If you can get the item you need without fully extending your arm, go for it. Otherwise ask to have it passed.

Leaving the table

When you need to step away, say, "Excuse me. I'll be right back." No one needs to know the details. Leave your napkin loosely on the table to the left of your plate, not on your seat.

Manners for parties


Always do it, and do it on time. Websites like Evite have technology that allows the host to see who has read the invitation (and at what time). In other words, a snubbed or delayed RSVP comes off as ungrateful and careless.

Bringing others

Whoever is listed on the envelope is invited. If your baby's name isn't included, he's not invited. If it says "The Smith Family," then everyone living under that roof is welcome.

Special food needs

For large parties, you're on your own. Don't mention dietary needs to your host. For small dinner parties, let the host know as soon as possible. If you adhere to an especially tricky-to-accommodate diet, ask if you can bring a dish. And be sure to add, "I can't wait to be there."

Arrival time

For a dinner party, show up 10 to 15 minutes after the scheduled time. Never show up early, because the host may not be ready. Any later than 15 minutes and you need to let the host know.


To join a new conversation at a cocktail party, catch someone's eye, smile, and enter the clique on a break. And if you see someone who wants to participate, pull her in when there's a lull.

Ditching and switching crowds

Instead of pulling the bathroom ploy, get used to saying, "It's been lovely chatting with you. Please excuse me." There's nothing wrong with moving on to speak with others. That's the purpose of a party -- to socialize.

Connecting people

Introduce the two parties and explain what they have in common. Then say, "I'm going to leave you two to chat. I'll catch up with you later."

Saying goodbye

If there are fewer than a dozen people in attendance, you should say goodbye to the host. If there are more than that, you can slip out and send a text or an email later saying, "What a great party! Thank you so much for having us."

Leaving promptly

Don't be the last guest unless you're a close friend. The evening is over when any one of the following is true: The music is off, the lights are on, the drinks are stoppered or the food is cleaned up.

Kicking out guests

When it's getting late, you can say, "I have an early morning tomorrow, and I'm going to have to start cleaning." Or be blunt yet kind: "I'm so happy you came and stayed until the end. But if you'll excuse me now, I'm going to have to turn in."