15 Summer BBQ Etiquette Mistakes
Sure, barbecues are casual—but you shouldn't forget your manners!
Believe it or not, there is a right way and a wrong way to behave at a summer barbecue. For instance, drinking so much beer that you say something super personal to someone you’ve just met is a no-no. And filling your plate with two pounds of potato salad before other people have even had a chance to eat? Yeah, that’s also very much frowned upon. Herein, discover what experts say are some of the biggest BBQ etiquette mistakes to avoid if you want to get invited back next summer.
Bringing extra guests without asking first
Most people buy a specific amount of party supplies based on the number of confirmed attendees on their guest list. Therefore, if you show up to a BBQ with even just one extra person who wasn’t invited, you are imposing on your generous host and putting them in an awkward position. While it might not be your uninvited plus-one who pushes things over the edge, imagine what chaos there would be if everyone brought an uninvited plus-one.
Andrea Fowler, editor of the party planning site The Bash, suggests that hosts and hostesses “send out a real invitation rather than a casual alternative like a Facebook event” in order to avoid this. “The RSVP wording is your opportunity to make a clear point about guest list flexibility—or lack thereof,” she says.
Not RSVPing ASAP
Make sure to “RSVP immediately upon receipt of [an] invite,” says Karen Thomas, a certified etiquette educator and author of Poised Polished Professional: The Experts’ Guide to Executive Presence. The sooner you respond, the more time your host or hostess has to properly prepare for the day’s festivities.
Bringing up controversial topics
Politics. Religion. Finances. These are just some of the controversial topics that you should never, ever bring up in conversation at a casual backyard gathering—unless you want to stir up trouble, that is. For an enjoyable afternoon, stick to more mild topics like popular TV shows and recent travel experiences.
Showing up empty-handed
You don’t have to bake a homemade pie or even prepare a salad from scratch every time you attend a barbecue. However, you should “bring a hostess gift if not a dish,” says Thomas. Showing up to an event empty-handed is never the polite thing to do.
Taking extra servings of food before everyone else has had a chance to eat
“For communal food items, only take enough for your first portion so there’s enough for everyone to enjoy,” says Myka Meier, founder of Beaumont Etiquette. The last thing you want is to be known as the potato salad hog for the rest of the season!
Not greeting guests
Naturally hosting a party requires quite a bit of multitasking and moving around. However, as a host or hostess, it’s your responsibility to make sure that each and every one of your guests feels properly welcomed. And once the food is out and everyone has what they need, “make yourself available to mingle,” says Thomas. “Don’t be invisible the entire time.”
Ignoring guests you’ve never met
And the same goes for guests too. “Mingle with others even if you don’t know them,” says Thomas. Sure, this might be awkward at first, but sitting by yourself in a corner will only make you look rude and standoffish. Plus, you never know—you might just end up making a new friend!
At a casual barbecue, “getting intoxicated” is one of the biggest etiquette mistakes you can make, says Thomas. Make sure to pace yourself throughout the party and, if you start to feel dizzy or woozy, swap out your beer for a cold glass of water before you make a fool of yourself.
Cursing like a sailor
When you’re attending a backyard barbecue, try to be cognizant of how much you curse. According to Thomas, using an excessive amount of curse words—especially in front of young children—is one of the worst things you can do from an etiquette perspective.
Not letting the host/hostess know about your dietary restrictions ahead of time
Don’t just assume that your host is going to be able to accommodate your vegan diet or allergies. Rather, “if you have dietary restrictions, let your host know in plenty of time ahead of the date,” says Meier. The earlier you let the party-giver know, the more grateful they’ll be.
Licking your fingers
Unless you are a child who doesn’t know any better, Meier says that guests should always “avoid licking their fingers.” Though you might think that this is a compliment—signaling to the host that their food is so good that you don’t want to waste a single morsel—it’s actually the last thing people want to see or hear when they’re eating.
Neglecting to use your napkin
Whether you’re at a fancy steakhouse or a fast food restaurant, it’s never appropriate to go through a meal with food on your face or to wipe your hands on your pants instead of on your napkin. “Just because it’s an informal setting doesn’t mean that guests shouldn’t use their napkins,” says Meier.
Shoving your entire hamburger into your mouth all at once
“Hamburgers should be cut in half before eating,” says Meier. Otherwise, you risk getting ketchup and mustard all over your clothes or even soliciting stares as you attempt to shove a too-big burger into your too-small mouth.
Overstaying your welcome
Every party has to come to an end eventually. If you notice everyone else starting to head out or see the party host “easing into the clean-up process,” you should take that as your cue to say your goodbyes, according to Fowler.
Not offering to help clean up
At the end of a barbecue, “offer to help clean up,” suggests Meier. After a host or hostess goes through all the trouble of setting up for a party and slaving away in the kitchen, the least you can do is spare a few minutes to help with the dishes. And to make the process go faster, here are 30 Amazing Cleaning Hacks You’ll Wish You Knew Sooner.
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