A Gracious Guest {By Cindy Neuschwanger}


Cindy Neuschwanger, or “Miss Cindy”, as we affectionately call her, has been a dear friend to our family for almost as long as we can remember. She resides in Central Florida where she is actively involved in her local church’s ministries.

Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them:  for this is the law and the prophets.      

Matthew 7:12   


Being a GRACIOUS GUEST is not a mystery.  It’s not something that requires a high level of education.  Nor does it mandate that one be rich in personal possessions.  Simply stated, one really only needs to obey the Golden Rule.  Put yourself in your hostess’ place and conduct yourself according to how you would like to be treated if you were the hostess.  Some of the synonyms for the word “gracious” include amiable, big-hearted, compassionate, considerate, courteous, good-natured, polite, well-mannered, loving, friendly, sociable, lenient, obliging, pleasing, and accommodating. 

Because I live in Florida, my home has been a winter destination for many northerners, some family, and others friends.  My list of Do’s and Don’ts has been derived from personal experiences of being a hostess and from conversations with others who have told stories of entertaining guests.  Please keep in mind, this is not a list of “pet peeves” nor does one have to comply with everything listed to be a “gracious guest”.  Some of these actions pertain to being a guest for a meal.  While others are meant for house guests with planned overnight stays.

Arrive in a timely manner; neither too early nor more than five minutes after the agreed upon appointed time.  I’ve had guests catch me without any makeup on and in my everyday clothes because they arrived an hour early.  I’ve also had guests appear after the meal was over.   Be gracious and considerate of their time.

Many homeowners take pride in maintaining their beautiful lawns and have invested in underground sprinkler systems to keep them well watered.  When cars are parked on the grass, expensive “heads” can be broken, and tire tracks can mar the looks.  If you have any question regarding where you should park, simply ask your hostess.  Be gracious and consider their property.

Bring along a thoughtful personal “hostess gift”.  It doesn’t have to be an extravagant expensive gift.  If you have a particular talent, a small hand-made item such as a crocheted bookmark or a painted picture might become a treasured keepsake.  A plate of homemade cookies is another winner.  Flowers are always a great “last minute” hostess gift.    Or if your hostess enjoys burning candles, that would be a wonderful idea.  Be gracious by being pleasing.

If you have children, make sure they know the rules and will obey them.  You might want to teach them not to touch items that do not belong to them.  This can easily avoid the embarrassing moment when a treasured non-replaceable item belonging to your hostess is broken.  Also, if they help themselves to food, instruct them to take only what they plan to eat.  I remember the time a small guest in my home filled half her plate with cottage cheese because she thought it was ice cream.  When she found out it wasn’t her favorite dessert, it was left for the garbage disposal.  Children should be disciplined to have respect for elders and the hostess’ furniture.  That same child, along with her two siblings settled themselves in my three easy chairs letting their elderly grandmother and their parents sit on folding chairs.  In contrast, one of my friends has four small children and it’s always a joy for me when they come to my home because the children are well behaved and are truly a pleasure to be with.  Be gracious by teaching your children to be well-mannered.

A gracious guest does not monopolize the conversation.  Others in a dinner party can easily be drawn into the conversation when asked some very simple tactful questions.  Obviously, you don’t want to make them uncomfortable.  And you certainly want to steer away from subjects that might prove controversial.  But what a terrific opportunity for you to learn about another person.  Remember, if your hostess invited others to the party, help them to feel comfortable contributing to the conversation.  Be gracious by being sociable.

Don’t make requests in someone’s home for a substitute.  Enjoy what is offered.  Not long ago I had a gathering of ladies in which I served, punch, coffee, water, 7-Up, and Coke.  I felt badly when I had to tell a guest that I could not honor her request for hot tea.  Because I live alone and am not a tea-drinker, I didn’t have a tea bag in the house.   Be gracious by being considerate. 

It’s perfectly okay to offer to be of assistance to your hostess.  But don’t insist upon helping.  It’s not your home.  Your hostess might have a certain way that she prefers to accomplish things.  Be gracious by being obliging to her wishes. 

Compliment your hostess.  She has worked hard to please you.  Whether it’s the food she’s prepared, the table she set, or just the décor of her home.  She has honored you by inviting you into her home.  It’s a tremendous encouragement especially to a young hostess who hasn’t had a lot of experience entertaining.  Don’t lie!  Never utter a compliment you don’t mean.  But I’m sure you can find things that you can remark about in a positive way.  Be gracious by lovingly acknowledging her efforts.

Don’t overstay your welcome, or keep your hostess up all hours of the night.  Be sensitive to your hostess’ other commitments such as a job the next morning or a kitchen that still needs to be cleaned up.  By the same token, be sensitive to your hostess’ schedule.  If you’re an overnight guest, and your hostess attends an evening Bible Study, don’t except her to miss it on your account.  Go along.  Your hostess would much rather you attend with her than to miss the event.  Be gracious by politely respecting her time.

You might want to consider repairing or replacing any item you damage or break.  When I was ten years old, as a guest in my aunt’s home, I broke a serving bowl while helping to do the dishes.  Even though my aunt was gracious and said it was not necessary, Mother insisted that I spend my own money to replace that dish.  Back then it cost 75 cents.   But the lesson I learned I’ve remembered throughout the years.  However, if repairing or replacing the item is not feasible, courteously write a note expressing your regret that the incident occurred.  Be gracious by being big-hearted.

Be sensitive to what your hostess has planned for your visit.  If you wish to bring a game to be played, or a movie to be watched, suggest it prior to your arriving.  But be aware that she might already have something else in mind for the evening’s entertainment.   Be gracious by being accommodating to your hostess’ plans.

This is not necessarily a “do” or a “don’t”.  It’s merely a suggestion for your consideration.  After a family of four had left my home after spending a two-week vacation with me, I found a crisp one-hundred-dollar bill in their bedroom along with a thank you note.  They knew I was on a very tight budget, and I had provided most of their meals during their stay.  I accepted their “tip” gratefully.  It certainly helped pay for the groceries.  But you must consider your hostess and make sure your generosity is not offensive.  Be gracious by being benevolent and charitable.

Show your appreciation.  Write a thank you note.  Acknowledge the time, the effort, and/or the cost involved in the hospitality that was shown you.  No, you don’t have to keep a ledger.  But everyone likes to be appreciated.  Be gracious by writing a friendly note of gratitude.

Put yourself in the shoes of your hostess.  How would you like your guest to respond to your invitation?  I suggest we all act accordingly.  Be gracious and follow the Golden Rule.

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