How to End a Dinner Party with Style and Grace

Can you believe how quickly the holidays arrived this year? And now that Christmas is over, we get to look forward to New Year’s Eve and Day!

When it comes to a party, I wonder how many of us worry about it going on too long, what’s the etiquette way of ending a party (when you’re exhausted and ready for your guests to leave), and how do you do it all with class?

I mean, how do you send your guests out the door in a time frame that works for you?

Is it ok to end a party when your guests are having a good time?

A couple of readers asked me these questions:

Sandy, I want to know how you were able to wrap things up and encourage guests to leave graciously. This is sometimes a problem for me, although a good problem, as it means that people are still having a good time!

And …

How did you “wrap things up”? We had a family over for an impromptu casual dinner not too long ago and they stayed until 11:00 (on a school night too)! We even started putting the kids to bed and that didn’t work…

What’s worked for my family and me for many years is simple. Because we’ve all had guests or family members who won’t leave, we don’t want to feel “caught” or “stuck” and let our graciousness fly out the door.

So I’ve come up with these tips to help “wrap up the party” – with grace and style!

-When you’re holding a party, think ahead to the time when you’d like the party to end.

-Be flexible – don’t be married to that time, because you may be having such a good time extending out the party.

-If you have to be done by a certain time – let your guests know ahead of time. Most guests would be sensitive to the host’s needs.

-After the last course is served, and conversation is winding down, stand up and head into the kitchen (you can even start on the dishes).

-If the night is getting later than you had planned – go put your slippers on!

-Feel free to explain that you have to get up early – start moving toward the door.

Obviously, the sign of a great party is when the guests don’t want to leave.

When I think about all of the entertaining we’ve done, I can hardly think of a time when our guests weren’t sensitive to our family’s needs if we needed to wind it down by a certain time.

And my husband’s quick-witted humor always comes out as our friends leave, when he says, “Come back when you can’t stay as long!” (It’s our family joke.)

With New Year’s right around the corner, when we’re “given to hospitality,” enjoying the spirit of the holidays with friends and family, let’s not be so quick to get to the next event, or fall into bed exhausted from cramming too much in to our schedules, that we lose our grace.

Being sensitive, but keeping our style and our grace as we open our homes and extend hospitality to others, is a good thing to keep in mind.

What are your tips for gracious ways of ending a party?

11 comments on “How to End a Dinner Party with Style and Grace”

  1. Pingback: Wise Advice for Your Biggest Hospitality Fears

  2. My grandfather, when he decided his guests had stayed long enough, would exclaim “My, is that the time?” and would unsubtley start to wind up the cloak and put the fireguard on the fire. The visitors soon got the hint!

  3. Hmmm…very true. I’m a night owl, so there usually isn’t such a thing as “too late” for me, but there have been times when we’ve needed to wrap things up, and didn’t know how. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Terrific post and this has been a great series! Your tips on helping guests realize it’s time are terrific. I’ve actually done all of these. We have two friends – that we love dearly – that do not have the social skills needed to recognize the signs. We, literally, have to tell them it’s time to go home…..staying 8 hours at a dinner party is a wee bit long!

  5. What do I do with my husband, who never wants to leave a party?!? We were the very last people to leave our wedding too :) At home, I usually just start doing the dishes at some point and that gives folks a little hint that things are winding down.

  6. Thanks for the tips, Sandy. My problem is my daughters in-laws. They are NEVER on time, ever! Yesterday we asked everyone to come at 2 so we could ahve snacks and open presents then eat around 4:40. They never arrived til 3:30 ans never have an explanation either. PLUS they were bringing a snack, and it was to go in the oven but dinner was already in there so we couldn’t have their snack! I have no idea how to overcome ths problem. It is frustrating to say the least. Hope you had a WONDERFUL Christmas. I follow every post but only comment sporadically. XO, Pinky

  7. i hear what you’re saying! we usually start talking about what people have on the next day at work, and voila – they remember they need to go home!

  8. I start yawning. LOL! Just kidding. If I’m hosting something, I really try to do it on a day when we don’t have to get up early the next morning, that way the party can run it’s course.

  9. My ex-husband would just get up and go to bed. Back in those days it didn’t make any difference to the party, it just kept on going!

    Nowadays as we get older and so do our guests, I usually send out an invitation with an end time. That usually sets the tone for the dinner to end at a certain time. Honestly though it’s not usually a problem – if I start clearing up, start talking about what needs to be done tomorrow and ask them how long their drive home will be, my guests will usually get the signals.

  10. Lol Sandy your husband sounds like ine, who says, “if I didn’t live here I’d go home so the people who did could go to bed!”

  11. Great post Sandy! I think we’ve all been there…. and when it does, it makes us think twice about hosting again. Sometimes I’m sure people are being rude… but I think more often than not, when folks stay that late it’s because they REALLY enjoy being in your home and the feeling there. So many families around us are broken or hurting. I’ve recently been reminded of that and it makes me want to open our doors more often. Thanks for the great tips here! Have a wonderful start to the week Sandy!!!

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