The problem is, they show up the night before Thanksgiving and either leave the evening of Thanksgiving or early the next morning.

    We always look forward to their visit, but are hurt that they don’t stay long enough to visit with us. After dinner and dishes we now have the time to spend quality time with them, but they are packing up preparing to leave.

    This year we have tried to discuss this with them, only to be met with excuses and they have told us now a week before Thanksgiving that they will not becoming at all.

    Two very hurt and sad sisters in Florida

    • Sheila

      I’m so sorry that you and your sisters feel hurt and that you’re dealing with a situation that can be sticky to handle. Especially around the holidays, that is hard to handle.

      The bottom line is that you have every right to express your desire to see more of your brother and his family. I hope you’ve had a had chance to do that clearly.

      If he is not able to stay longer, unfortunately I think you’ll need to respect his choice and make the most of the time they do have. I know it’s not ideal, but we’re not always able to understand why people make the decisions they do. If he’s traveling 600 miles just to see your family for one day, I do think that expresses a lot of effort on his part to visit, too. (I know a lot of people would wouldn’t travel that far if they could only stay a day and that would be their excuse not to come at all).

      If you would like to spend more time with your brother and his family, perhaps you could discuss other times to visit or plan a trip during another time of the year? Has your side of the family gone to visit them for the holidays? It could be that perhaps he feels he is always expected to travel when they would like to stay and have time for their family at their home. I hope there’s a way you can find time to visit each other so that perhaps not as much pressure is placed on this one particular holiday. Maybe a summer visit or every other holiday?


  • Grace,

    You are so kind to have responded to my post. You are correct, I do need to respect their decision. It does pain me that they are not coming at all this year as a result of my expressing my feelings. I feel I have trapped them into admitting they have come in the past out of feelings of obligation when they actually didn’t want to come at all.

    I was just at their place a week ago for my nephew’s wedding. I stayed in a hotel. I was invited to stay at their home but was encouraged to stay in the hotel that my brother and his wife paid for. Their home is large enough to accommodate my sister and I. But I believe it is my sister-in-law that may not want us to intrude in their space.

    She may also be the reason their visits are cut short.

    I would give anything if they would invite me to share a holiday at their place. I don’t see that happening.

    Again, you are correct, I need to simply respect their decision and quit trying to figure out why and not take it personal.


  • I am in a sticky situation and don’t know what to do!!
    I have been with my partner for 7 years and have hosted every holiday meal for his family during that time. I put a lot of work into my dinner parties – even more so for Christmas. I have been planning and preparing for my Christmas party for 3 weeks already to make it a fun and memorable night. My sticky situation…my partners brother has told me he is planning on proposing at my Christmas party to someone he has known for only 2 months!! Aside from holidays just being a bad time to propose I feel this will make things uncomfortable and awkward. What if the answer is no? It’s only been 2 months! I feel like my Christmas party is being hijacked and turned into his engagement party – am I being selfish or unreasonable in thinking he should do this on his own time?
    thanks in advance for any insight that can be offered, I feel horrible and don’t know what to do!

    • Hi JDR

      First, that’s so kind and generous of you to host the holidays at your home every year. I hope everyone is appreciative of all you put into that.

      As for proposals, those are the prerogative of the person doing the proposing, so I don’t think it’s kind to request they do it somewhere else. It’s entirely possible it won’t go well, but no one can know that for sure. If it does go poorly, then perhaps being with family is actually the best place for him. Your family can surround him with love and support and help him through a tough time. I think that type of bonding is exactly what the holidays are about. Sometimes it’s not our family’s job to prevent us from mistakes we (may) make, but instead to help us rebuild after them.


  • Wow! Thanks for the quick response…i’M impressed!

    Not surprised by your response either : ( thank you, I appreciate your feedback

  • Walking right back towards the place on a freezing December morning, I start
    vaping the shisha, preventing eye connection with passersby.

  • My son and his girlfriend ( 24 and 21 years old and been dating for 3 years) visit twice a year for 2 weeks. She does little to help and he says she is a guest so should not have to help.

    When they left now the bathroom was dirty and had not been cleaned in the 2 weeks they stayed. She verbally thanked me and had said the night before they left that she would clean the bathroom. I said that would be nice but I think she left it to make her point that she is a guest.

    My son helps a lot and cooks etc…she plays on her computer or watches TV but she does help out with drying up or laying the table when she is asked to but leaves a lot to my husband and myself by leaving the jobs half done. By the time they leave we are on our knees with tiredness.

    I do all her washing and drying and usually fold it for her too and the last time I gave her the basket to fold it herself and she jokingly asked why it wasn’t folded and then was too lazy to take the basket upstairs so she left it in the lounge until I started to take it up and then she took over from me.

    Am I expecting too much from her? Any suggestions as I don’t want her to visit any more as I cannot put up with her holidaying at our expense and treating us as a guest house when she doesn’t even respect our home…..but I don’t want to cause family problems.

    The girlfriend walks into our bedroom without being invited and treats the whole house as communal space. I was brought up and raised my children to treat the master bedroom as totally private and by invitation only. I found her looking in the drawers of my chest of drawers for my hair-dryer. I was appalled and my husband was furious but won’t say anything for fear of problems.

    One night she took the phone upstairs to call her mother and I overheard her saying that she could’t do anything right. The conversation went on for ages but when she heard me coming up the stairs she closed the door and I could hear from the tone she was still discussing the issue. That was the only call where she went to their room and closed the door. It was on a day that I was frantically doing things to get ready to go out and after doing everything she came and asked what she could do before we went out (in 5 minutes time!). I said it was all done. My tone was incredulous as she had sat and did nothing until it was all done…she does that a lot and her timing is spot on to get out of most things. So I end up feeling stressed and she feels she is being picked on.

    I feel very upset about this and cannot approach my son as he gets angry with me, I feel taken for granted and unappreciated. I do hope you have some advice. Incidentally when they arrive their room is all set up for them and cosy and the most she does is vaccuum the carpet ( or my son does sometimes if she passes the job to him) and this is when I am doing the rest of the house.

    I really hope you can help. Many thanks.

    • Susan

      I’m so sorry this issue is causing you so much stress. Relationships are tough because 1/2 of the equation is your own flesh and blood, so they “get a pass” for a lot of this behavior and some similar behavior may be overlooked because they’re you’re children.

      I think the first thing to do is sit down with your son and discuss the issue. First and foremost, a guest is a guest. If they are genuinely guests in your home, expecting them to tidy up after themselves is fine, but expecting them to scour the bathroom is not. It doesn’t sound like your son is following up to clean up after her, so she’s not the only one on the hook here.

      I would sit down with him and explain the issues you have clearly and without emotion. Just explain that you’d greatly appreciate if they would be tidier about their areas (ie: cleaning up the bathroom, doing their own laundry and folding.) and then explain your request for private spaces to remain private.

      If he cannot communicate this to his girlfriend in a way that leads to changes, you have every right to politely sit down and express some concerns with his girlfriend. But if she can already sense your displeasure with her behavior (hence, her phone call home), you may be coming across as passive aggressive. I would suggest stopping her in the moment and addressing things, rather than giving her a laundry list (no pun intended) of problems.

      Perhaps if she doesn’t fold her laundry or makes jokes about you not folding it, you can stop and say, “X, can we talk for a moment? I’m so glad to have you and [your son] visiting us, we love spending time with you both. I’m happy to help out with laundry, but comments like that make me feel like you don’t appreciate this help, so I’d appreciate it if you don’t say things like that.” If she doesn’t improve, stop doing her laundry.

      I think your son should be able to discuss all of this with you though. Chances are he understands and knows the rules you raised him with and just needs to express that to his girlfriend. She wasn’t raised with the same house rules, so there’s going to be a learning curve for her, and giving her the rules, rather than expecting her to know them already, allows her to have a fair understanding of what’s expected of her behavior.

      Keep in mind though that different people were raised with different ideas about space. I was raised to be able to knock and walk in and out of my mom’s bedroom to get her hair dryer, but that’s not how every household runs. It’s a very intimidating thing to try to adjust and fit into someone else’s family, so it might be helpful to keep her feelings and fears in mind (and her age, she’s still very young) and lead with compassion. If this relationship becomes permanent for your son, finding a balance between your needs and her comfort will need to happen anyway, so starting now with a clear list of ground rules and giving her some time to digest them all will be helpful in the long run.


  • Dear Grace

    Thank you so much for your wonderful and very balanced response. I will take your advice seriously and the next time they visit I will try to have the right response to address the issues. I will say it kindly so that she doesn’t take offence but of course there will always be upset associated with any discussion we have.

    I guess mothers of sons hope they will chose a partner who compliments them and so, seeing my son doing the majority of the cooking and other jobs while his girlfriend does very little is very frustrating. She is young though and I hope in time she will mature and become less wrapped up in herself. I don’t see them as guests but rather as family visiting. We don’t invite them as such but we have an open door policy and my son tells us when he’s able to get leave to come and visit us…of course the girlfriend comes too as has happened with previous girlfriends. My sons girlfriends are always welcome and I have never had these problems in the past with the girlfriends of either of my sons.

    I’m unsure about speaking to my son about this as he is not open to any criticism of his girlfriend and no matter how I say it he will take offence. I’ll see if the opportunity arises as I may be going over to visit them. My son may be more open to discussion on his own turf.

    Thank you again for your very balanced advice. Fingers crossed the next visit is less fraught. I’ll keep you posted.

    • Susan

      Navigating these issues is tough, no matter how you slice it. But I would tread lightly around the idea of your son not being complimented by his girlfriend. Their relationship may be built on different roles and responsibilities that are unlike yours and those roles may manifest themselves in different ways that you don’t necessarily see. We all love our family members to the moon and back, but everyone (all sons and daughters) has their quirks and issues and it’s possible that she is able to compliment your son in areas he struggles with. I’m sure both mothers here love their children and would want nothing more than for each family to give the other the benefit of the doubt and the chance to learn, grow and understand each other better.


  • Dear Grace

    Thank you…you have made another very good point. I have overlooked the ways that she does compliment him as I am so upset about the way the Christmas and New Year visit went. I will try and deal with the issues and see the positives at the same time.

    Thank you!

