By Heather Wiese-Alexander | Photography by Danielle Sabol
It’s the holidays, which inevitably means guests. And if you are anything like us, after a week full of drama and argument avoidance you are ready for some much needed time to yourself. Which is all good and fine if you could just get said guests to actually LEAVE. Good news, our resident etiquette and entertaining expert, Heather Wiese-Alexander of invitation destination bell’INVITO, has got the 411 on how to deal.
“As someone who entertains quite a bit, this can be a tricky issue for guests and hosts alike. How to politely tell guests to leave feels at first like it could be anything but polite. It doesn’t have to feel awkward or impolite. First, consider it a compliment when your guests want to stay. You have done an outstanding job making people feel welcome—they want more time with you and they want the party to go on! Kudos to you. Now, you’re likely either exhausted and want to fall into bed or you need to move on to other obligations. Let’s get you there—pronto. Follow these 5 progressive steps and you’ll literally be good to go (sans-lingerers). Lord have mercy on the guests who don’t get it until you reach number five.
- It’s a wrap! If it’s day time and you need to get elsewhere, this is great. You have somewhere to be. You need to lock-up and exit your current location. That can be done, no problem. Have a plan. If you don’t really have somewhere to be and you’re worried you’ll be caught lying—don’t lie! You can have an obligation with a set time even if the commitment is taking yourself out for a celebratory green juice! If it’s a nighttime affair and at your house, you might feel a bit more stuck. In this case, yawn, stretch and let guests know you are ready to wrap up. There is no harm in that and most guests will get it, gather up and get going.
- Still there? Time to mean it. Turn up the lights and turn off the music. These two things are the universal sign for “Get out” in any public establishment. This will definitely have a subliminal effect, if not a very obvious one. You are still the ever-pleasant host while flipping on switches and finding the music remote. Also, put alcohol away. This also signals guests to wrap up the conversation and move on out.
- Still a clueless few? Grab a trash bag. Time to clean up literally and figuratively. This is how it’s done. If they are helping and you prefer to not have the help, hand them the trash bag and say, “Thank you so much! All I want to do tonight is get these few things out in the trash. I want to do the rest tomorrow.” Assign them this one small task and let them do it. In the meantime, locate their things if need be. Once their hands are free of the trash bag, with body language and some smooth small-talk, head toward the coat room or front door while thanking them for their help. They will probably ask if they can do more. Simply say thanks, and no. You’ve got it covered tomorrow. Scenario two, they aren’t there to help, they simply haven’t gotten the hint to move their now private sub-party elsewhere. Time to politely interject yourself (it is your party). Hand them a trash bag and say, “So glad you guys are still here! I just want to get these few things out in the trash. Can you put that in there and take it to the trash there?” Ask with an implied “of course you will” tone and be specific about what to pick up and exactly where to put the collected trash. You’ve now got their attention and you also have them moving. No need to be rude—truly appreciate the help! Same ending as scenario one. Intercept them at the end of their assignment and be ready to politely walk them right out the door. Smiles. Hugs. Bye now. Maybe cocktails nest week!
- They’re still there?! The trash is out. The lights are on. The music is off and the booze has stopped flowing. If your guest(s) still have not evacuated, I have a very important question for you—are they sober? While this is something you should know for every guest leaving your party (you can be held legally liable if you served the alcohol), best guess at this point is that judgment is impaired, even if just a little. Time to offer to call a cab or help them call their own Uber. Uber user beware if you’re new to using the app. Your app is tied to your personal payment method and you personally are given a rating by the driver that affects future fares and availability. You might not want to use your own app for your not-so-sober friend. Better to help them use their app on their own phone.
- You’re kidding. Really? If any unfortunate souls remain, they are about to wish they had left. This isn’t a license to be impolite—after all, we are focused on how to politely tell guests to leave. It is time, however, to be direct. Use these words, “It’s time for you to leave.” Say it nicely. Be coy if that feels better, but be direct. Add a dramatic, “My darlings! Ahead of your super-direct delivery—whatever you’re comfortable with. Don’t change the wording to make it a suggestion. It is time to tell guests that the party is over. Get them a cab. Hand them their keys (if they should be driving). Hand them their things with a big smile. Hug if that’s your thing. Now scoot them outside the door and *click* that lock. You’ve got this. And now, you’ve also got your freedom. Enjoy it!”
— Heather Wiese-Alexander