Modern Etiquette: Being a Gracious Host & Guest

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.

 


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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.

  1. Lucille says:

    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?

    1. Shelly says:

      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?

      1. Grace Bonney says:

        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.

        Grace

  2. Betsy Bowers says:

    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.
    Betsy

  3. Julie says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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?

      Grace

  4. Angie says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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.

      Grace

      1. Angie says:

        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.

        1. Grace Bonney says:

          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.

          Grace

        2. Lisa says:

          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.

  5. 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

  6. Alex says:

    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!

  7. Dana says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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).

      Grace

  8. Mel says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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.

      Grace

  9. Norma Leigh says:

    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!

  10. Anne Gilmore says:

    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.

  11. Destiny says:

    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.

  12. Pam says:

    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?
    Thanks!
    Mrs. Pam Hobbs

  13. Kay says:

    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,
    Kay

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Kay

      I don’t think that’s rude, as long as you ask politely :)

      Grace

  14. Grace says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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

  15. Jennifer says:

    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.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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.

      Grace

  16. Jenny says:

    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♡

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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.

      Grace

  17. Lynda says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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.

      Grace

  18. Lynda says:

    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

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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

  19. Katie says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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 ;)

      Grace

  20. Nella says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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.

      Grace

      1. Nella says:

        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.

  21. Jill says:

    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.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Oh it’s totally fine, Jill! Hope you have a great holiday-

      Grace

  22. Lola says:

    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 !

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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…

      Grace

  23. Mary Kay says:

    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

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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.

      Grace

  24. Mark says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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 :)

      Grace

  25. Angela Edwards says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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.

      Grace

  26. Annette says:

    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.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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.

      Grace

  27. Erin says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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.

      Grace

  28. Chris says:

    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!

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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?

      Grace

  29. FelixM says:

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  30. Ashmo says:

    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?!?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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?

      Grace

  31. Sunny says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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.

      Grace

      1. Sunny says:

        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!

        1. Grace Bonney says:

          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 :)

          Grace

  32. Marlene says:

    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.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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 :(

      Grace

      1. Marlene says:

        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.

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