Etiquette Questions, Answered: Entertaining and Guests
How Can I (Politely) Tell A Guest That It's Time to Leave?
Q. I have a friend who never wants to leave my house. Usually she doesn’t take the hint until I tell her that I need to go
to bed. Last New Year’s Eve, she stayed until 3 a.m., when I finally kicked her out. Is there a nice way to ask her to hit
the road much earlier?
Tamara Klatsky Epstein
A. I, too, have a friend who is a “long stayer.” Would it surprise you to learn that she has the opposite gripe about me—that I leave too early? Although, truthfully, I’m not the one who’s the problem. I married a man who likes to go to bed at a “reasonable” hour (defined as no later than 10:30 p.m., unless football is on TV).
Despite our philosophical differences over the ideal length of a social engagement, she and I, along with our husbands, still like one another a lot. So we handle the situation by acknowledging it, most often with a joke.
During the salad course at her dinner parties, my friend often makes a general announcement along the lines of: “Say good night to Michelle now, everyone, because unless her husband had a long nap, he may not last through dessert.” At our house, if it starts getting a bit late, my husband simply heads to bed and reminds our friends to “turn off the lights on your way out.”
If your relationship with your “long stayer” hasn’t reached that level of intimacy, try this: Suggest an end time to the dinner right from the outset. For example, in the initial invitation, mention that you’ll need to “wrap things up by 11 p.m.” (or whenever you wish) because of an early-morning commitment. Or shortly after people arrive, mention that “it won’t be a late night,” given how much is on your plate at the office.
Later that evening, when you’re ready for the party to end, stand up and say to your guests, “My goodness, I’ve kept all of you hostage long enough. Why don’t I clear the dishes and let you go home to get some sleep?”