Ever wonder why some folks are always invited for the weekend and some others…well, not so much? There’s an art to being the best weekend guest ever. And here are 10 simple etiquette rules that will get you asked back again and again.
Now that summer’s here and life’s getting back to normal for many of us, it’s time to start thinking about filling our calendars with weekend visits to the country, the seaside, the mountains. Lest you need a reminder of proper guest etiquette, here are a few friendly rules to follow that will assure you’re the kind of guest who gets asked back again and again.
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1. Ask about house rules before arriving
What are house rules, you ask? They can be anything from whether your hosts run a shoes-on or shoes-off home or if they’re early- or late-risers, to whether TV’s verboten, or, now that it’s legal in many states, if pot smoking is allowed. (Yes, we were asked that not too long ago.) Should you lock the house when you leave? Should you feed the dog if the hosts are out? Every host has their own way of doing things, so be mindful.
2. Don’t show up unannounced
Never, ever, just pop in. Period. Even if you’re famous for surprising friends on their doorstep with a bag over your shoulder–or worse, with a pet or child tucked under your arm–don’t. You never know what you could be walking into. You might be met by rumpled friends wrapped in bed sheets or with divorce papers in their hands. Everyone needs a heads-up.
3. Bring a meaningful host/ess gift
Emphasis on meaningful here. A bottle of wine is always appreciated but don’t grab the $7 special of the week. Make it count. Ask the hosts if they will share the menus with you so that you can consult your local wine store and pick up a few bottles that match the meals. Be mindful when it comes to alcohol, though: The last thing you want to do is sail in with a case of wine and two bottles of tequila only to find out that someone’s a recovering alcoholic.
Local treats from near where you live are always appreciated. Such as local baked goods, candy, or chocolate. For example, we live near Bridgewater Chocolates, a superlative chocolatier, and often take a large box to hosts who don’t live in the area. If edibles aren’t your thing, think coffee table books, stunning flowers, a set of artisan placements. You get the idea.
Me, on the other hand, I adore kitchen kitsch. I can’t get enough of it. Our friends Jeffery and Carlos brought a set of dish towels and among them was this gem about the true nature of a donut (top). And our friend Susan, one of the most cultured and proper women we know, brought us the salty oven mitt, which we love. (Well, I probably love it more; The One gets a little red-faced if guests see it.) Bottom line: Know your hosts.
4. Go easy on your phone
This is a big one for me. We once had weekend guests who sat in the family room, day and night, glued to their phones. Our suggestions of a drive around Lake Waramaug, a picnic in the park, and a movie were met with grunts of disinterest. The One and I eventually gave up and did our own thing the rest of the weekend–a very long weekend. Sure, checking your phone every once and while–or staying up until 3 AM in bed swiping through TikTok goggle-eyed (guilty!)–is fine.
5. Be overly helpful
I believe most people, like The One and me, put a lot of thought and work into making their weekend guests’ stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. That means planning five to seven meals, shopping, cleaning, washing linens and towels, freshening up the guest room, and placing fresh flowers around the house. Chances are, your hosts might be a bit tired before you arrive. So be helpful. Clear the table, wash dishes, help set out patio furniture, offer to cook a meal. This–more than anything–will get you invited back. (Trust me.)
6. Give the hosts some space
This relates to the above rule. Sure, most hosts are happy to show you around and play tour guide for the umpteenth time. (The One and I often see old things in new ways when escorting weekend guests around Litchfield County.) But give the hosts some time for themselves. Find a quiet corner and curl up with a book, like our friend Thati Schlesinger (above) does. Ask for a map of the area or for suggestions of where you can go explore on your own. Right down the street from our house is Roxbury Falls, a lovely spot for swimming and relaxing. And not too far away are miles and miles of trails. When guests go exploring, it allows us a welcome moment to catch our breath or even a quick nap.
7. Treat the hosts to a great meal
This is where you can flex. If you’re a great cook and have a killer specialty, pull out all the stops. We’re lucky to have friends who love to cook, so we always have one night off where were get to relax, knock back a few Prosecco and Aperol Cocktails, and eat some incredible food. The wonderful roasted salmon and fennel meal above was prepared for us by our friend Janet Stein. She did everything. All we had to do was show up and look pretty.
Of course, if you cook, make sure to clean up afterward. Not a genius in the kitchen? You can always make reservations. Take the hosts to one of their favorite local spots. Great food and no dishes for anyone!
8. Buy your own groceries
If you have special dietary needs–you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, eating keto, or just a wicked picky eater–buy what you need. Also, if you’re making a meal for the hosts, shop the same day for ingredients. That way the cupboards and fridge won’t be overloaded your whole visit.
9. Leave the house in better shape than when you arrived
Before you leave, give your room a once-over. Strip the bed and stuff the linens in a pillowcase. Fold used towels and place them on the bathroom counter. Rinse out the bath, swab down the sink and counter (no one wants to deal with your clumps of hair), and toss trash in the wastebasket. Return any books, games, or electronics to where you found them. If you bought groceries, leave them for the host, unless it’s something they don’t eat.
10. Send a thank-you card and gift
Ok, here’s where I’ll deign to allow you to use your phone. During your stay, take a few casual shots of the weekend–photos of the hosts, of you and the hosts, their pets or kids, places you visited, goofy things you did. If you have a particularly good shot, have it printed and framed.
The photo above was taken a bazillion years ago by a friend who was staying with me before The One and I began cohabitating. She took a quick snap of us on America’s Ugliest Couch and gave it to us. I was grateful then but am deeply thankful now. We don’t have a lot of pictures of us from back then–during our blissfully ignorant first year together–so this remains a treasured memento.
You can get very inexpensive frames at a department store or online. On the other hand, if you happen to be a great photographer, consider having a photo book of the weekend printed. Apple offers this service, as do Snapfish, Shutterfly, and Google. Send the framed photo or the book along with a handwritten note to the hosts.
Follow these weekend guest etiquette rules and I can assure you, you’ll have a follow-up invite in no time.
Originally published June 26, 2021