  • While have a birthday party for my husband with 11 friends, the following occured, shortly after cutting the cake, one of my friends began talking about his porche. Another friend that has helped him work on it suggested they go see it. Three of the guests left, and never said a word. As the others noticed they were gone, my husband mentioned they had left to see the car. My husband drove his brother in law to the same home and then they started listening to the turntable. Finally, I suggested that we all go over since they had been gone a while and then the wife and I prepared homemade pizzas and we all stayed and ate. I felt offended, and had hoped that us showing up would have sent a message to go back to my home. I had originally just wanted to have cake and hang out and when she suggested that we make pizza I was surprised. I took it all in stride but woke up the next day feeling badly about the situation.

  • I have a question. I may already know the answer to the question but wanted to get another’s point of view. I don’t visit my family very often. Decided to visit them for the last holiday. This has happened before and I was a little shocked by it… Here goes… My relative seems to be either on a strict budget or just cheap. When I come to town, I have had to purchase my own food. They provided the room to sleep and provided transportation to/from the airport. I am grateful for that service. I understand times are hard. I am budgeting myself but it makes me feel a little unwelcome even though I told them of my visit months before hand. I know that whenever I visit I will have to have money for my own food. It is amazing to see a host behave in such a way but it could be financial. What is your take on providing food for your guests if you are on a fixed income or strict budget?

  • I had an unfortunate situation this past weekend when my husband and I were invited to our friend’s river house for Sat night. Also, another couple we know was invited but got sick at the last minute. My friend and I had divided the food up but I felt it important to bring extra, things like cheese/crackers/cookies, a bottle of wine for her or to have with dinner. I also brought and made the salad for dinner since the other couple was to bring that. I also was responsible for providing breakfast. I am a wine drinker and also bought a bottle for myself in addition to the one I brought for my host. Our host had brought fish and potatoes and since she had extra invited her cousin and his wife who live near. She also invited a colorful man who lives next door in another house. He showed up without anything but is a really big drinker. His first couple of drinks he brought from home and then got into the wine my friend had in the refrigerator but after all of the white was gone he did not want the Rose’ so he went into the kitchen and poured the entire amount of remaining wine (decent CA Chardonnay) from my bottle. I did not see him do it and when I went to pour a glass found the bottle empty. I was really put out with him but I was the one to be made to feel bad for not “being generous” I felt that I had made sure my bases were covered and don’t know what else I could have done but think about who else might show up and bring a third bottle of wine. I am really upset about the whole experience and since we were all in various stages of having drank too much.
    How should I have handled this and do I have reason to be upset that I was made to feel like the tightwad.

  • We have lived in a popular mountain vacation area for the last 15 years. Our children and grandchildren have visited us everyone of those 15 summers and we love seeing them. For the last several of those summers however, we have begun to feel very “used”.
    Their visits are usually between 7 to 10 days and we provide almost every breakfast and dinner for their stay. I cannot think of one time when they offered to take us to dinner or to cook a dinner. Our daughter and her family have never or maybe only once invited us to do an activity with them while they are here. For instance, last year she booked a scenic river float with she and her two young sons and never asked me if I would like to go along. If she had asked me I would have loved to have gone and experienced this with my grandsons!

    They have several times invited the in-law parents also. Dad in-law was coming a day or two later than the rest of the group, flew into an airport 90 min away and used our vehicle to pick him up. Then, because they had plans the day he was leaving we had to drive him back to the airport! Wouldn’t you think that he could have rented a car? And the gas tank was not refilled either.
    The son-in-law often leaves food on the counter without putting it back in the fridge even ice cream! None of them can seem to put the lid back on the garbage can. We have to have the carpet in the family room cleaned after everyone of their visits also.

    • Deb

      Yikes! That sounds awful. You are well within your rights to set ground rules for your home and if they can’t stick with it, they can’t visit, period. So sorry that they took advantage of your hospitality :(


  • This isn’t even half of the rudeness. This summer they decided to
    extend their visit without even asking and we had already made plans with friends. They left without saying goodbye, no thank you note, not a text, NOTHING! They left 4 days ago and we have not heard one word as yet and I doubt that we will. Is it just me? or ?? I don’t want them to come back EVER again!

  • My significant other moved in a couple years ago. I had managed to buy a house after great personal sacrifice. Child support prevented him from being able to help out with the mortgage. His daughter turned 18 and is off to college. Whenever she comes over for dinner she ignores me when she walks in the door, only talking to her dad and our dog. It makes me really uncomfortable. She never says thank you for dinner, and usually picks it apart, refusing to eat half. I always regret the effort I put into planning, shopping, and cooking. Of course, she thinks she knows everything! Does she have bad manners?

    • Gabby

      Yes, those are bad manners. But it may have more to do with adjusting to a new person being with her parent than with dinner or anything like that.

      This sounds like a conversation to have with your significant other. He is her parent and should speak to her about how to behave in someone’s home. If she doesn’t comply or show some effort than you’re well within your rights to ask him to meet with her elsewhere if she can’t be respectful of your home. That said, if there’s an issue of divorce and adjustment going on, a lot of children (grown and little) need a good deal of time to process that. So this may be something that needs a little time to heal and be worked on.


  • Hello, I have a friend who I see occasionally and we love to drink wine – often more than we should. Well when she is at my house she often breaks wine glasses, which I never complained about – I just cleaned up the mess and buy new wine glasses. However when I was at her house recently – sitting outside on the open patio, I made a mess with my rolling tobacco and she bitched me out that evening about it. Well I cleaned it up the next morning and swept her porch and she still chastised me about it in an e-mail saying that even though I cleaned it up some got tracked inside the house. I told her that I don’t give her grief about having to clean up her broken wine glass shards and sticky wine. Shit happens and when you are a host of a drinking event and things can get messy sometimes. I am offended because she often seems to be the kettle calling the coffee black and judges me for things she does in similar but different ways. Your thoughts? Thank you,

    • HJJ

      I think addressing these situations in the moment is the only way to handle this.

      If this happens again, apologize and clean up whatever mess you made. If it KEEPS happening every time, perhaps it’s best to a) bring your own items pre-made to consume at her house and b) offer her plastic glasses to prevent breaking. If both parties can’t consume things in either home without a huge mess, there may be a bigger issue here.

      If the griping continues back and forth, a proper sit-down discussion about the bigger issues here (respecting someone’s space and being in control of your own behavior enough to not make a huge mess that requires cleaning from the host), may be in order.


  • Hi, I am having a party at our beach house for my mother’s birthday. It is only an hour away. I have included family and my mom’s close friends – about 40 people are invited. I put a start time on the invitation but no end time. In the past we have hosted weekend parties for the 4th of July, Labor Day, birthdays – those are always family parties. My mother’s friends are all just coming for the day. Here is my problem: my sister is an out of control nightmare – she drinks too much, becomes argumentative, walks around in her lingerie (without underwear), trespasses at our neighbors’ houses..she doesn’t ever offer any help and complains about everything. She’s also had a revolving door of horrible boyfriends who show up. I finally stopped inviting her although her children still join us. This is a milestone birthday for my mom so I sent an invitation to my sister. Some family members will be staying over – how do I let her know she is not on that list. It doesn’t feel right to me as a hostess but I know it will be a horror show otherwise…how do I phrase this? Thank you for any guidance you can give!

  • I think you have made the right decision by telling her she must stay in a hotel and still inviting her to the celebration. I would also take her aside before the celebration and tell her that no one will be allowed to behave in an inappropriate manner in your home and if they do they will be asked to leave. I have had this situation in my own home. I asked my husband to intervene and he told the guests that their visit was ended the next day.

  • I have to say communication is a MUST. Guests gotta have an idea of what to expect and how to behave prior to their visit, but they’ll only figure how the host house/family works once they’re there and are TOLD so.
    I recently spent some time with friends and I asked for the ‘list’ of the Family (routines, any special habits I should adapt to…) – to no avail. No one told me what to do or not to do, which made me go about what I thought was right – and what I would expect to get from my own guests when I have them .
    Cutting the long story short: I was ‘told off’ for my behaviour and said not to be adapting well to the local culture (different country)… WHAT? Haven’t I asked you how you wanted me to be FIRST thing when I arrived?

    Looking forward to be a host again… to do the exact opposite and feel proud of myself! lol :)

    Great post… gives room to a great discussion!

  • When you have dinner at someone’s house, how much time (etiquettely speaking) do you have before extending an invitation to them?
    Also, I am a recovering alcoholic and no longer drink alcohol. Entertaining has been tricky for my husband and I (he no longer drinks, either) since we quit drinking because I feel like things are kind of awkward when a cocktail/glass of wine/beer is not offered upon guests’ arrival to loosen things up. I have had a little falling out with a friend who confronted me about not being invited to our house very often when we have been to her house many times. (This confrontation may seem like poor etiquette in itself, but it was while we were having a conversation about many other things). She and her husband like to drink, and I just thought they would probably be bored at my alcohol-free home. Please advise! :)

    • JS

      Just so I understand- before extending them an invitation for what? Do you mean do you owe them a dinner at your house in exchange? The answer is no, you don’t. But should write write/call them with a nice thank you.

      I have many friends in recovery and it’s not odd at all to not be offered alcohol at dinner. You can most definitely have them over and let them know ahead of time alcoholic drinks won’t be served. If they don’t understand and support that, they’re not the sort of friends you want anyway. But if it was a misunderstanding and they’d be HAPPY to join you sans-alcohol (which it sounds like they are), I would just explain that you thought you were concerned about entertaining in a dry house and would be happy to have them as long as they’re respectful of your house rules re: drinks. There is no reason you can’t have a great party or meal for everyone without alcohol.


  • I’m coming from the “Guest” position. I’m a mom of 7 sons and just returned from my oldest’s home after being invited for the weekend to see their new home. We arrived at the expected time to an announcement from my wonderful daughter in law (in most ways) that she was on her way out for a couple of hours for a piano lesson for her son. She was running late so came back without going to the lesson only to inform us once again she had another “dance” lesson scheduled an hour and a half later and wouldn’t be back until 6:30. (We had arrived at 2pm). She had no plans for dinner and only offered to prep a salad which hardly fed 3 people instead of the 6 which was needed. My husband had the foresight to bring chicken to BBQ and I managed to find some rice to cook in order to put a dinner together.
    After dinner I proceeded to clean up and put away food, etc. The next morning my husband and I brought in two $2k area rugs to carpet their tile floors in the family room and dining room as well as a sofa due to the fact that they had no carpeting or seating for the downstairs family room. They loved it and then my son proceeded to go and talk on his phone for 4 hours upstairs and my daughter in law took a couple of hours to shower and get dressed. While they were still both doing their thing, with absolutely nothing to do waiting on them downstairs, we decided to go up and say our goodbyes with complete kindness and left. I love them so much and they are indeed wonderful in most ways but seem to have absolutely no sense as to what it means to have manners when it comes to invited house guest. When I have guest I always make sure there’s meals planned and prepped and clear my schedule to ensure my guest feel welcome. I guess I just don’t understand where people from this generation are coming from. I run my own business and my customers are always treated with respect and understanding and would think that families would have the sense to do the same. A very disappointed house guest.

