Barbeque Etiquette


A summer barbecue is one of life's simple pleasures; it is one of the most relaxed functions you can attend. It provides a great excuse to get family and friends together. In addition to showcasing your fresh, seasonal food, it allows us to enjoy the great outdoors, soak up the sun and try out all of our new summer drink recipes. And there is something about barbecuing that makes
everything taste better.

If barbeque etiquette sounds like an oxymoron, it isn’t.
There are indeed rules for properly conducting yourself as a host and as a guest. Just because these festive events are generally held outdoors and are casual in nature does not mean anything goes. There are rules to observe.

If you are the host:

  • Invitations. An afternoon barbecue is not as formal as a wedding or sit-down dinner. When crafting your guest list and invitation, write it to reflect that it is a casualevent. Include the usual invitation details such as where and when the gathering will be held. At the end of the invitation ask for an RSVP by email or phone so you can get a count of people attending.
  • Be prepared. Once you have an idea of how many are coming you need to plan for the BBQ. Make sure that your grill is clean and functioning and that you have clean and adequate seating, plates and utensils for
    all that you have invited.


  • Provide all the food and beverage. Unless you are hosting a family reunion or the traditional
    neighborhood party, don’t ask people to bring food. If people insist on bringing food, you’ll want to coordinate so that you don’t wind up with too much of the same thing.


  • Sun and bugs. Be sure to provide protection from both. People don’t need to be worrying about
    protecting themselves from either. Make sure that you have ample shade provided and that you have citronella candles. I don’t think we have to worry
    too much about bad weather in the Inland Valley just that it may get too HOT. If you see people are wilting, have a plan to cool them off. Bring them indoors, offer a splash in a pool, and provide fans or cool drinks.


  • I like to purchase bug spray and sunscreens and place them in a fun summer basket with a container of   premoistened wipes for their hands and let my guests know that it is available if needed.


  • Socialize. Make sure that you speak with everyone at your BBQ. Be sure to thank them for coming and ask a
    specific question or two about them.  Also be sure to let them know how much you appreciate that they are
    there. The quickest way to end a party is to begin cleaning up while the guests are there. Most guests will see that you are cleaning and take that as a sign that the BBQ is over and that it is time to leave. So if you do not want your guests to leave do not begin cleaning until after they have all departed.


  • Clean up. Have covered receptacles (keep away the bugs) placed around for people to throw out their used plates and cups. Do not start tiding up unless you want your guests to leave. See above.


If you are the guest:

  • Invitations.
    If you have received an invitation with a RSVP. That means the host would like to know whether or not you will be attending the party. Let me explain that again. When you receive an invitation with an RSVP.

You do the following:

  1. Decide if you will be attending. Do this as soon as you receive the invitation.
  2. Contact the host. Either call if there is a phone number. Email if there is an email address or write if there is a home address.
  3. Let them know right away, as soon as you know, not the day of or the day before.
  4. “Yes, I will be coming or No, thank you I cannot attend”.  
  5. That is it, it is that simple. I am reminded of a very
    funny note I once read that said. “If you are not planning on responding to my RSVP, then please plan on bringing a chair and a sandwich”.


  • Show up on time. Not only is it rude to show up late but you might miss out on any appetizers being served. Don't arrive early either. This may surprise the
    host who may be making last minute preparations.


  • Keep your grilling advice to yourself. Don’t be
    a backseat BBQ’er.
    Your host is in charge of the grill. You may have what you consider is a better way of
    doing of things, but unless you see that the host is about to set the place on fire, keep your mouth closed. Open it only for conversation and food.


  • Don’t bring extra people. Unless you consult with the host first, many days in advance.


  • Don’t bring your special Rhubarb Pie. Unless you are asked to bring a dish, don’t. It would be an insult to your host. What if you have special dietary needs?


  •   If the host is a good friend then by all means ask if you can cover the vegetarians by offering to bring your black bean burgers. If the host is not a good friend then just eat before you go and plan on eating afterwards.


  • Do Bring a Hostess gift. It would be a nice gesture to bring a hostess gift, and really a must. A bottle of good wine, a plant, a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers all make nice hostess gifts. It shows the hosts that you appreciate all of the effort that went into entertaining you.
  • Mingle. Don’t spend all your time with one person or just those you are comfortable with. This is a great
    time expand your circle of friends, they are already prescreened and you already have something in common with all of them. You all know the hosts. Start your conversation with “How do you know the hosts?” That will open up all possible conversation starters. Another great conversation starter is “What book are you reading now?”
    Keep the conversation light. Be a good listener and don't bring your problems into
  • Volunteer to help. These events can get hectic and some moments can get overwhelming so offer your assistance in case it is needed.


  • Alcohol. Don't drink too much alcohol. Drink responsibly and act appropriately, especially if
    you want to be invited back for future barbecue parties. Don't be that person everyone is still talking about long after the BBQ is over.
  • Use your napkin to clean off your sticky fingers. Tempting as it may be to lick your fingers, it is simply not good manners. Neither is using your finger nail
    or toothpick to pick the corn out from between your teeth. Be sure to have dental floss on hand, but excuse yourself to use it.
  • Children. Be sure to prep them before hand on your expectations. Let them know what they can expect as
    well as what behavior you want from them, if need be you can offer them a reward for proper behavior at the BBQ. Keep an eye on your children and don't let them run wild. If the host did not plan activities or games, bring your own activities for your children.
    This will help to keep them occupied and from running wild. You could bring coloring books, squirt guns and board games. If there is a pool it is your responsibility
    to keep both of your eyes on your children while in the pool. Do not rely on others for the safety of your



  • Clean up after yourself. If you're one of the last guests to leave, offer to help the host clean up.


  • Be a gracious guest and thank the host before you leave. Also drop a thank you card in the mail
    a day or two after the BBQ. If you had an especially enjoyable time sending a thank you gift basket would be a nice gesture too. Gracious guests are more
    likely to be invited back to the next BBQ party.


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"Manners are a sensitive awareness of others.  if you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."

-Emily Post

American author on etiquette

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