How to kick guests out at a reasonable time?
October 14, 2008 6:52 AM   Subscribe

I love entertaining at home, but I also love going to bed. How do I encourage my guests to leave at a reasonable time?

With the holiday season coming up, I'd love to throw a couple of parties for Xmas & New Year. We have a great apartment, with an amazing view, which is awesome for entertaining, and I love having people over. The problem is, after midnight I really struggle, and I like to go to bed at a reasonable time.

I've had a couple of (small, intimate) parties where I just couldn't get people to leave until after 3. Even the heaviest hints didn't work, and I'm too polite to say "HEY. I NEED TO SLEEP NOW, GOODBYE!"

I've tried yawning. Cleaning up the dishes. Turning the lights up etc., but some people just don't get it. I dread the end to the evening now.

Does anyone have any good suggestions so I can enjoy hosting my friends this xmas?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I just check out. It's weird the first time but gets more and more endearing. I hope.
posted by jon_kill at 6:54 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Can you let one close friend know your preference? A lot of times, at a party when one person gets up to leave (maybe with a "it's really late" cue), the rest will follow.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:57 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

One thing you can do is start the party earlier. I get the impression most people will naturally spend a certain amount of time at a party (three hours, five, whatever). If you start at seven, perhaps most people will drift away by midnight.

If you feed them substantial food, that will act as a bit of a soporific.

Finally, I think it's fine to say "Not to be rude, but I've got to kick you out now."
posted by adamrice at 7:04 AM on October 14, 2008

I have both had this problem and been someone at a party where it was clear the hosts had this problem. I think the best solution involves having a few people whose job it is to help you with this. Here are some things you can maybe do.

1. go to bed and leave your SO to handle the rest of the guests. People don't get the message? Fine, but the music goes down and the party becomes much less party-like
2. have a few friends whose job it is to be like "Oh it's 11, who wants to help me with the dishes?" At many parties the "lights up, music down" cue is a good one to start heading for the door
3. If you have a sense of humor start playing the Star Spangled Banner loudly at midnight.
4. Have your invitations have an ending time. If a party invitation says 8-11, it's more clear that it's not in any way intended to go to three am. That said, if you go this route, try to really wrap things up then otherwise all future ending times will be seen as optional.
5. If you're too polite, is your SO also too polite to kick people out? Do they agree with you that the party should wrap up at a decent hour? Just checking to make sure this is you+them versus a few guests and not you vs your So.
6. Run out of beer/coffee/snacks. Don't open the next bottle of wine after 11 or whatever.
7. if you have one or two chronic offender friends, have a nice talk with them beforehand about how they could be a big help by heading out early
8. if you need excuses, plan some thing the next morning. Invite your other late-night party friends
9. Presume anyone staying past midnight is sleeping over "Hey friend, can I make up the couch for you?"

New Year is a real trick though because people will either assume they're at the pre-party [in which case they clear out at 9 or 10] or at the NYE event in which case they plan to stay past midnight. I'm not sure what your schedule for this event is but that's an easy one to set expectations for but you also have to sort of get inside people's heads and figure out what sort of party they think they're at.

At some level, people do the bext they can and if your friends aren't total ignoramuses, they'll catch on. If they're wonderful people otherwise but don't pick up on social cues like that, someone will have to tell them "Okay now is the time in the evening where people go home" and if they're good friends and you and your SO are both on message about this, it shoudl be no real problem. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 7:06 AM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Stand up and say "This has been a lot of fun, I look forward to the next time I can have you all over." If anyone doesn't get it, yawn and say "I've got to head to bed, I've got a big day tomorrow."
posted by arcticwoman at 7:06 AM on October 14, 2008

Yeah, I think telling one or two guests beforehand that you'd prefer the party really end around 11 (or whatever would be thirty minutes before a reasonable time for you.) You could even feed them with, "Oh anonymous, we know how much you love your sleep, we better get going." There's something about getting the first few to leave that seems to create a cascade of departures.

Of course, you could entertain over brunch.
posted by advicepig at 7:12 AM on October 14, 2008

Two-phase evening?

(I'm assuming that "small, intimate" party means "dinner party" in this answer.)

When you're planning your dinner party, suggest in the first communications (not on the night!) that after dinner, your friends go clubbing / barhopping / foul-mouthed late-night comedy / crowd-surfing or whatever after dinner. Let them decide what phase 2 is. Get one friend who's most up for whatever the second phase is to be the one to yell "LET'S GO!" at 11.30pm and lead them out. You get to host the party, and they get to continue expending their feel-good social party-energy well into the night without disturbing you.