    • Lorraine

      I’m sorry to hear that happened. As a host (both you son and his wife) it’s your responsibility to make sure people are fed, entertained and made to feel welcomed. It doesn’t sound like that happened. Maybe they’re overwhelmed in the new house and still getting settled, so I’d chalk this up to that and hope that it’s better the second time around. If not, then it’s definitely worth saying something to your son about making sure there’s a plan for the weekend (food, activities, scheduling, etc.)


  • Hello,
    I received an email today from a friend inviting my husband an I & eighteen friends to new year eve dinner , I was astounded that we were asked to pay £50 ahead for caterers !!
    I have never ever invited guests to dinner and would NOT ask for payment !!!!

    We will not be going.

  • I have invited a college friend to visit at Christmas. Our family and extended family get together for dinner and share gifts on Christmas Day. I don’t want my friend to feel left out. What should I do?

    • We had family over to our Summer house on a holiday weekend. Several of our neighbors came over to have cocktails. During this time, several of the family members decided they no longer wanted to have the neighbors at the house. They felt they had overstayed their welcome. They elected one of them to tell our guests they needed to leave and ended up having an argument with one of our neighbors. We were embarrassed and disappointed that the family would act in this manner. Is it ever ok for guests to tell other guests it’s time to leave without discussing with that hosts first?

      • Shelly

        Plain and simple, no. Etiquette wise, unless someone has fallen ill or there’s a family emergency, the host should always be the one to wrap up the party.


  • Lucille,
    One thing you can do is let your friend/and family members know this tradition so they aren’t caught of guard. Put yourselves in their shoes. That always helps me in situations like that.

  • When a former resident comes in from out of town with less than a month’s warning, who should shoulder the burden of driving further, compromising on meal/drink meets?

    • Julie

      What do you mean by former resident? A friend? I’m not sure I understand the situation- could you explain who this is and what these meetings are?


  • I often stay at my sisters home when I travel. I usually buy groceries and necessities that we use to replace what we are using because I know money is tight for them, but she gets upset because she says I’m not your charity case! What is the proper etiquette? I don’t want them to feel that but I know they don’t have the extra money?

    • Angie

      I think perhaps instead of re-buying these things, maybe you could treat them to a meal when you’re there? That’s a very common ‘thank you’ and perhaps won’t feel as much like a “charity chase” situation to your sister? I would honestly sit down and talk with her, thank her for being such a gracious host, and ask what is the best way for you to repay their kindness? Perhaps they’d appreciate help in another area/way.


      • I actually have been cooking and baking while I have been here. I told her that I know how hard it can be with 5 mouths to feed and adding 2 more can stretch you pretty thin. She said when they visit us they never have to want for anything, so it should be the same there. But I know financially we are in a better place. But I don’t want to verbalize something she already knows. I don’t know what to say.

        • Angie

          I wouldn’t say anything that sounds demeaning or makes assumptions about her finances. It sounds like she made it clear that they’re fine. I would still offer to take them out or make a meal when you’re in town, but I don’t think you should say anything that would feel offensive to her.


        • Another option would be to give a gift certificate to thank them for their kindness. Local history/science museum – one year membership or local zoo one year membership. Another option would be a family game, such as Uno, Blockus, etc. Another way to take away the awkwardness of the income gap is to “emphasize” the good time you had in their home, the pleasure of spending time with her or the children or hassle saved by not “having” to stay at a hotel, eat at restaurants, etc. Emphasize how much you really enjoy her and her family. Let the focus be “good memory-making moments” not money. That is the key. And a hostess gift for the whole family is the icing on the cake whether a gift certificate, a meal, a candle or a game. Your enjoyment of her and her family will bless her more than anything your money can buy.

  • Love this post! It was very useful for me during the holidays, because I had a lot of guests this time. All the tips and ideas for being a good host were very helpful and gave me great ideas for cleaning and preparing the house for my guests. Thank you for sharing all this great stuff! Greets, Diana

  • Loved this post. As I lay in my bed when I should be sleeping… I am writing a list of everything I need to get taken of before my boyfriend’s 3 best friends from college get here in the morning. We have a guestroom and an air mattress Any other suggestions for this is a first type of guest I will be hosting to this weekend!

  • If guests don’t make their bed, is it polite of me to make their bed while they’re out? Or would that seem like nudging them to be neater?

    • Dana

      Are they b&b guests or home/friend guests? In the case of the former, I think it’s ok (and would be seen as room service). In the case of the latter, it may seem like nudging, so I would let them leave it as-is (you can definitely request they strip the bed when they leave).


  • What is proper etiquette in this situation?
    We have stayed with a sibling before and her guest bed was awful! (I almost slept on a rug on the concrete floor because it was that bad!). Now she has invited us to stay with her again. How do we ask if she’s gotten a new bed without sounding rude? Or decline her offer and stay with another sibling without offending her?

    • Mel

      I think you nailed it with your last sentence. I would just stay with another sibling and leave it at that. If they press you why, you can mention that that particular bed hurts your back, but if there’s another place to stay, I’d just go with that option.


  • I’m having my long distance beau of three years over for two weeks. He travels constantly and this will be by far the longest we’ve spent together consecutively. . I’m thrilled and terrified at the same time. I want to make everything perfect. But I’ve never exactly been Suzie Homemaker.. Please help!

  • These could be my stories with my kids. All grown with well paying jobs. They make big messes when they come. Leave all their gear in the common areas. Don’t make their beds or pick up the room. Do not help with cooking or offer to take us out after several home cooked meals. If we go out, do not offer to pay. Go about their own schedules when we are invited to visit. Do not include us in their planned activities when they visit.

    I have wondered what is different between my generation and theirs. One thing that is different is that since after high school, they often lived and vacationed with big groups of friends. Everyone pitched in for the rented cabin, ski lodge, boat or beach house.
    No one was considered host or guest and no one played that role. Pretty much unorganized but usually with maid service. Everyone doing their own thing. Keeping their own schedule. But if someone decided to cook or buy beer everyone gladly participated but no expectation of reciprocity. They don’t know how to play host and therefore don’t know how to play guest.

    I’m hoping this will change as they settle down. I failed to teach them at an early age the basics of guesthood and now at their age I know they would be insulted if I gave them a lecture on the basics.

    Also they all have highly stressful professional jobs. I wonder if they just need to go back to a time when parents invisibly took care of everything.

  • I was always taught as a hostess to overnight guests to make them comfortable and welcome. I recently stayed with my sister-in-law and her husband and they literally followed us around pointing out any crumb that made its way to the floor and commenting on making sure we don’t make a mess as soon as we sit down with a dish. Is it me? Or are they a bit more than a little over the top?? We don’t plan on staying there again for sure. But my mother-in-law says we’re the bad guests because we left two glasses out at her house. When they used to come stay with us(which was 2-3 times a year for 6 years) I always picked up any messes and stripped the beds and everything myself. If there were crumbs, I swept them. I understand everyone has their own opinions, but I’m furious at them acting like we are horrible house guests. I never left laundry or food laying around. And other than the 2 glasses left out at my mother-in-law’s house (which I forgot about because we were in a hurry) I always did our dishes. I guess I’m just venting. We won’t be staying with any of them ever again. Even if that means we need to make out visits shorter to afford a hotel.

  • This is brilliant, and definitely a needed device. I have a quick k question. When someone shows up, unannounced, even just for a quick afternoon chat. What are some things hostess should always prepare to have on hand? Obviously, if you new, in advance, you could provide tea, cookies or cake. But what if your caught unawares?
    Mrs. Pam Hobbs

  • Hi :

    I am wondering if it’s rude to ask for a cup of water when you just arrived at a stranger’s house? I’m looking for a room in someone’s house to rent, but it was so hot in the sun that I was very thirsty by the time I arrived at a new place.

    Thank you,

  • I’m wondering if you can weigh in if I’m being overly critical… I had a couple friends visit from out of town, one of them more of an acquaintance but me wanting to get to know more too (was a former co worker and the two recently hike a lot together). We had planned on doing one big hike, everything else was tentative. To make a long story short, my friend ended up leaving each evening and coming back very late to go see a fling or worse go to the strip club (she has a thing for this apparently). Not judging, but felt shy having to entertain this acquaintance independently during those hours. We weren’t able to make it to the hike because of car issues and them making last minute plans to go sky diving that afternoon. What was frustrating was that she left her car keys with a drunk friend she couldn’t find after they went clubbing together, and my alternator went out. I was cleaning up quite a bit after her and she didn’t bring groceries. of course going out for lunches etc was an additional expense for me. The group kept saying “you should come with us sky diving!” And I reminded them I’m tight on cash as we’re going to Hawaii in one month and I have a 2600$ hotel bill to pay. I’ll note that I offered this friend to come which she is. It was rather boring waiting around to entertain and listening to their fascinating stories of their adventure (sarcasm at this point is my poor coping). We’re all professionals but I don’t know if I’m comfortable entertaining again after this experience. Am I being immature?

    • Grace

      I think the answer feels clear- this is not a friendship where both people respect each other equally. The way she treated you and your time and your hospitality is inappropriate. I’m sorry that happened. I think it may be time to move on to a new friend who respects your time and space and finances.


  • Grace, I invited my kids and their boyfriends/girlfriends out to vacation with us and rented a nice beach house that sleeps 8 very comfortably. My husband and I ensured there was plenty of variety in the fridge. Hotdogs, cold cuts, anything to make sandwiches or easy to make meals. Quite a few times, we took them all out to restaurants, or ordered in, my husband cooked one night. But then my husband and I wanted to go and spend our vacation time out at the beach. I found out later that my oldest sons girlfriend is really upset that we took off and didn’t order out for them, cook, or take them out. That we did this quite a few times.
    She thinks we were terrible hosts. My son is pretty upset with her, frankly, I am too. My husband and I just wanted to have some fun vacation time with our college age kids and their partners.

