Reading: How To Politely Tell Your Guests The Party Is Over

How To Politely Tell Your Guests The Party Is Over

A dinner party is such a nice idea, in theory. 

Friends and acquaintances, spanning personal to business, descend upon your private space for an intimate evening of laughter, stimulating conversation and a nip or two of Grand Marnier.  Once you’ve completed your hosting duties, your guests, sated with hors d’oeuvres and good vibes, grab their jackets and head for the door.  A quick kiss on both cheeks (how devilishly European) and an expression of gratitude later, they’re on their way, leaving you to revel in the glowing aftermath of another successful affair.  But wait?  What’s that noise?  It’s “Gary”, and he’s helping himself to a pint of the Don Julio 1942. 

A dinner party, in actual fact, is a complex ritual.  Every subtle nuance missed, or not tactfully enforced, has the potential to become a party-threatening liability, especially when it comes to “Gary’s” – and they are everywhere, ladies and gentlemen.  So before your party erodes into all-night chaos, Chief Etiquette Officer, Julie Blais Comeau shares her tips on how to politely encourage your guests out the door, without blemishing or reducing your contact list. 

A good party, like a bag of milk, has an expiry date

There’s a very valid reason for that best-before date printed front and centre on dairy products: to let people know when the good times may become a stomach curdling experience.  Think of your party invites in a similar fashion: if you manage guests’ expectations with an “until” time, you’ll be able to avoid nausea induced by guests over-staying their welcome.  “As a host or hostess, it’s all about prepping and planning – and that includes your guests’ departure,” says Julie.  “It’s perfectly fine to define the limits of your hosting.  Use invites and put a timeline that you’re comfortable with.  Be clear with your expectations.”  Sending an invitation doesn’t have to be a formal affair; Julie suggests something simple like: “We’d love to invite you for dinner this Thursday; please arrive at 5 o’clock for appetizers.  Party will go on until 10 o’clock so you might want to check ahead with your babysitter.”  Or whoever is managing your social media accounts.

You don’t have to go home, but you probably should

There’s a reason shepherding is one of the world’s oldest professions – getting others to do what you want comes with benefits. To gently prod your guests towards (but not directly out of) the exit, Julie recommends getting your sheep-dog on by changing rooms or bringing people outside.  “With beautiful weather around the corner, take guests outside for a nightcap.” (Note that Julie does not condone locking the door behind your guests.)  If that doesn’t do the trick, Julie’s got other ideas, like offering tea, coffee and other hot beverages: swapping the Syrah for Starbucks will jolt guests out of their post-meal coma and give them the energy to call their own damn Uber.  “A third way is to change the music to, not quite a lullaby, but something softer,” says Julie. “Bringing the volume of loud music down or turning it off completely, can get the message across.”  Here’s your chance to bust out that sweet Enya CD that’s been propping up your couch since Christmas ‘97.  But if Celtic New Age stylings don’t simultaneously coerce guests to grab their jackets and reject future party invites, Julie has a few more tricks up her sleeve, including the nightclub classic: the ugly lights.  “Consider the lighting.  Turn the dimmer up a little bit and blow out all the candles,” says Julie.  Nothing like a little dose of reality provided by bright lights to send the night-owls scattering. 

Have emergency loot bag swag on hand

You can rub people the wrong way, or the right way – and if the right way is out the door at a reasonable hour, turn to seasonal goodies that you can stuff into loot bags and then into the hands of your soon-to-depart guests.  “In the summer, it’s great to prepare your own rubs for salmon or chicken.  You can make them in advance and it won’t cost you much,” says Julie.  “Tell guests, ‘I just want to make sure that everyone got our little parting gift before you left.  Please enjoy it on our behalf.  We hope you enjoyed your evening,’ as you hand them out.’”  

Are you still here?

You’ve tried everything – yawning, talking loudly about your early morning, pointing out your poor pup who’s been waiting for hours for her nightly walk.  The clock is inching closer to 11:30 pm, and the new episode of Queer Eye is about to start.  Yet your house still runneth over with guests who refuse to leave.  Congratulations! You’ve given them a night they don’t want to end.  However, despite running counter to our polite Canadian sensibilities, this sort of situation calls for a little – or a lot – of directness.  “Be very blunt,” recommends Julie.  “Say something like, ‘I’m glad everybody had a lovely evening tonight, and we want to make sure we’re up tomorrow morning fresh for (insert excuse here).’  You don’t have to state the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Make sure everyone had a nice evening, put a closure on it.  And then stop. Let them react.” For those that need to stick to their Canadian guns, wrap it up in a neat little bow with a toast.

But if you’re looking for me, I’ll be on the kitchen counter, drinking tequila with “Gary”.