We asked a Southern etiquette expert to teach us the dos and don'ts.

By Diane Gottsman
July 17, 2018
Southern Living Mistakes When Hosting Houseguests
Credit: Courtesy Getty Images

From short weekend trips to extended stays over the holidays, Southerners do a lot of visiting friends and family…and a whole lot of hosting. It's no surprise, then, that delicate matters of etiquette often arise, from dress codes to household chores. Eager to please as guests and determined to succeed as hosts, many of our hospitable readers shared their dilemmas with us in our Facebook group, There's No Excuse for Bad Manners. We handed your most complicated queries over to Diane Gottsman, the founder of the Protocol School of Texas. Read her expert advice below and visit our Facebook group to ask any questions that aren't covered here.

When hosting extended family members in your home for a week or longer, is it appropriate to continue normal chores around the house?

As a gracious host, it's your job to make your guests feel welcome. That includes some thought and planning before and during their stay. You will no doubt put quite a bit of effort into making your home a welcome place to entertain your guests.

A thoughtful guest has certain responsibilities, as well. Anytime you are a guest at someone's home, for any period of time, always offer to "pitch in." That includes picking up wet towels off the floor, making your bed each morning and either taking the host and family out for dinner or offering to prep or cook an occasional meal.

Thoughtfulness and respect for one another is the root of a pleasant and memorable stay.

When planning a party with friends, is it appropriate to request a specific dress code?

You may certainly ask people to dress a little fancy if it's a special affair. On the other hand, if you want to keep it casual, that's perfectly fine as well. The role of the hostess is to make her guests comfortable, so whatever you decide to do, let people know of your expectations in advance so they will be prepared. As long as your dress expectations are not unreasonable, your guest will be more than happy to oblige.

When staying as a guest in someone's home, how should I leave the bedroom? Is it more appropriate to make the bed or strip the sheets and fold them neatly on the bed?

Being concerned about leaving the guest room tidy is very kind and you are certainly a gracious guest! Some hosts prefer you make the bed and others may appreciate you stripping the sheets from the bed. Ask your host which he or she prefers and then follow their request. If they say "just leave the bed alone," at least make the bed and fluff the pillows, leaving it in the same condition as you found it. They may prefer to do it themselves but it's polite to make your bed before you leave.

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