    • Jennifer

      I’m sorry that happened, it sounds like you were generous and kind hosts. I think this is an issue between your boyfriend and his girlfriend, unless she said anything to you directly. I think it’s his work to either not bring her next time (if there is a next time) or talk with her to explain why her thoughts/words/response to your generosity are out of line.


  • Please help with clarifying if theirs an rule of thumb for someone traveling several miles to the city or state the grew up in and both their family and friends expecting them to visit with each and everyone of them separately. I live in California and whenever I fly back to Texas for maybe four to five days, some of my family and friends live far from each other and or the hotel I’m staying at during that time, but expect me to visit them all separatley at their homes. I’ve always thought that if someone traveled many miles to their destination that family and friends at least meet up with them near where they’ll be staying. I’ve even tried suggesting we all meet up at the same location for one visit to prevent me from having to plan separate visits with everyone in just a few days. Please help, because its starting to bother me and making me feel that their being selfish. Thank you♡

    • Hi Jenny,

      I think it’s totally ok to ask people to come meet you, if they can, in one central place. If you did the heavy lifting to get to their state, they can (with some exceptions due to budget or mobility) hopefully get to you.


  • I like this post and everything I’ve ever heard about southern hospitality. My sister moved far away 20 years ago. She has a 4 bedroom house. One of the bedrooms has a huge desk in it. Back in the day they sometimes used it along with my older niece, but they don’t work from home. When I visited, my one niece would sleep in the room with my other niece and I would get her bedroom. Now nieces are older and this isn’t the way it is anymore. Now they put a blow up mattress on the “Office” floor where the big desk is. They just turn the desk sideways to do it. There isn’t any room to move in there and my suitcase ends up on the desk. I am now 60 years old and find if difficult to get up from the floor on this mattress and it isn’t very comfortable for sleeping. I feel hurt that my sister feels that this big desk is more important than the sleeping of her friends/family. She could have put a smaller desk in there and a sofa bed or day bed. She is so different from me. I go out of my way to make guests feel comfortable. She has never given this a second thought. I am just wondering where she is putting her husband’s sister and husband to sleep when they come down this October. I doubt they are putting them on that air mattress on the floor. I don’t want to appear nit picky and ask this. Also, sometimes I wake up at night and go downstairs, just to stretch legs a bit. Then I don’t want to go back upstairs and disturb anyone. They have squeaky floor and my sister said she has heard me sometimes. When I stay downstairs on couch, my brother in law gets up very early and the couch is the only place to sit to watch TV, read, etc. I am totally uncomfortable staying there now. I have decided to rent an Airbnb just down the street from them this year at Christmas and also rent a car from the airport instead of them picking me up so I have my own vehicle. I’m not sure how I should tell my sister that I’m doing this. She doesn’t like to discuss anything, especially feelings. I would like to be nice, but I’d also like to somehow hint that I don’t appreciate her carelessness about visitors. What do you recommend?

    • Lynda

      I think there are a lot of assumptions here about what your sister thinks and intends. I would suggest having a heart-to-heart with her first. But bottom line- it’s totally ok to stay somewhere else if their spare room isn’t comfortable enough.


  • P.S. Further to my last post, my sister and husband don’t even use this desk anymore. My brother in law does any homework at the dining room table and they have a laptop in the kitchen. Nobody uses that desk for several years now. Thanks

    • Lynda

      I wouldn’t fixate on the desk. It’s not for us to judge what other people put in their homes or what those pieces may mean to them. It may represent something you’re unaware of. I would tell her you’re uncomfortable sleeping on the floor and will be staying elsewhere this year, but that you appreciate her hospitality over the years. If she’s welcomed you every year for holidays, it’s definitely not in line to question her desire to take good care of her guests, she may feel she’s already doing that. And it’s not worth risking your relationship with a sibling over an air mattress. We’ve all had to sleep on uncomfortable beds over the holidays at one point or another ;)


  • Grace, I have a question about etiquette that may pertain to a risqué topic, but I’m hoping you can give me some insight. This past weekend I spent some quality alone time with a relatively new beau. We’ve agreed to take things slowly and get to know each other before we become fully intimate. I did not spend the night either evening, but we cuddled in his room, watching tv and necking. There is a bathroom attached to his room, but neither of us used that one if we needed to use the facilities. As his guest I understood that I did not need to be in a very private place of his, and thus used the guest bathroom. I noticed he did the same. He would use the guest bathroom instead of his own. I asked him about it, and we came to realize neither of us knew the proper etiquette for such a situation. Can the host use their own bathroom or was he actually doing the proper thing in using the guest bathroom downstairs?

    • Katie

      I don’t think there are any rules here for this one. I assumed your desire to use the guest bathroom was more of a desire for sound-related privacy and less of an etiquette thing. I think either bathroom is fine to you. I think once you’re making out with someone in their bedroom, you’re allowed to use the nearest rest room ;)


  • My friend and I were invited to a dinner party I gave my present as I walked in, but my friend gave hers, chocolates as we were leaving, with explanation afterwards, the host shouldn’t share them with anyone…I thought was inappropriate and I express my opinion Now she is very upset with me and she won’t talk to me. Who’s wrong?

    • Nella

      I think it’s hard for anyone to respond positively if they hear that someone else thinks they’re “wrong”. Try phrasing your concern as a question instead. For example, “Why did you want her to not share them with anyone?” Then you could discuss that and get her point of view.

      I’m sure she had her reasons (whether or not they’re polite is a whole other discussion) so I think leading with trying to understand her point of view is a good way to avoid speaking in judgement. There’s no right and wrong here, just different points of view and a chance to learn something about your friend and why they did that. You may still disagree, but by phrasing it as right vs. wrong it’s going to naturally put her on the defensive.


      • Her explanation was the last time she gave her chocolates they were left on the table for everyone to enjoy some…this time she wanted to make sure she wouldn’t shared them with anyone…I think it’s a wrong way of giving gifts, that’s all.

  • When you arrive at your host’s home, is it okay to bring up your suitcase with you to the door when you arrive? My husband is concerned that it appears rude to have luggage in hand when first greeting at the door our hosts (friends). I have asked our hosts on occasion out of curiosity if they would think this rude and they never do. I am most comfortable just bringing my suitcase out of the car right away and was wondering what the proper etiquette would be as I do not want to be considered pushy or rude and our friends are just too polite not to say so.

  • Recently one of my friends spend 5 days at home, but. Never offered to buy groceries. She payed for one breakfast and I payed for the rest. At the end I felt very uncomfortable because we have a small baby and just bought a house and she is doing ok . How can I suggest in the future that she needs to pay her own meals ??? Thank a lot !

    • Lola

      Was she an invited guest or did she request to stay with you? I think invited guests should offer to help while they’re in town, but I don’t think it should be an obligation that comes with an invitation…


  • Situation as of Dec. 16, 2016. A few days after this past T-giving, I invited my daughter-in-law & her family to join us for dinner at our home on New Years Day. I told her “No pressure” and she could get back to me after discussing it with my son. She mentioned about 1 1/2 weeks ago that she was sorry she hadn’t gotten back to me yet on this. But STILL no answer.

    Our daughter will be at our home from out of town for the entire New Years weekend and in talking with my daughter today, I found out that my son and his wife ARE COMING. However, I found it out through my daughter, 2nd hand and not from my son and his wife. Due to distance, we do not get to see our daughter very often or our precious 3 grandchildren (5, 3 and 1 yr.old). But I was informed that the 5 yr. old grand daughter will be spending over night at our daughter-in-law’s home and then they will all make the 1 1/2 hour drive to our home on New Years Day.
    I am feeling very upset and put out by these plans. After all I invited my grandkids to spend the weekend with us. This is NOT the first time plans have been made what appears behind my husbands and my back. I STILL Have not gotten word from the daughter in law that they will be here on New Years. I’d like to be polite but at the same time, let them know that I would have appreciated being informed by THEM and not a second party. I’m so disappointed that our time with our grand-daughter is being cut short. Any advice on how to properly handle this situation?

    Am I over reacting or have some rules of etiquette been broken by their plan and then I am just finding out.

    Mary Kay

    • Mary Kay

      I think I’m not following all the details, can you clarify?

      -So you invited your son and daughter-in-law and the daughter-in-law’s family for a New Year’s meal, right?
      -You found out that they (just the son and daughter and law) are coming, but not through them, through your other daughter?
      -Your other daughter will be visiting with 2 of her kids and the third will only be visiting on New Year’s day, along with your son and daughter-in-law?

      If this is correct, my reading of this is that you’re upset that you won’t get the full visit time with your 5 year old granddaughter AND that you never heard about the daughter-in-law’s family (declining I’m guessing?) about the invitation and that your son and DIL were coming to visit?

      If that’s correct, I think there are a few things to consider:

      1. The issue of not hearing from your son and DIL should be handled directly with both of them (the DIL should not be singled out, as they were both invited and he’s your son). I would pick up the phone, tell them you heard they were coming and that while you’re happy, that you’d appreciate them telling you directly, as it puts you in a tough position to only know last minute. That should clear things up simply and directly.

      2. The granddaughter staying with her uncle (right?) doesn’t sound like a personal affront to you, but rather an issue to bring up with your daughter if that upsets you. Does this granddaughter get to see her uncle often? If not, it could just be an issue of your daughter trying to divide up their time between relatives (uncle and grandfather).

      I would take a step back, speak with people directly and let them know your feelings- without judgement. It may better help them handle the way they communicate with your, but it also may help you better understand how they feel and what’s best for their schedules, too.


  • My sister in law is coming to our house, then we are all going out to have lunch at a nice restaurant. Should we have something for her (wine, cheese, cookies) when she arrives?

    • Mark

      If you’re planning on hanging out and talking before lunch, sure! That would be lovely. But it’s ok to just head straight to lunch, too :)


  • I recently had an upsetting experience when I stayed at a family member’s house and would like to know if I was overreacting. I had to go to a far away city for my aunt’s funeral. Against my better judgement, I accepted the invitation of my brother’s ex-mother-in-law to stay in her tiny apartment. We stayed out all night the night before the funeral; (I was stuck. Couldn’t get away). I was able to finally retire to bed at 2:00 a.m. The funeral was 9:00 a.m. the next morning. It was a very long event and six, seven hours later, I was able to crawl back into the bed of my hostess’s guest room. While I’m trying to sleep, she’s bouncing in and out of the room, putting laundry away. I don’t ordinarily like to put people out, but I was terribly tired (and somewhat affected by my aunt’s death). I asked if she could wait until I left to put her clothes away. She said no, this led to an argument…Was I out of my mind for thinking she was really inconsiderate?

