Holiday guides are generally for the people throwing the gathering, but it’s the guests’ behavior that determines the success of a party. That’s especially important to remember during Friendsgiving, when guests don’t feel pressured to be on their best behavior because Great-Aunt Gretchen can’t stand it when they fight.
Here are six simple steps to make sure you get invited back next year.
1. Ask what you can bring
When you accept the invitation, be sure add, “What can I bring?” Suggest a few dishes that you do well, or items you can help with in lieu of cooking. “I make a really great stuffing that’s always a hit,” or, “I’m a terrible cook, but am excellent at spending money and am happy to pick up ice cream (or wine or ice, etc.).”
Offer in advance. Don’t text the hosts while you’re on your way and they’re up to their giblets in dinner prep and couldn’t answer you even if they needed something, which they don’t because they’ve already bought everything.
If your hosts insist there’s nothing you can do, a hostess gift is always a nice gesture. A bottle of wine will never go to waste.
2. Be on time
A sit-down dinner is like a black ops mission that requires military precision, and your wandering in 30 minutes late because you forgot you are no longer 22 will cause lives to be lost and potatoes to get cold. If you’re not on time, your hosts will either feel obligated to wait until you show up to start dinner, or start without you. Then when you do show up, you will interrupt an otherwise lovely meal, causing your hosts—who have not sat down all day—to have to get up to greet you and take your coat and get you a drink. This will make no one happy.
3. Don’t double book
You may think that you have it all worked out how you can be at one house for wine and cheese and then make it to the other side of town by dinner, but this overconfidence is how 90-pound acrobats get dropped on their heads. There’s nothing worse than having four people bolt out the door after an elaborate meal so they can enjoy pie and coffee somewhere else. It makes the host feel like a cheap one-night stand during the first week of college. Unless your friends are specifically having a drop-in thing, accept one invitation.
4. Make new friends
Friendsgiving is usually a catchall for those who can’t go home for the holiday, and draws in people from a number of different groups. No one wants to look around and see a lot of quiet guests engrossed in some coffee-table book for lack of something better to do. Whether you know no one, or know everyone except the guy who has no one to talk to, be a pal and a grown-up and make some small talk. Start with, “How do you know our hosts?” Ask, “What did you do for Thanksgiving last year?” “I have some pot in my car” is also a good icebreaker.
5. Do dishes
To be clear, don’t ask if you can do dishes, just do dishes. A hostess will usually demur rather than put her guests to work for their supper like it’s the opening scene from Oliver! A good guest starts by clearing. Grab a few plates, nod to a friend to do the same and when the host starts to get up say, “You cooked. Now enjoy your guests. We’ve got this.” Telling someone to dry while you wash is also a good way to make new friends (see above). You don’t have to necessarily wash everything (although it is nice), but giving the hosts a nice head start will make for a kinder, gentler hangover the next morning.
6. Toast your hosts
It seems simple enough, but with the chaos of getting the food on the table and seating people it’s easy to overlook. Don’t wait for someone else to do it: Seize your moment! Don’t be afraid of the spotlight! You don’t have to chew the scenery. Just thank your hosts for all of their hard work and for including you in such a lovely celebration.
Remember, your hosts have saved you from your family and yourself. Be polite. It is the definition of the least you can do.
Tess Rafferty is a writer for @midnight on Comedy Central and the author of Recipes for Disaster, a memoir of food, wine and what went wrong. You can find her on twitter at @TessRafferty or at her website TessRafferty.com.