(This also works even if you didn't want to turn in early, but don't want the evening petering out into doziness. You invite everyone to a dinner party at yours to be followed by (let's say) dancing to "techno-pop". You've served coffee etc by 11.30pm and then at the designated time you yell "LET'S GO!" and troop on out.)
posted by laumry at 7:15 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

The way I handle it is like this: Before the point you want the party to end, mention to everyone that you are tired, have to get up early, etc. and at the same time offer a last round of drinks/snacks. Basically have your own last call for the same reason that bars do.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:18 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Definitely state starting and ending times on your invites. Yawn and make jokes. "A minute past midnight and I turn into a pumpkin."
posted by Fairchild at 7:19 AM on October 14, 2008

My wife puts on her pajamas, wishes everyone a good night then goes to bed. I then either sweep them out the door, or the last stragglers settle in for a much quieter nightcap. Either way, she gets the sleep she needs. Our regular friends are used to this by now :o)
posted by arcticseal at 7:19 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"I have to go fall over. Who's going to be in charge of turning everything off and locking the door?"
posted by mandal at 7:23 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Start cleaning about 45 minutes before you want to go to bed and ask people to help you. In my experience, one or two people will stay to help (which is good, because then you don't have to clean the next day!) and the rest of them will run far, far away.

Also, please do stop serving alcohol a good two hours or so before you want people to leave. Part of hosting a party responsibly is letting people stay until they're sober enough to drive, even if you just let them sleep on the couch.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:29 AM on October 14, 2008

In the few times I've had to do that, I do it with a kind of faux rudeness. I start with a "las call" announcement about 30 minutes ahead, with a warning that everyone will be kicked out, "with or without your clothes on," or something similarly goofy. Then, when the time comes, "Hey, thanks everyone, I love you all but how can I miss you if you don't go away." Then just start handing people there things. Do this all with a smile, and with insistence, and it should be fine. But... what works for my personality may not work for yours, so adjust accordingly.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:30 AM on October 14, 2008

I'm not sure why this is so difficult. Just say, "I'm so sorry to be a killjoy, but I have to close up shop now and get to bed. But this has been a blast!" Would you think this was rude if someone said it to you?

I have a friend who throws regular parties. She does this. At a certain point she straightforwardly and politely kicks everyone out. Yet people continue to go to her parties and enjoy themselves.

I'm not one of those people who advocates directness in all social interactions, but this one doesn't call for sidling around the issue.
posted by grumblebee at 7:49 AM on October 14, 2008

Of course, you could entertain over brunch.

I was just coming in to say something similar; I find that the earlier I start the more likely it is for things to wind down early.

Last year I had an open-house thing, clearly stating that the "house" was "open" only from noon to 8 pm. People came and went as they pleased, and the stragglers only stayed until about 9. Last month I had a smaller tapas dinner party, and I started at 5 and things wound down at about 10. In February I'm going with a brunch, starting at about 11.

Unless you have an amazingly entertaining party, people usually end up staying only a few hours before tuckering out themselves, so the earlier you start, the earlier they clear out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on October 14, 2008

Yeah, the real problem here is that you think it's impolite to make it clear the party is over. There's plenty of ways to do that, many already mentioned.

"OK Folks, this has been a blast, I've got to start wrapping things up now". And then....actually wrap things up. Start doing the dishes, get people's coats, etc. Nothing impolite about that. Actually I suspect the problem more accurately stated is that you have a hard time being assertive ( a common enough problem). This is a good occasion to practice that assertiveness, which will benefit you in many other situations, not just clearing out the house at the end of the night.

And it's a good idea, I think, to put both a start and ending time on an invitation. If we're having several people over for dinner, I put something like "6:00 - 10:00. (dinner served at 7:00)" on the invitations.
posted by the bricabrac man at 8:03 AM on October 14, 2008

I use the mandal method and it's always worked for me. When I'm tired, I just say, well, I'm going to bed! Who's going to lock up for me? And then off I go. It's kind of weird to crash out at your own party, yes, but it's kind of fun, too. And sometimes if you do this your guests will clean up the whole house before they leave.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:19 AM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I do a lot of entertaining. I think its completely appropriate to let people know when you invite them what time you would like things to wind up.

of course I am also famous for crawling off to my own bed (or someone else's when I am out) and conking out when I am ready for bed. guests never seem to mind, they think its cute.
posted by supermedusa at 8:36 AM on October 14, 2008

I would die of embarassment as a guest if my hosts put on their pyjamas or started handing me my belongings because it would mean I had clearly missed many more obvious cues.
As most others say the normal way of doing it is "Listen guys, I love yas, but I am going to have to call it a night". It's not strange, it's not rude.
posted by Iteki at 8:44 AM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

I use the mandal method too on the rare occasion that I'm tired before everyone else. That and bringing down the duvets & pillows for the ones who need to stay.
posted by Wilder at 8:55 AM on October 14, 2008

a professor friend has the crash out method down to an art. He leaves the room, comes back in a robe with toothbrush and says "Goodnight! lock up when you leave."

I just announce, after coffee or liquor, "Okay, everyone out of my house."