    • Angela

      It sounds like this was a less than ideal situation all around. Bottom line, yes, I think she could have waited until the next day to put things away, assuming you left the next day, yes? I don’t know how your argument went, but I’m sorry that happened.


  • I opened up my home to my daughter and her “girlfriend” (alternative lifestyle) to stay with me at my home for 6-days through the holiday. They drove (girlfriend’s car) over 13 hours to get to my home. I am just getting to know the girlfriend of three years since previously, my daughter lived on the other side of the country for ten years, and she/they now live on the same coast, but a different state. Essentially, I have had little contact with the girlfriend during those 3 years since they have been together, and have not spent any real time getting to know one another.

    Prior to their arrival, I was under the assumption that we all would be doing things together. This a.m., my daughter informed that the girlfriend would not be joining us for a several hour outing to a local museum, and that my daughter had left her the house keys if she decided to go out (prior to finding this out, I was told this morning that she would not be joining us, that she instead would be visiting with her family members…somewhere from the a.m. to before leaving, her plans had changed). My mother recently passed away and I have not had time to do personal paperwork due to her long illness and working a very stressful job, and have more than usual laying around that I could not put away prior to their visit. I did not feel comfortable with finding this out at the last minute today, and not being informed that she would not be joining us during the visit with our activities. Bottom line, I do not know her, have not developed a relationship with her, and I do not feel comfortable with her having my key, or staying in my home without being giving the opportunity to secure my personal items. The girlfriend left and is hurt. I informed my daughter that I should have been told of the situation prior, not made to guess (the reason why she was not getting ready to go too), nor should she have had the expectation of being giving a copy of my house keys without discussing the situation with me.

    Seriously though, I really don’t feel comfortable with someone I do not know having my house keys or staying behind with neither my daughter or I being present. I explained to my daughter that I would have felt the same if she was with a guy that I didn’t know.

    The girlfriend left and is now telling my daughter that she was put in an uncomfortable situation and that my daughter should have sided with her. My daughter stayed and we talked it out, and she ultimately understood that I should have been informed of the plan(s) in advance, and asked me (the homeowner) if it was okay if she have her girlfriend a copy of the house keys and/or stayed at my home when we were both out. I do not like that she is making her make a choice between visiting with her mother, or leaving with her now. It appears to be a no-win situation for my daughter for any reason, but especially since my mother, her grandmother that she was very close to recently passed, and we wanted to spend some time together.

    Have I been a bad host? An outside opinion of this situation would be appreciated.

    • Annette

      Seeing you start out by saying “girlfriend” and discussing your daughter’s relationship as an “alternative lifestyle” is honestly very difficult for me to get past as a gay person. That notion, that sexuality is a choice, is incorrect hurtful. If those are truly your feelings, perhaps this girlfriend sensed your hesitation and felt uncomfortable from the start.

      If this woman is going to be in your daughter’s life, it’s a good idea to get to know her better. You do not need to leave her alone with keys to your house if you’re uncomfortable, but if she only stayed home during one outing, it doesn’t sound like she avoided you at all costs. And, bottom line, if your daughter trusts and has dated her for three years, there’s little reason for you to assume she’s someone unsafe to leave in your home alone.


  • My son and his wife offered to let my husband and I stay the night at their home on our way home from a trip even though they were out of town. We usually sleep in there 3 year old sons double bed when we stay with them, but assumed since they weren’t there, they would expect us to use their queen sized bed. We used our own pillows. I didn’t wash the sheets the next morning as we were in a hurry to beat a winter storm coming in, but I made the bed and tried to leave it the way we found it.
    When my son found out that we slept in their bed, he was livid with us and called to express his great disappointment that we would do that.
    Were we wrong to think he would expect us to sleep in their bed?

    • Erin

      Yikes, I’m sorry that happened. That definitely doesn’t sound like something to be “livid” over, for sure. I would call him back, listen to his side of the story and see if there’s something deeper this touched on that isn’t clear. If not, then I would make it clear that his extreme reaction lead to hurt feelings on your part. He’s fine to request you stay in a specific room, it’s his home after all, but he needed to say that up front…he can’t expect you to know what’s in his head without expressing that.


  • It was decided a year ago that my daughter, my son-in-law and granddaughter would spend Christmas with me and my husband this year. My son-in-law’s mother is single and would have been by herself this Christmas, so I invited her as well (although no one gave that option to me and my husband last Christmas when it was decided they would spend Christmas alone, but invited his mom at the last minute). My Son-in-law’s mother and I get along – I genuinely like her and I think the feeling is mutual. Even though I am a northerner, I too was brought up with a great deal of etiquette. So I thought it only proper that since I invited this woman from Philadelphia to spend a few days in Cleveland, that it should be me that greets her at the airport and that it should be me that takes her back to the airport. My son-in-law, in a subtle way kept insisting that he would do it. I finally said, NO, that it would be me taking her back, and that it was me that invited her and that I did it for me and her. While he kept insisting, I finally said “my house, my rules” (plus I didn’t like the way he drove my car). Was I wrong in feeling that it was my responsibility? Prior to that day, he began creating drama with obvious pouting . I’d really like your take on this. Thank you!

    • Chris

      It’s kind of you to invite your SIL’s mother and to offer to drive her. But if your SIL insists on driving her again, I would just let him do it. Fighting over a social nicety is not worth the stress over the holiday season. Maybe that was his way of wanting to show you thanks and help out?


  • I’m wondering if I over-stepped my boundaries or if my friend was just a plain rude hostess?!

    I came over to escort him and help out after he had an out-patient procedure done. We are very close and he stays over at my house quite often, at least once a week (I live closer to the city, his job, and our gym). And when he stays over there are things he does differently than I would, but he is a guest in my home and I go out of my way to make him feel welcome. I wish I felt that hospitality was mutual! At times I felt like a unwelcome, unannounced burden during my stay.

    For example, while he was resting in his room I was working from home in his dinning room (as previously planned). Sense it was, in fact, snowing outside I felt chilly and turned on the heat. No less than 10 minutes later he walks in and just turns the heat off without a word to me! If the situation was reversed, I would have checked in with my guest to make sure they were comfortable before I just turned the heat off while it’s literally snowing outside?! I figured maybe he was just trying to keep utility costs down and shrugged it off. But then a little while later he walks in again and mentions how cold it is and turns the heat back on. So at this point I’m slightly annoyed (and offended) as it seems to me there is clear disregard for my comfort level. But hey, it’s his home and I know know he was in a lot of discomfort from his procedure, so I just bundled up when he felt no heat was needed and sighed in relief when he turned the heat back on; in the dead of winter, while its snowing.

    However, what really pushed me over the edge was the following and I’m wondering if I over-stepped here. I brought my own food that was hassle free and healthy. He has an electric grill (same model I have at home) so I decided on streak and microwaveable veggies, also checked with him before I arrived to make sure we were on the same page. Even made sure to be of extra help around the house while he was recovering by doing some laundry, cleaning the kitchen, etc. He asked me to get something out of his car and I told him while I was out I would take the trash as well. It was around dinner time so before I ventured outside I decided to turn on the grill to heat it while my steak was coming to room temp. While I’m looking for his car keys and getting the trash together he comes in and unplugs the electric grill. I mentioned my plans to him and told him the grill had only been on a minute and I wanted to get a good sear on the steak. He told me the smell was bothering him and I could turn it back on when I returned. Well, when I returned 120 seconds later that is exactly what I did! I mean I get that the grill does give off a slight odor, but this is an appliance we BOTH swear by. We joke about making a “quick electric grill meal” on weeknights all the time. And I have the exact same model at home, I know it takes several minutes to heat up. So when he literally pulled the plug on mine I was offended and wanted an unbiased opinion…..

    Did I over-step my boundaries by not asking before I turned on the grill or the heat or was it a case of a rude hostess?!?

    • Ashmo

      I think the heat is something to ask about, as upping the heat increases your friend’s heat bills. Re: the steak, it honestly just sounds like perhaps your friend has a problem sharing space. Perhaps it’s time to re-open the discussion about whether or not you’re both comfortable with the (even temporary) co-habitating idea?


  • I am in a long distance relationship with a man, and we intend to be married. One of his adult daughters, who is married with children of her own, decided to take a course in the city I live in and asked her dad if she could stay with me. He said yes even though I had reservations because the same daughter was so angry last summer that her dad and I were going to stay in the master bedroom at his cottage (after dating for over two years) that she chose not to bring her family to the cottage. She was not being prudish (she lived with her own boyfriend before she was married and was pregnant before she married), this was a territorial issue. She wanted the master bedroom for herself. So with that animosity in the background, I reluctantly agreed to have her stay. All my interactions with her were very polite and welcoming. Ahead of time I texted her to ask what food she liked to eat, what meals she would be at my house for, etc… Her response was no breakfasts or lunches, and maybe some dinners. I live in a city with good public transportation and I didn’t pick her up from the airport at 11:30 at night (I wasn’t asked if I could pick her up before that late flight was booked) and I didn’t drive her to the course she was taking, but explained how to get their on the metro and walked her to the station the first morning. Each time she entered my house I offered her coffee, tea, wine, perrier, etc… and asked if she was hungry and offered to make her something if she was. I didn’t have plates of snacks set out and maybe I should have? She only accepted water to drink (even when I made both coffee and a pot of tea in the morning) and never ate any food. She had a lovely guest room with fresh sheets, in a very clean home, etc… On the first night she told me she was having a friend come to visit from two hours away on the third night. I wondered where she thought the friend would stay, but didn’t say anything out loud about that…. On the second night, when she got home at 9pm from her course she asked if her friend, who I have never met because I barely know my boyfriend’s daughter, could stay over the next night. I said no. She was upset and said she would have to stay at a hotel then. It was my understanding that she had offered her friend a place to stay so now she would need to pay for a hotel room to accommodate her friend. I was polite but didn’t back down. I don’t believe guests can invite guests to stay at their host’s home. She left early the next morning for her course and did not strip the bed, say thank you, etc… She did confirm by text that she was staying at a hotel with with her friend that night. I did not know whether she would be staying with me the last night of her course until the next day when she texted to say she would be staying at the hotel again for her last night. I live alone and had bought food for two dinners because I thought I would make two dinners for her at home and take her out for the last one. Between her course until 9pm one night, her night out with her friend and then her staying the last night at the hotel because she was mad at me, I ended up with a house full of food that was never served and I needed to freeze. I found out afterward that she texted her dad and said she felt very unwelcome at my home because I a) didn’t pick her up at the airport, b) didn’t drive her back and forth to her course, c) didn’t let her friend stay at my house and d) didn’t offer her anything to eat or drink (which is a complete lie). I think she was very rude and her dad should tell her that her behaviour was not polite. He agrees she lied about me not offering her anything to eat or drink (after I offered her wine the first night she said no because she thought she might be pregnant again, which was not a secret so I passed this on to her dad so he knew something had been offered…) but he is not going to say anything to her about her behaviour and she is walking away from this experience thinking I was rude. As the “stepmother” I don’t think it is my place to tell her what I think, and I don’t think she would respect my opinion if I did. I have told my boyfriend that I will not be alone with any of his adult children again (as a different daughter lied about something I said last summer and that wasn’t dealt with either) and that his children are only welcome to stay with us if he is there as well. He is a lovely man (who can’t stand up to his own children) and I intend to spend the rest of my life with him, so there will definitely be more interactions with his adult children. What are your thoughts on this going forward?

