I figured I would take this opportunity to talk about an issue that’s been itching to be typed: How to be a good party guest. Communion season is probably the biggest party season in the Haitian community. Many people look forward to the festivities, the music, the food, and the camaraderie. All that said, I think perhaps we are getting just a tad out of hand in the way we behave as guests at these events. While one does not have to be as formal with birthday parties and communions as they have to be with weddings, there are some basic rules that apply whenever someone invites you to their home or to their event. In the realm of Haitian parties, I say, go back to the basics of what your mama taught you at home, and all will be fine.
RSVP…and don’t bring the neighborhood
Let the person know you plan on attending their function. This helps the host prepare in terms of food, seating and other party amenities. This is why it is also important that when someone invites you to a party, you don’t drag the whole neighborhood with you. If you plan on attending with a guest or two, ask the host for permission prior to the event. A good time to do this is when you call to RSVP. I will often see someone on the way to someone’s party actually “pick up” additional guests as they go along. They’ll call up a friend and simply say hey, “lets go”. Unless you are very close with the party thrower and know their party culture, never just bring someone to a party without prior permission.
It is always nice to not show up to a party empty handed. Whether it’s a gift for a child that lives in the house, a bottle of wine, dessert, or flowers for the house: it’s the thought that counts. If someone took the time to invite you to their home or event, it does not hurt to take the time to show them a nice gesture.
Be on Time
This may seem like a strange concept, a party that’s supposed to start at 8pm, really should start at 8pm. This may seem even stranger, but yeah, guests are supposed to start arriving around the start time. So if a party starts at 8pm and goes until 12am, you should probably be arriving no later than 9pm (unless you already informed the host you would be late).
Don’t Ask for Papier Aluminum
In my opinion, this is the ultimate worst habit we have, and every time I think we have snapped out of it, I realize it is only wishful thinking on my part. If someone invites you to a party, you should not be asking for aluminum foil to take food home. It is bad etiquette and just plain tacky. The only time you do this, is if the host of the party has extended the offer, and even then, you should politely refuse. If the host insists, then of course, don’t be rude and take it. But I am sure many of you have witnessed this scene: A party guest rummaging through someone’s drawers and cupboards looking for a container to take food home. Recently I was catering a dinner party of 10, and after one of the guests was halfway through her meal, she came into the kitchen asked if someone could find her a container to put the remainder of her food. The young lady hosting the party was so upset by the situation and simply said, no, she had no containers. Even I was embarrassed for her. You go to a party to enjoy the atmosphere at that particular moment. If you enjoy a meal tremendously, show appreciation by asking for the recipe. Don’t try to take remnants of your fun with you in your purse encased in Reynolds Foil.
This would seem logical, but the various fights that break out toward the end of parties indicate otherwise. Drinking is a social activity. When done in moderation and in good taste, it is fun and can be a bit liberating. But as with everything in life, too much of a good thing is never good. So it is best to stay away from having too much to drink. We all have a threshold. It is important to know when to stop yourself from going over to that side known as drunkenness. Le yon mounn sou nan fet li pa bel. You tend to say things you don’t want to say (at least not out loud), and do things you otherwise would think twice about. So to avoid making a fool of yourself or disrupting someone’s event, stay sober.
In trying to be a good party guest, the number one rule I say is to be considerate. If you are considerate and think of the things that will make the evening enjoyable for your host, yourself and other guests, you will naturally steer away from the pitfalls of being considered the tacky guest or the party guest from hell.