Expert Commentary: Host Etiquette


Dear Valarie,


We’ve not met, but I am enjoying your columns and look forward to more.

Here’s my question:  On a television program recently a woman said that a guest should accept whatever food/drink a hostess offers so as to not be impolite.

I fully understand not wanting to insult the hostess, but what of the guest does not want it for whatever reason? (Desserts to a diabetic, alcohol to an alcoholic, health issues, not liking the food or drink, not being hungry/thirsty etc.)

Is it as insulting to accept and then not consume it?  Is a sip or just a bite or two enough?



Gentle Reader


Dear Reader,


I am flattered from your compliment.  I always enjoy hearing from readers.


The lady on the television program is correct; you should never turn away something offered from the host.  If you have ever hosted a party, you know all of the hard work that goes into it.  This is not a night for the host to have his/her feelings hurt, but rather a night that they should enjoy and feel rewarded for all their hard work.


 In planning for this party, the host has the responsibility to provide a variety of foods to fit diets from vegetarians and diabetics to people with religious requirements.  The host also must know when offering alcoholic beverages to have non-alcoholic beverages available. While special needs of the guest may be the responsibility of the host the only way for the host to know those needs is for the guest to inform them.  This should be done at the same time that you R.S.V.P. so the host may have enough time to cater to those needs.


If someone has a problem, such as an alcoholic, and are not confident that they can control themselves where alcohol is offered, I would suggest that they go to the extent of declining any invitations until this problem is controllable.


Accepting an invitation means agreeing to meet whomever else the host has decided to invite and to make do with whatever refreshments are provided, even if that means eating beforehand.  It is perfectly mannerly to accept and not consume certain foods or drinks that you do not like or cannot have.  I personally love to try new things and think that this is the perfect opportunity to do so.  I would recommend at least trying something before making your final decision on liking it or not.


I hope that this has fully answered your question.  I also would like to encourage other readers to take advantage of this column to get your etiquette questions answered.


Best Regards,