Seems to work.
posted by The Whelk at 9:23 AM on October 14, 2008

My buddy used to take off his shoe and hand it to someone. They'd look all confused and then he'd say "I'm giving you the boot."

Worked like a charm.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:24 AM on October 14, 2008

The problem is that your parties are too much fun. All you have to do when you want people to leave is say when midnight rolls around that you're going to start a rousing game of scrabble or Axis and Allies, and your problems will be over.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:26 AM on October 14, 2008

I usually just fall asleep on the couch with my head in someone's lap and start snoring loudly (I can't help it!). Clearly, this isn't ideal, so I'm watching these replies with interest.
posted by booknerd at 9:29 AM on October 14, 2008

If you do decide to crash out, please let your guests know that's what you're doing rather than just disappearing into your bedroom sneakily. I think all of the approaches listed above are appropriate, and I've been in situations where they've been used or where I've used them. But I've got one friend who will just go to bed, without so much as a "good night," leaving everyone to wonder after a while, "Hey, where did so-and-so go? I haven't seen him in a while." Every time this has happened, fellow guests have expressed sentiments similar to mine, which is that his behavior is awfully rude. As long as you let your guests know what you're doing, you should be fine.
posted by vytae at 9:36 AM on October 14, 2008

Traditional hints: 1/2 hour before the time you want people to leave, collect empty glasses, and check in with guests to make sure they are sober enough to drive. Put away all food and beverage except coffee. Thank your friends for coming.

If they don't get the hints, announce that you have really enjoyed their company, but are tired, and need to get to bed. The polite part is that you keep thanking them for coming, hoping they'll come again, enjoyed their company. The other part is about how you need to get to bed now. After a couple of times, the group will figure out not t o stay so late at your house.
posted by theora55 at 10:23 AM on October 14, 2008

1. Start your parties earlier so people get tired by midnight/1am.

2. Stop serving drinks an hour before you want people to leave.

3. Before the party starts, designate a close friend or two and tell them you plan on just going to bed early, and ask them to lock the door/kick everyone out. This way you have a person responsible for doing all that, and, at the same time, if 1 or 2 people other than you know that you want people out, they'll help with getting everyone to wind down and get ready to leave.

posted by KateHasQuestions at 10:42 AM on October 14, 2008

This is why they have last call in bars.

Don't just write the times on the invite. Write the times, subtract 30 mins and write "Last call"
posted by filmgeek at 11:05 AM on October 14, 2008

Put an analog clock on the wall where most people will hang out. Draw a picture of said clock with the hands pointing to the time you want the party to end. Write "my bedtime" under the clock. Tape the picture up next to the wall clock.
posted by pmbuko at 12:00 PM on October 14, 2008

"Well, I'm going to bed now so that all these fine people can go home."
posted by Killick at 1:01 PM on October 14, 2008

Way back in the day, my husband jumped up during a gathering that had gone on for too long and said, "Ok everyone, get the fuck out of my house!" After everyone picked their jaw up off the floor, they burst out in laughter and left. 20 years later, it is still a running joke and used quite a bit. Only with close friends of course. Make it funny and you will be fine.
posted by pearlybob at 1:48 PM on October 14, 2008

Start cleaning up/doing the dishes. Mention you have to get up the next morning.

Another approach, and fun: host Sunday brunches. A couple we hang out with who loves to entertain in their beautiful cozy home was having your problem now that they have a baby, so they started doing things Sunday afternoon. It's fun...the sorts of activities people want to do, the food, and the mood are slightly different and novel. We drink bloody marys and play board games and eat exotic snacks together.
posted by ifjuly at 1:57 PM on October 14, 2008

I don't think telling people from the outset what time the party will end is impolite in any way. I recently had a birthday party on a weeknight and I had to wake up at 5 the next morning. I just told people something like Listen, I'm sorry but this party is going to have to end at 11 because I have to get up early in the morning. At 11 I just ended it. People were understanding and fine with it. I also let them know when I first invited them that it would be a relatively short party so they wouldn't be surprised or disappointed when I called it a night.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:53 PM on October 14, 2008

Please just make an announcement beforehand that the dinner party is going from 7-11.

During the more festive times of year, it's likely that there's more than one party going on in an evening. If you tell me ahead of time, I can then plan to be at the next party from 11-3am (If I have been at a pleasant social engagement, I usually won't feel like going to bed for another couple of hours afterwards, or 2-4am - whichever comes first).

Also, consider having a lunchtime/afternoon event - spending an afternoon playing games, watching movies, or playing twister, ymmv, is a great way to spend a portion of the day many people have unbooked.
posted by Elysum at 7:18 PM on October 14, 2008

You can include specific times in an invite, and then when the time comes, politely say "I hate to kick you out, this has been a blast, but I need to get to bed. I'll walk to your car, would you like some leftovers, can I call a cab, etc." I and many of my friends have done this, and it has never been received poorly.
posted by lacedback at 7:43 PM on October 15, 2008

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