Even the most carefree parties demand guests and hosts alike meet certain expectations. The host must plan and organize the party, and then attend to the assembled party-goers. Guests, too, need to rise to the occasion, with the Party Animal toning it down at a reserved affair, the Show-Off yielding the spotlight, and the Shrinking Violet making an effort to blossom.

Six Ways to Be a Good Host

No matter the type of party you’re throwing, here are some things a host should consider, even before the party starts:

1) Invite clearly. Include necessary information for your guests in the invitation: the date, the time, the place, the occasion, the host(s) and when and how to respond “yes” or “no.” Add any special information such as what to wear or what to bring, say, for a pot-luck.

2) Plan well. Take care creating your guest list. A great group of people will make any party a success, even if it rains on the picnic or the food is a flop. Get everything ready—your meal prepped, the table set, your party space tidy, refreshments ready—well before your guests arrive, so you’ll feel relaxed from the very beginning.

3) Be welcoming and attentive. Make sure guests are greeted warmly, then made to feel welcome throughout the party. Look after each guest as much as you can. If you notice a guest with an empty glass or if there’s one person standing alone, take action and remedy the situation.

4) Be flexible and gracious. Your soufflé falls. Or one friend arrives with an unexpected guest. The ruined dessert? Have a fallback. The uninvited guest? As discourteous as it is for someone to spring a surprise on you, be gracious. No polite host would ever send an uninvited guest packing.

5) Be the leader and the spark. It’s your job to run the show and let your guests know when it’s time for dinner, or dessert, or charades. Circulate among your guests, introduce newcomers, and stay with a each group long enough to get a conversation going.

6) Be appreciative. Thank people for coming as you bid them good-bye. And don’t forget to thank anyone who brought you a gift.

Six Ways to Be a Good Guest

Good guests really shine and are welcome additions to any gathering. Here’s how:

1) Tell your host whether you’re attending. And do it immediately. If you delay your reply, you could hinder the host’s planning and also make it seem as if you’re waiting for something better to come along. Even if no RSVP has been requested, it’s thoughtful to thank your host for the invitation and let him know if you can be there or not.

2) Be on time. Punctuality means different things to people in different locales. In general guests should arrive at or shortly after (fifteen minutes or less) the time stated on the invitation. Do not, however, arrive early. If you will be seriously late, call your host with an ETA so she won’t worry.

3) Be a willing participant. When your host says that it’s time for dinner, go straight to the table. If you’re asked to participate in a party game or view Susie’s graduation pictures, accept graciously and enthusiastically no matter how you really feel.

4) Offer to help when you can. If you’re visiting with the host in the kitchen as he prepares the food, be specific when you offer to help: “I’d be happy to prep the salad or fill the water glasses.” Even if your offer is refused, your gesture will be appreciated. When the party’s end draws nigh, you could also offer to help with the cleanup.

5) Don’t overindulge. Attacking finger foods as if you haven’t eaten in a week will not only attract the wrong kind of attention, it will also leave less food for other guests. Same goes for the pinot noir. Moderation is the name of the game.

6) Thank your host twice. Always thank your hosts enthusiastically when you say your good-byes. A second thank you by phone the day after the party is also a gracious gesture. If the party was formal or given in your honor, written thanks are in order. In fact, a written note is always appreciated—even after casual parties.