- Bring a gift. It is always appreciated when you bring something for the host or hostess. Check out my extensive post with guidelines of the best hostess gifts.
- Be helpful. When you arrive it is always good to offer a helping hand to your host. Ask if he or she would like assistance passing out hors d'oeuvres or taking other guests' coats.
- But get out of the way! Your host is likely to be slightly overwhelmed so be sure to asses what he needs and then move on to talk to other guests; you don't want to be underfoot while he is working.
- Socialize. If it is an intimate gathering and you know everyone this should be easy enough. However, if you do not know many other guests make an effort to introduce yourself and learn a little about them. Asking how they know the host, where they went to school, where they are from, what they last read, etc. can help get you started.
- Eat properly. It is important to keep in mind your table manners. I know with all of that delicious food it may be hard to remember yourself, but do your best!
- Know when to depart. This is an art that is somewhat difficult but must be mastered. You do not want to be the last remaining nor do you want to leave too early. If the host has put an end time on the invitation, then this is a straightforward indication of when you should begin to gather yourself. If there isn't a specific end time look to signals from your hostess such as if she remarks on the time or begins to clear the table.
- Send a thank you note. There is nothing better then receiving a thank you note after working hard to host a party. Show your appreciation and drop a note in the mail the next day.
P.S. After I wrote this post I decided to check out what the Emily Post Institute had to say on the subject and I was delighted to see that the first three points above were nearly identical! Nothing is better than realizing that you think the same as the amazing etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute.