Author Topic: How much time is correct etiquette for a host/hostess to spend with each guest?  (Read 1371 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

NotTheNarcissist

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 779
Let's say you are hosting an informal gathering as described:

  • there are 25 guests ranging in age from 1 to 85.
  • the gathering is 6 hours long
  • all are family but some have not seen each other in 10 years (so it's a mixture of close and not-so-close relatives)
Everything is going perfect. All guests seem to be doing great.

As you go from guest to guest to visit with them, is there an etiquettely approved amount of time to spend with each?

The question stems from my SIL complaining I did not spend enough time with she & her husband during a family gathering at our house. I did make a point to visit with them; however it was apparently not enough time in her opinion (hence the complaint). I am willing to admit that she may have a point; however, that doesn't help me with how much time is "right" or "correct" (for future gatherings at our home).

Thanks in advance. I am trying to become a better hostess, and where else to turn but ehell? You guys are always so helpful!

WillyNilly

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 7490
  • Mmmmm, food
    • The World as I Taste It
I think one complete conversation is the correct amount of time... which yes I know is still rather vague, as a conversation can be 2 minutes or 20 minutes or 2 hours.  But essentially I think a host should spend enough time to chat about a topic - vacation, new job, major life event, hobby, etc.  Simply saying "how are?"  and "so nice to see you", or "I love your brownies, thanks so much for bringing them!" are not conversations and therefore is too short.

jpcher

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8585
That's an interesting question, NotTheNarcissist. I'm looking forward to other responses because maybe I'm in the wrong.

As a hostess I tend to be a floater.

For large parties we have people on the deck, out in the back yard, in our patio room, in the living room, at the dining table . . .

I tend to wander from group to group. Making sure that everybody is happy "Can I get you another drink?" "We just served up this appetizer, can I get you a plate?" "It's good to see you again! Did you meet so-n-so?" "Your kids are sooo grown up!" "Heard you got a new job! Hooray!"

You know, small talk.

I'll sit down for a few minutes with the smoking group and say "I'm taking a break now."

I'll sit down for a few minutes with the living room crowd. "What game are you playing?"

I'll sit down with the dining room table crowd. "Did you try this appetizer? Isn't it yummy?"

I think that if I sat down for 45 minutes or an hour with just one group or one friend I would feel that I'd be neglecting my other guests.



It's an interesting question because I try to avoid spending hostessing time with deep-down-personal conversations with any of my guests. That's for when the party is winding down. Once the food is served/cleaned up and everybody is relaxing.

I've offered plenty of "date" throw-offs from parties that I've hosted. "Oh. SIL. I've missed you so much. We never get together anymore. How about coffee/drinks/lunch/whatever when it can be just you and I."



Sorry, not much help because I'm thinking that I'm in the same quandary that you are.

WillyNilly

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 7490
  • Mmmmm, food
    • The World as I Taste It
Oh I didn't mean a 45 minute conversation, more like a 5-10 minute conversation.  :D
And of course a multi-person conversation is cool, they don't have to be one on one, in fact at a party I think its better they aren't. By "conversation I mean and exchange of several sentences on a topic, like a recent vacation or promotion or event or holiday or hobby. Then you flit away and do it again with the next person/group. I just think a host should have at least 1 conversation with all their guests.

evely28

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2600
I think your SIL is out of line to complain and criticize your hosting skills. If she wanted to spend time more time with you she could have pursued you.

When I host, I greet guests, make introductions, make drinks, direct guests to food and then I orbit as I pick up dirty dish'es or see someone's drink is empty. I may make a comment to a conversation but without interrupting or changing the topic. I see my job as a host is bringing people together, providing comforts and then letting them enjoy one another. With the family and elderly people I may ask about family history or lore. It sounds like this was a bit of YOUR family's reunion with a range of ages.

Your SIL sounds like a very special snowflake (in her own mind)

jpcher

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8585
Oh I didn't mean a 45 minute conversation, more like a 5-10 minute conversation.  :D
And of course a multi-person conversation is cool, they don't have to be one on one, in fact at a party I think its better they aren't. By "conversation I mean and exchange of several sentences on a topic, like a recent vacation or promotion or event or holiday or hobby. Then you flit away and do it again with the next person/group. I just think a host should have at least 1 conversation with all their guests.


