Rules of Civility: The Checklist for Being the Best Host or Guest

Whether you are hosting or being hosted, there are things each can do to make it more fun for everyone…

Summertime provides wonderful opportunities to visit or to host family and friends for overnight or weekend visits.  What fun to share time at the beach, hike in the mountains, barbecue on an open fire and catch up on news of each other.  While the season lends itself to these kinds of activities, it becomes a little easier with a bit of planning, both by the host and by the guests.

Here is a checklist of items that can make these weekend getaways more fun for both.



  • Invite only those people you enjoy and who are compatible with each other. Time is a precious commodity and not to be thrown away on hard-to-be-with people. These special gatherings are for family and friends with whom you want to be. The invitation should be clear about the timing of arrival and departure so that guests know the expectations ahead of time. Include a map of directions to your home, if it is especially hard to find.

  • Be prepared with a tentative schedule for activities and meals. Be sure to ask guests ahead of time about any food allergies. Take care of any transportation needs for the stay. If you plan activities that need reservations such as for dining out, tee or tennis court times, be sure to make these and share with your guests so they will join you on time.

  • Make your guest room or the space guests will be staying in comfortable with clean sheets, blankets and two pillows per guest. Provide a place for hanging garments and for tucking away personal items. Make sure that the temperature can be adjusted either with AC or fan for warm days/nights or extra blankets for cold nights. Place flowers, magazines, carafe and drinking glass, reading light, alarm clock and tissues near the beds (maybe even a piece of chocolate for late night snacking); and soap, shampoo, toothpaste and brush, hairdryer and towels/washcloths in the bathroom.




  • Bring with you only those who are invited. If children are not part of the overnight experience, don’t bring them… and don’t surprise your host by bringing along your dog.

  • Bring thoughtful gifts like a casserole. Make this an easy-to-heat treat that has tastes that you know will please your family and the host’s. Wine and flowers are also welcome gifts. And, if you have special food needs, like baby food, come supplied. Games that can be enjoyed by your group both indoors and out are wonderful for sharing: bocce balls to use for playing on the lawn or card games that can be easily learned, for instance. You can personalize gifts by keeping hosts’ interests in mind: special spices for the cook, cans of tennis balls for the tennis enthusiast, a hot new book for a reader. Don’t be offended if your gifts aren’t used while you are together. The objective is to help and please your host, while you are visiting or not!

  • Don’t expect to be entertained every moment. Gatherings are more fun when everyone is relaxed. Guests and hosts need some alone time so make sure you allow it. Don’t be wed to your phone or computer during your stay, even during down times. Enjoy being together without your electronics. Offer to help with tasks that need attention: washing dishes, arranging flowers, setting the table, shopping for meal ingredients. Make sure your bed is made and the room is neat during your stay and when you leave, beds are stripped, and if clean sheets are provided, that the bed is made. Leave the bathroom spotless with tub, sink, and mirror sparkling. Be sure your belongings are all packed… no shoes left under the bed or reading glasses still by a stack of magazines.

  • If time allows, host the hosts by taking them to dinner or to a ticketed event at no expense to them.

  • Be sure to send thanks. A hand-written note sent immediately is a must.



Our Contributor:

Catherine S. Arcure is a professional etiquette instructor, certified by the American School of Protocol®. During her many years as a food editor and writer, Catherine not only attracted a large and loyal following but also took every opportunity to educate readers in the social graces. As a director of development for the University of Michigan and other educational and performance-related organizations, she planned and coordinated major social events for groups ranging from 20 to 2000. In addition to cultural and volunteer activities in Manhattan, Catherine enjoys spending time with her twin grandsons, who are among her most avid students. 
If you have enrollment questions, please contact Catherine at her email at