    • Hi Sunny,

      I think this is both an issue between your boyfriend and his daughter and you and your boyfriend. It sounds like you did your best to make her feel welcome and set your boundaries clearly (I agree that guests shouldn’t invite other guests to stay at someone else’s house, especially without advance warning) and it sounds like she got the message, but didn’t handle it well. If she’s an adult, your boyfriend isn’t “responsible” for her behavior in that sense, but he also shouldn’t offer up your house as lodging if he knows his daughter doesn’t get along with you.

      The issue between the two of you sounds like an issue of trust and respect. You’re not his daughter’s stepmother (at least not yet), so while you don’t have a voice in her “discipline”, you DO have a voice in the way his behavior affects you. So his lack of support when he know his daughter was lying, etc, is problematic. I would sit down with him to have a heart-to-heart about what he would like that triad relationship (between him, you and his daughter) to be like. Then you can talk about what YOU would like that relationship to be like. If you’re not on the same page, it may be a good idea to talk to a counselor about this issue before getting married, as this is a person that will be in his life forever.


      • Thanks Grace, I’m thinking the same things you are, and he has agreed to couples/family therapy. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t off track on being a good host before we get to couples therapy. So what I hear you saying is the etiquette was on track (from my side) and now I’ll deal with the couples/family therapy part. Thanks!

        • Sunny

          Best of luck. Family therapy is ALWAYS great tool to have if it’s an option, so I hope it leads to a closer relationship for all of you :)


  • My husband and I are travelling to friends in a couple of weeks. We will have the expense of plane fare, car rental, ferry crossing. We will stay with them for four days. I have bought a gift for my friend and her husband and we will pick-up our beverages and any special food we like to have.
    Our past experiences has had one consistent problem and it’s to do with the heat. We freeze in their home! I’ve openly asked about the heat before making visiting plans, been assured a couple of times that it would not be a problem again but I am not confident that this will be the case. My husband said if it’s a problem he will tactfully offer money for the extra heating costs. I think it’s ridiculous to have to possibly do this. I have recently surmised that my friend is cheap in certain areas but let it slip that they have hundreds of thousands of dollars they haven’t tapped into yet!!! I was very disappointed when she let this tidbit out because she uses the “we’re broke” or “we can’t afford it” surprisingly often. They were our rich friends when they lived near us.
    This is a friend of many years who had her hand out for gas money the last time I visited, I froze my arse off, took her out for lunch everyday and brought a hostess gift! I’m thinking this visit could be the last.
    Years ago when we went to visit with our then young daughter it was so cold in their home our daughter showed up at the dinner table wearing her winter jacket and still nothing changed!
    Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Hi Marlene

      Sadly I think this one is pretty clear: your friends don’t want to turn their heat up and since it’s their home, they’re within their rights to do that. If you’ve asked politely to turn it up and cover the extra costs and they still won’t, it may be best to spend that extra money you offered for heating on a hotel room. I know it’s not the fun answer, but if they’re not focused on making their guests comfortable, it’s probably best not to be their guests :(


      • Thank-you Grace for your reply. This will be the 4th visit to four different homes and at considerable cost to us. We have thought of staying in a hotel but she is adamant the heating issue will not be an issue when we visit. This is truly the last chance. I can’t believe it’s come to this because in every other way they are most welcoming. The meals are fantastic, delicious and of of great quality. We are shown around and they are sad to see us go but when it comes to the heat it is weird. My friend claims her husband is the cold one of the two now so it won’t be a problem. I’m not looking forward to going especially after she let out how well off they are but insinuated otherwise. We never push to visit it’s always at their suggestion.

        • Update:
          We are leaving this weekend to go away and we made arrangements to stay at a hotel. We aren’t even seeing the friends I asked advice about as we made up an excuse as to why we couldn’t travel to where they live. We deserve a stress free break and the closer the departure date got the less I wanted to go away. Now I can hardly wait.

  • Hi – loved reading this. My husband has been traveling a lot for his job. I was recently laid off, so I have been traveling with him. I love it! One of his co-workers and the coworker’s wife has sent us several meals, and had us over for dinner. They have entertained my husband several times before I started traveling with him. My questions are two-fold:

    1. I’m a Southerner, I always offer to help clean, but don’t push my way in if the host declines (I do not like people helping me clean after small get-togethers.) I think I am a gracious guest, but I’m not sure what to do for this couple as a thank-you. We have bought them several meals out on the town. This is a long-term situation (my husband traveling to train the co-worker has been and will be 3-4 days a week for the next few months.) I will be traveling with him as much as possible. I do not ever want them to feel “obligated” to entertain us, and I can see us forming a friendship, but, in the mean time, should we be doing something else to thank them. I am very grateful to them for helping my husband feel at home while I was working.

    2. This is just a curiousity question. Tonight was the first time I went to their house to eat. We left at about 9:15 p.m. My husband mentioned to me that the clock he could see was off by an hour, and had he known the right time, we would have left by 9. He is very worried that we have broken some form of etiquette. We started talking about it, and neither of us knew if there is a time to leave that is considered good etiquette. We arrived promptly at 6:30 – how do you not overstay your welcome, without being rude and leaving too quickly?

  • Dear Grace,
    I have recently discovered your site and am enjoying reading through all the etiquette posts. So much to learn. I have a question about a slightly sticky situation I have recently found myself in while hosting our grown, and as yet unmarried, children at our summer beach rental. My twenty-year-old son invited his college girlfriend over to spend the weekend, even though we didn’t have a free room for her to sleep in. The standing rule is: all our sons sleep in one, large, upstairs room where there are many beds. No girlfriends. So we offered her an air mattress in the living room. They asked if she could sleep in the boys room, we said no. This didn’t go down well. Throughout the course of the weekend they challenged many longstanding family customs, and did not socialize with the rest of the family much. This made my husband and I feel disrespected and the rest of the family upset. Being the mother of well-mannered boys, I am not accustomed to being put into dramatic social situations, and I couldn’t tell if their behavior originated from my son or his girlfriend, as she is very polite to our faces. My 26 year-old eldest son and his fiancee have been happily abiding by the house rules when they visit, (the fiancee sleeps in the spare bedroom downstairs)and so there was a precedent set. How could we have handled this situation without making this young lady feel unwelcome? My twenty year-old son obviously loves her, and we don’t want to have an argument that may cause a rift later on. But neither do we want another family vacation marred by their behavior. Have you any advice?

    • Hi Bonnie

      With adult sons at that age, I think it’s tough to have a “no significant others in other rooms” rule, period. That said, it is indeed your house. So you have the right to set those rules. But they have the right to know them up front (did they?), so if they don’t want to stay there because of that rule, they can choose to stay elsewhere and visit with you during the day. But ultimately it will come down to how important that rule is to you (and the reason why it exists) and whether or not that’s more important than having your sons visit with you.


  • Dear Grace,

    I’m having a debate with my boyfriend. The question up for debate is: Is it improper to lie on the floor when visiting someone else’s home (you are not an overnight guest)?

    I think it is improper. It’s just common sense to me. However, my boyfriend doesn’t agree with me nor does he find grounds to it being improper. Why is it improper to lie on the floor? His specific question is: Where in the history of the world (a credible source) does it is say that it is improper to lie on the floor in someone else’s home when visiting?

    Kind Regards,

    • Lilia

      I guess it depends on the setting and the home owner’s rules. If it’s a friend and you’re just relaxing while watching TV, I don’t think that seems like something too bad…but did you mean in some other way? Like someone just falling asleep on the floor while everyone else is awake?


  • Dear Grace,

    There is an open invitation of “sorts” regarding my sibling staying at my place when he visits from out of state. I live in a city he used to live in and he comes often in short bursts. It is not a secret that he and his sig other are slobs, intrusive, and judgemental. They take over like they are in their own home, actually probably worse than their own home. I live in a 2 bedroom apartment with 3 young kids and my husband. We just moved into the space and finally have some extra living room space for an air mattress. He jumped at the opportunity our new place provided.
    He planned a week long trip with his sig other and my niece. Knowing they are slobs I can honestly say, I purposely did not clean the house as I would for an “honored” guest. I also work 7-7pm , my house isn’t dirty mind you, just a bit messy with toys from time to time. From previous visits they expect us to dote on them while they are in the house, but often go out on their own… while leaving my niece behind. Yes they left her everyday so they could “enjoy” their vacation with complete disregard that we have 3 kids under the age of 3 ourselves. This included leaving her with MY mother in law while she helped us out.