WillyNilly -- please don't think that I was calling you out or anything like that. Your initial response was right along the lines of what I was thinking a hostess should do.

Small talk without cutting a person off mid-conversation, but long enough to make the guest feel welcomed and show that you are so glad and thankful to see that they came to your party.

It is a fine line.



OP -- Is SIL normally snow-flaky like this?

evely28

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2600

OP -- Is SIL normally snow-flaky like this?

I think this explains it. Post 26: http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=115538.15

Deetee

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 5485
I was just thinking of this in relation to the last two gatherings I hosted. Both had about 20 people.

At the first most people knew each other and there was one "new couple" so I spent some extra time with them. But at one point I was standing next to them and just semi-introducing everyone (they were introduced but you know what it's like to meet a bunch of new people so I was just pointing and mentioning  a few things) and one of my other guests came up and joined in and took care of them socially. I have nice friends.

At the other, everyone already knew each other, but were not "friends". Most were closer to me. That's bit tricky. I tried to start conversations, drag people in and then go to next group. Once you get enough wine in people, it gets easier.

Basically, I think a hostess should
1) Try to make sure most people have someone to talk to and start conversations if they don't.
2) Feed people
3) Give people drinks

It's not a time to really catch up with people (that can wait until things wind down)

For the record, I consider myself socially awkward, but have battled it so this is pretty theoretical


 


LifeOnPluto

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6450
    • Blog
I would spend roughly equal amounts of time with each guest. However, if there are guests whom you haven't seen for a long time, or don''t know anyone else at the party, I'd spend a bit longer with them.

I've been to parties where the host has spent the majority of time chatting with their closest friends (the ones they see all the time anyway) and barely any time with the rest of the guests. It makes me feel like I was merely invited as a crowd-filler.

Hmmmmm

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6254
I spend more time with guests I don't see frequently versus ones that I see often.  Also, the effort they may have made to attend might play into it too.  So if brother and SIL flew 4 hours to attend the event and you, did little more than great them, make sure they had food and drink, and then thanked them for coming at the end of the day, then I could see her point.  But if they live in town and you had dinner with them last week and she's complaining because you didn't excuse yourself from the party to listen to her moan about her daughter not making the varsity cheer squad, then she's a beeing a SS. 

But in our family siblings and sibling inlaws aren't really seen as a standard guest unless the party is in their honor.  They more often get roped into the party support roles of keeping an eye of food, making sure all guests are sufficiently entertained and engaged, and even making an ice run if necessary.  So I'd be very suprised if one of my inlaws made a comment like this. 


lowspark

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3669
I agree that about a conversation's worth is about right. When I'm hostess, it usually works out where I mingle among the groups of conversation, sometimes chatting for just a couple of minutes, sometimes for as long as 10 or 15. Much longer than that, though, and it feels like I'm neglecting my responsibilities as hostess.

As PPs have pointed out, that includes making sure food & drink are replenished, trash & dirty plates picked up, etc. And it also includes more mingling so that no one feels that a certain group is monopolizing my time which can be perceived as rude as LifeOnPluto pointed out.

As the party winds down, it usually dwindles down to my closest friends and we end up sitting around chatting for a long time as they are the only ones left. Knowing that will happen (as it almost always does) I usually concentrate on those I know will not be staying as long during the rest of the party.

As a guest, when I go to a party, I really don't expect to talk to the host/hostess more than a few minutes here and there. It feels to me like the fun of the party is talking to a variety of people. So even as a guest, I tend to mingle about and not stick to the same group the whole time.

Conversations at parties can be pretty unpredictable so having expectations about a specific amount of time that the hosts should spend with each guest is unrealistic. And trying to make it equal is futile. Obviously, I don't time my conversations so that at the end of the allotted time I have to excuse myself mid-conversation to move on to the next group. It's more of a function of the natural ebb and flow of conversations. They pick up, they wind down, and I move on.