Q: When hosting a casual late evening dessert, how do you gently, yet firmly, let your guests know it’s time to say good-bye?
A: It’s fine to let guests know it’s time to go. Just be honest, saying how much you’ve enjoyed their company but that you have to get up early for work (or whatever the case may be). To stave off the problem in the future, send a signal as the party draws to a close. One way is to ask, “Would anyone like a nightcap? Some coffee?” Then, once the drinks and any last refreshments have been served, start tidying up a little. If most people soon begin to leave, you could ask someone who stays firmly planted in his chair, “Don, shall I bring your coat?” Or you could be pleasantly blunt: “Dan, I’m going to have to kick you out in fifteen minutes, since I have a six o’clock flight tomorrow morning” – an explanation that asks for Dan’s understanding, gives him a chance to finish a drink or a conversation, and then depart as though it were his idea in the first place.