    They complained about everything. Towel shortages… we did towel laundry 3 times in a week because of their excessive use. I had our “go” bags by the door so that was used as an excuse why they could not close their luggage and stand it up, so the two grossly large luggage stayed sprawled across my living room, open and blocking the path to the front door. They continued to ask to borrow our only car, never offered a meal, never discussed their plans so we were prepared, used all of my husbands body soap, rummaged through our bathroom cabinets and the sig other continually came behind me to re-discipline my children after I had already done so. She also TOOK MY BODY PILLOW FROM MY BED SO SHE WOULD BE MORE COMFORTABLE WITHOUT ASKING. I figured my husband gave it to her than found out through my brother she came into our room while we were sleeping at night because she had seen it earlier!!! I’m not even going to get into the fact she was lying under covers NAKED in my living room. WHO DOES THAT!?
    In any event, although believe it or not there is more, you get the idea. My questions are:
    Is it ever okay to be an ungracious host?
    Is it ever okay to retaliate, in an odd turn of events I will be visiting their area next weekend and they insist on me staying with them.
    And finally, how to I tell my brother they are no longer welcome?

    • Ren

      For me, this opening sentence says everything: “It is not a secret that he and his sig other are slobs, intrusive, and judgmental.”

      What I’m hearing is a lot of resentment (which sounds like it’s lead to judgement as well) so the clearest thing you can do is stop these visits immediately. It sounds like you have a lot on your plate and it’s not reasonable to expect a visit with your brother to result in you feeling appreciated.

      I would reach out to him and see if you can talk face to face. If not, I’d touch base on the phone to explain that going forward you won’t be able to host him, as you don’t have the bandwidth to handle any additional guests. If he pushes on why, you can explain that you feel unappreciated when he does things like complain about amenities and doesn’t include you and your family in his plans in town.

      I would refrain from judging words like “slob” and “ungracious”- those will most often lead to defensiveness and hurt feelings. You can express how you feel and set your boundaries and the rest is up to him to decide how he reacts and changes (or doesn’t) in response.


  • What is the etiquette for dealing with rude and interfering guests who take offense when being asked to curb their behaviors in this manner? My wife insists on her older sister staying as a house guest and she acts like the mother-in-law from hell bossing everyone around and telling us to stop doing things we might be doing. My wife also insists on saying nothing to her sister / me sister-in-law because she takes offense at being asked to curb these tendencies and will aggressively back answer with justification for her behaviors, sometimes prefixed with “I am sorry but I …”.

    The reason given by my wife for saying nothing is that if we do say something her sister will be offended and as her host we are duty bound to avoid doing so as otherwise we will have broken the Code of Hospitality whereby guests in one’s home are offered protection.

    • John

      It’s your home, too. Talk to your wife about your feelings. She may have other reasoning, but if not, it seems fair for you to be able to bring these issues up with your SIL yourself.


  • I recently had my parents come to visit me and my boyfriend in our 1 bedroom apartment. They are in their 60’s and 70’s so the obvious choice for us was to put my parents in our bedroom on the comfy bed and for us to take an air mattress in the living room. I had to reassure my parents many times before them coming that we would love to have them in our home and to spend this time with them, and we felt we were giving them a great honor they would appreciate when they arrived.

    Rather, everyday for one week they would repeatedly say how uncomfortable they were putting us on the air bed and taking our bed. Without any hesitation we would repeat it was no trouble, we did not feel displaced in our own home, and that we were certain they should take the bedroom, but they could not stop themselves from bringing it up at every opportunity. After four days of this they decided to tell me and my boyfriend (we are in our 30,s) they were going to take a hotel across the street. They are visiting us in a European capital where a hotel would be 100-200euro a night which would be very expensive for nearly two weeks. My boyfriend reassured them and they said ok and that they finally were really sure we didnt mind.

    However, it did not change their constant poor-me behaviour, and everyday for the next three days they would bring up they were insecure with the arrangement. Finally my mother told me she was going to do the laundry and change the beds. I finally lost my mind, I cant imagine being a guest in someones home, constantly complaining about people giving you the best they can, and then telling them you will do their laundry and you will change the arrangements. I felt completely offended to be told how my own home would be run, and when I went to offer her a suggestion (after finally acquescing to switch beds and do the laundry) how I dry the laundry she told me to go away and do my work and she would take care of it.

    My boyfriend says he understands their discomfort being taken into someone elses home, but I stand on the other side as thinking they have just been ungracious and difficult this whole time. I could never imagine constantly complaining about how someone has tried to honor me.

    Is it different with family? Am I in the wrong here?

    • Kaitlyn

      I’m sorry this happened, it sounds like everyone was uncomfortable- and that is no fun for anyone.

      I think some direct communication is a good place to start if they visit again, perhaps mentioning that YOU were very uncomfortable with how they chose to communicate about the sleeping arrangements. You can say how you felt when they brought it up every day and that as the host, you felt more comfortable with them in the main bedroom, knowing they’d be physically more comfortable.

      It’s entirely possible that they weren’t actually comfortable in that bed for some reason. So opening up the conversation might be the best way to understand what they were actually feeling. If it really boils down to them just being uncomfortable taking your bedroom, perhaps it’s best to let them stay in a hotel. That’s the choice they’re making and asking them to not bring up the sleeping situation every day if they do stay with you is a fair request.


  • Hello! I had a question that I really need help with. My mother married my stepfather, who is from another country and a very different culture from ours. I love my mother and my stepdad very much but I am not particularly fond of the foods, from his homeland country, that he prefers to eat at each meal. When I have hosted them in our home for holidays and get togethers, they always insist on bringing these specific dishes of food. My husband and children have all tried his foods and do not care for the tastes either . It is a little frustrating that he always wants to make his own additions to my dinners, at every single gathering. I love my stepdad and love hearing stories about his culture and his life there, but just find his foods an acquired taste. The biggest issue that is troubling me is that he insists every time, that we all have some of his food. He does this even when he knows , my husband in particular, doesn’t care for the taste. After my mother tried to spoon feed my husband once, he made it known that he doesn’t enjoy the flavors. My two teenage children (who are rather adventurous eaters and not picky at all), first trying these foods at a dinner party my parents hosted and were asked if they liked it. They said they didn’t want to offend their grandparents and embarrass them in front of their grandparents’ friends, so they told them that they enjoyed it. My parents then sent them home with their food and at every visit they brought the girls gifts of these specific foods. My girls finally had to tell them that they were starting to get a little tired of eating the same dishes every week but they appreciated it. Yet, we are all still consistently being told to eat and enjoy these specific dishes, even in my own home at my own parties. How do I kindly get the message across without offending them? Also, when our other guests don’t come back for seconds, because of the taste, he is insisting they take more and seems offended, if they don’t. He doesn’t see why everyone doesn’t love it as much as he does. My stepdad has been in this country for 45 years now and is very Americanized in many other ways. Is it unfair to want to have dinner menus for parties, in my own home, without him modifying them? And that my family just isn’t fond of the flavors. I also always accommodate him and make sure that I make foods I know he enjoys and that others enjoy as well. Please help as I am hosting Christmas dinner soon!-Thank you!

    • Michelle

      Short answer? If you love your step father and he’s truly welcome in your home, welcome his food, too.

      “He doesn’t see why everyone doesn’t love it as much as he does.” This statement goes both ways. Just because Americans feel their food are inherently tasty, doesn’t mean that they are. So perhaps he’s trying to add something (which it sounds like he is) that is tasty to him, without adding more cooking to your plate.

      Life is short, family is important and it’s not worth damaging a relationship over a dish you don’t find appealing to your tastes. I think this falls under the same rule that we often teach children when it comes to trying new foods. Take a bite, give it a try, and if you don’t like it, you don’t need to finish it all. But if he refused to eat any of your food, you’d probably feel hurt, too. So this is just about respecting each other’s tastes, cultures and welcoming both into your home.

      Not appreciating and welcoming someone else’s cultural traditions sends a much deeper message that you may not intend, so I would let this one go and appreciate that your children will grow up getting to know different cultures in addition to your own, which is a great advantage in life. We’re all better off when we expose ourselves to different ideas, cultures, traditions and food.


      • Thank you Grace for putting it kindly! He is much more important than a silly menu. Best wishes!

  • A group of friends were invited some months ago to another friends home for the weekend which is out of town. Just this week she sent us a text that she had been invited to a party Saturday night and would be leaving at 3pm and not returning until Sunday morning, but we could stay in her house without her. I am offended by her text and do not know how to respond to her.

    • Susie

      I would be honest and tell her you feel disappointed and that you were looking forward to the plans you’d all made together. How are your other friends feeling?


  • Hi Grace, if an acquaintance from a state where I used to live visits my new home city and posts that she is here on Facebook, is it my responsibility to ask her for coffee if she never directly told me she was visiting my town? I think it is the visitor’s responsibility to ask if I want to get together. It is not my responsibility to ask her to coffee based on a Facebook post, right? We never socialized when we lived in the same state. Someone we both know texted me that I should ask this person out while she’s in my town. I think she’s out of bounds. Thanks.

    • Lisa

      Short answer, no, it is not your responsibility. If you would LIKE to hang out, then yes, reach out. But since you said, “We never socialized when we lived in the same state”- I think that’s all there is to it. If they reach out and need help with recommendations then you can of course help, but I think there is not obligation to do so just because they’re in town and you noticed that on Facebook (ie: they did not reach out directly).


  • Dear Suzi,
    I can certainly understand your feelings of disappointment. Sincerity is virtue.
    Apparently the host who invited you, was aware you were traveling some distance, in acceptance to her invitation.
    It would be appropriate to express your feelings if the host genuinely cares about your position, but it hardly seems to be the case.
    It’s poor form for a host who invites guests yet accepts other engagements during the time of your planned visit.
    The fact that she didn’t consider the travel time and expense to reach her and the obvious choice she made to make other plans, speaks volumes about this person’s standards and how she values your relationship.
    Ask yourself if the company of that person is really worth all the effort.
    Hopefully your other friends agree to share respect in making commitments with each other. And if they do, why not consider carrying out your plans with them to some other place? Perhaps you may still have the opportunity to share some time with your other friends.
    Be thankful for the eye-opener and grateful for those who wouldn’t think of doing that.

  • A family member and spouse want to visit us. They are heavy people (200# and 300# approx). I have a twin and a double bed. How do I handle this?

    • Patty

      Any and all guests should feel welcomed without judgement. Welcome your guests the same way you would any other guest, by letting them know what rooms/beds you have and asking if there’s anything you can do to make their stay more comfortable. If there’s something you need to do about sleeping arrangements, they will let you know.


  • I’ve enjoyed reading this, including all of the comments, and now I have a question of my own. My relationships with my mother and my older sister through the years has been somewhat rocky, but manageable. I am the baby of the family and I am disabled. I have usually been an afterthought. They don’t exactly go out of their way to talk to me, much less spend time and energy to visit me, but I’ve never stopped trying. I have always wished that there was more interest on their part to spend time together as a family, but I haven’t had the privilege of living in the same state, so my opportunities have been limited in terms of strengthening our bonds. Five years ago my husband and I moved with our two children to live in a very large and beautiful home. Our house is well equipped and has two guest bedrooms with queen beds, each with its own private bath. We also have a swimming pool. It is also sunny about 350 days out of the year here. My husband brought us here due to work, but I was hoping the new locale would attract my family, too. So, for five years I have been asking both my mother and sister to visit, but until this past week they never would. I do have another sister who has visited us twice, staying only very briefly (1 or 2 nights). My other sister and my mother always told me that couldn’t visit because they didn’t have it in their budgets to travel here (although my sister travels quite extensively with her family to the beaches in Mexico every summer, and to Colorado to ski every winter). My mother does not have very much money, though.

    What brought them here finally was the promise of help. Help that I was more than happy to oblige. You see, I live in a medical marijuana state and I have the legal ability to purchase products with THC and CBD for medical use. After seeing a video on a very helpful marijuana resin product that has cured some basal cell cancers I called my mother to let her know about it because my step-father is ailing from cancer. My mother loved the video, and she got excited about finding help for her husband. She also told my sister about the video, and my sister revealed that she just had two extremely invasive surgeries to excise cancers form her face and neck. Together, my mother and sister decided to (finally!) travel here to acquire the products that might help them with their cancers. I was thrilled that they wanted to come here and that I would be able to help them. They drove together from two states away, and I was excited to ready their rooms for them. I washed all the linens and towels, scoured the bathrooms, bought little treats for their rooms. I even bought some new decorative items for the rooms in accordance with their tastes. My sister is a strict vegetarian, so the night of their arrival I prepared a whole salmon that my husband grilled. We took them out to dinner the following evening at our expense (I’m not complaining–I loved that we did this). On two separate days we visited dispensaries so that they could buy their medicine. While I was initially nervous about their visit, my fears were assuaged. We spent time at a beautiful botanical garden one day, and the next day we engaged in a fun group activity. My sister opened her arms to hug me goodnight on the second night. I was not expecting it, and I was pleasantly surprised by the gesture. All in all, I’d say their visit was quite wonderful.

    On the day they left we waved good bye and they said their “thank you”s and they drove away. They were on the road for two days, so on their last day of driving I hadn’t heard from them because they were on the road, but I was thinking of them, so I sent them a group text with a photo of our blooming gardenia bush and a nice message, letting them know that I was thinking of them still. My mother doesn’t hear her phone most of the time, but my sister lives with her phone attached to her hip 24/7. Neither one of them responded to my text. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and decided that they must have gotten home very late into the evening–too late to text or call to let me know they had gotten my text, or at the very least, that they got home okay.

    This morning I got a call from my mother. She sounded just “okay”, as in, I could tell that she was calling out of obligation. It was in her tone. We chatted for a bit–more like I kept her chatting for about three or four minutes to keep it from feeling awkward. Anyway, I finally thanked her for calling to let me know they arrived home safely and she said something that felt like breadcrumbs—that she would call me in a few days. She doesn’t have to, and she probably won’t, so I don’t know why she said it. After that my husband called from work. I told him that my mom had called me and that is when he told me that she had called him first. He told me that he simply told her to call me on my own cell phone. However, he did make it a point to say that we had speculated that they must be extremely tired from driving all day and then getting in so late, to which she responded to him that they had NOT got in late. They got home, went out to dinner, came back and took the time to clean out the car. Neither one of them responded to my text, or called me.

    I get the feeling that my sister has no intention of calling me. My mother told me that my sister had gone to work at her part-time job. Perhaps my sister feels that my mother did the “obligatory” follow up phone call for her? Is it wrong to feel disappointed? My sister is 53 years old. We had such a good time while she was here. Now I’m feeling awkward and ghosted. Was I being used?

    • Susan

      I’m so sorry to hear about all of this. It sounds like you’re feeling under-appreciated and that this isn’t the first time you’ve felt that way.

      I can’t speak to your family and whether or not they were intending to take advantage of you in any way, but I can tell from listening to you hear that that is how you are feeling. And it sounds like that would be an important thing to communicate.

      Everyone in a family comes to any current situation with the weight of a lifetime of experiences they’ve all felt differently. Family can live together and experience things together, but have very different takeaways, so for me, looking at what you’ve described from the outside, I would wager that they may have different takes on your life together and this trip.

      But what matters is that it sounds like you’re not feeling seen or appreciated. And that’s a problem worth communicating.

      I would advise reaching out to a family counselor if you can- this sort of thing is tricky and when it touched on a lifetime of feelings (like it does here), it can be helpful to get professional advice to walk you through how to bring this up with your family and how to prepare for their reaction. That would be my advice- because your feelings deserve to be heard.


  • Relatives from Germany made plans a year in advance to visit the US. A US relative who lives 180 miles from my home offered her home for a family get-together. A date was set. I was told to share the information with those who were attending (about 11 people) with the exception of the host’s family who lived close to her home. My thoughts are that the host should invite the guests but I decided to do as she requested.

    Although plans were firm her arrangements were made at the last minute. They could have hosted the guests from Germany overnight but did not offer with the exception of four US guests who were invited to stay at one of the family member’s homes. Last minute hotel reservations were made at a hotel about ten minutes from the host’s home for the rest of the travelers at considerable expense.

    On the day we were traveling to the host’s city I had a call from the host that due to a tragedy close to the family they were going to cancel the get-together. They said they would not “feel right about a get-together”. Due to a 24 house cancellation policy at the hotel I told them we would go to the city anyway. On the day of arrival I emailed all of them saying that we understood they may not feel able to join us but they were invited to dinner at a restaurant close to our hotel. Further I suggested that it would be greatly appreciated if they could find a little time to meet up with them during our visit even if only for coffee.. A response came the following morning from one of them that they had not read the email. It also indicated they would try to “reach out” to us. We stayed two nights in a hotel without personal contact from them.

    I am deeply upset about the tragedy that happened. My heart hurts for my family who expected to attend the get-together. I would appreciate any comments about this.


    • Hi Angela

      I’m not following entirely. Could you clarify a few things?

      1. The guests visiting from Germany didn’t realize they weren’t invited to stay over at the host’s house? When did they find out? I’m confused about whose “arrangements were made last minute.”

      2. Do you know what the tragedy was for the hosts? If everyone is related (Which is sounds like everyone is- German travelers, hosts and you?), was this tragedy close to you as well? I could understand them needing to back out if there was a death in their family, etc and 2 days may not be enough to feel ready to see anyone yet.

      3. I’m confused also- they responded via email to say they didn’t read the email?

      4. By the “tragedy that happened”- do you mean that they didn’t see everyone and canceled plans- or is this the same tragedy that they mentioned as the reason they couldn’t host?


  • I have a question and can not find a section to ask it. This has now bothered me for a week since my guest have left. I, along with my siblings inherited a beach home that we rent during the summer season. Off season we enjoy it ourselves and invite family and friends. Si I did with a girlfriend and her friend. I have had her many times before while my parents were still alive. She has been gracious and a lovely guest with my parents, giving them hostess gifts and desserts . Which my parents enjoyed. This time she offered to take me out to dinner ,but the weekend was the last big seasonal activity of the year and was truly crowded and even some restaurants were closed for the festivities . She offered money for staying which I said I would not accept I said maybe when we got back to out home town that she could take me out for a meal. Well her friend again tried to hand me money and I said that it was not acceptable. So she left money in my car which now has me truly upset since I expressed how inappropriate that would be. How do I make my friend understand that to me it was an insult to me as a hostess. Do I buy then a book on etiquette so they know in the future how to treat a hostess? How would you have handled a situation like this.

    • Christine

      It’s tough when people’s internal etiquette compasses are in opposition. Yours is saying that the money was rude and hers is saying to leave without giving back something is rude. I personally think that when someone errs on the side of trying to compensate and show appreciation for your generosity, to let it slide. I think it has the potential to create a sticky situation where someone is apologizing for trying to compensate you for your time/money spent on their experience.

      That said, if this is a friend you truly care about and you plan to spend time with them again, I would consider digging deeper to better understand WHY that money bothered you so much (beyond etiquette- what did that signify or make you feel) and explain THAT to them. I’ve been on both sides of this situation before and it can be very prickly to figure out. But if you’re able to say something like, “Hey, I appreciate you trying to thank me for having you at the house, but when you left money in the car despite me asking you not to, it felt like you weren’t listening to me. I know your intention was to thank me, but for me, it means more to feel heard and understood than to be repaid.” Something like that, but obviously more in line with your feelings, not my imagined ones here, could have more of the impact you might be looking for.


    • Christine,

      Leaving you money was indeed, incredibly bad tasted. However, you have to understand that some people simply just don’t know any better, and if you consider that their intention was sincere, then you shouldn’t be so upset. But it is mandatory, in my opinion, to explain to them how you feel, if you actually care about your relation. Otherwise, it will always feel like there is a white elephant in the room…
      I think that even after two attempts, accepting money for your hospitality, probably will be judged by the very people they offered you money (unfortunately that’s human nature, being judgemental, and it usually goes both ways…)
      If you feel really strong about it, an elegant solution would be to give the money to charity, or make an online payment to a NGO or shelter or something.
      Then share the information with them, letting them know that you are very thankful for the gift, and they are always welcome in your home, but you would appreciate that in the future their gratitude should not be monetary, because it makes you feel like a hotel. And that you know it is not their intention for you to feel that way, and that you would be happy with just a take-out dinner, if the restaurants are closed…

      For the ones who still think there is no alternative to cash, know you can always send online gift cards from most big companies. It’s just like cash, but so much more elegant.

      Hope it helps :)

      • Gabi

        I love the idea of paying that generosity forward in the form of a local charity donation. But I agree- discussing this first is best. Donating and then just informing could come off as passive aggressive, which rarely leads to clear/open understanding.


        • You’re right, it might be interpreted that way… Probably discussing first and doing after, it’s the best idea. I understand how it must feel, I even consider monetary wedding gifts of bad taste (which gained popularity due to convenience).. I can barely agree with wedding lists, although they are very convenient, I admit… :D