Learn how to impress, rather than stress, your host at your next dinner party.
The right time to arrive at a dinner party is not a moment before you were invited, according to Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of evergreen etiquette arbiter, Emily Post. In a conversation with Vanity Fair about the dos and don’ts of dinner parties, Post was quoted as imploring all dinner guests to never arrive before the appointed time. “It is rude and it puts your host in an uncomfortable position.”
As in, “dinner party newbie.” Whenever you’re invited to a dinner party, it’s your duty as a guest to bring a gift to the hostess, according to Post. “Your best bet is flowers already in a vase,” she advises. But if you don’t bring anything, the question on your host’s mind will be, “First time at a dinner party?” Find the right hostess gift with this ultimate hostess gift guide for every occasion.
…and not in a good way. While lively conversation may well meander into politics (or religion or sex, for that matter), it can quickly become “inelegant,” Post says. At that point, it’s up to your host to reroute the discussion, but when he or she does, you’ll want to go with it, lest you be viewed as argumentative.
Unless your host specifically asked you to bring a dish, you most definitely should not bring a dish with you, says The Washington Post’s Miss Manners. It encroaches on the host’s presumably well-planned menu, at best. At worst, you’ll be seen as a nuisance, as it was with the host who told Miss Manners about the time a guest brought a fruit salad and “commandeered” the kitchen for “the better part of an hour” to prepare it.
Good parties have good bars, according to Post, but that also means there’s a chance a guest might overdo the booze. And when that happens, it’s a huge responsibility for the host, who may feel obliged to take away the guest’s keys and let the guest stay for the night.
“Real-life interactions are dulled when a person feels the urge to check their phone,” TIME points out, and the distraction can destroy the vibe of a social interaction. Even the mere presence of your mobile phone on the table during dinner interferes with the ability of those at the table to connect in a meaningful way, according to this study.
“If you’re having dinner with friends and family, be with them,” writes Cindy Post Senning on EmilyPost.com. “The guideline is that you do not text when you are involved in any type of social interaction – conversation, listening, in class, at a meeting or, especially, at the dinner table. If you really need to communicate with someone who is not at the event – or at the table – excuse yourself, send your message, and then return as soon as you can.” To do otherwise might understandably hurt your host’s feelings.
While it’s certainly admirable to offer to pitch in, say with serving or clearing, it’s important to be mindful of how quickly your efforts can become burdensome to your host. “Pitching in is admirable if the situation requires it, but it can often verge into awkward territory,” notes Lizzie Post. “You can always offer to help out, but you don’t have to insist upon it. You know, you’re not this person’s best friend. Let yourself be a guest. Don’t try to insert yourself into everything.”
Look around at the other guests at the dinner party, and recognise you all have one thing in common: You’ve been hand-picked by the host to come together for dinner and conversation, according to Saveur magazine. That means your host intended for you to mingle with one another. You have no obligation to make life-long friends, but it would be super-nice for your host and the other guests if you would make a good faith attempt to engage your dinner companions in friendly conversation.
No matter how uncomfortable you might feel fessing up to a food allergy or a special diet in advance of the dinner party if you don’t, your host will definitely notice you pushing your food around on your plate. At best, your host will feel awkward and at worst, your host will be insulted. And in any case, you’ll go home hungry.
Speaking of allergies, here are 14 foods you think are dairy-free, but aren’t.
Well, that should be obvious. But a clear signal that the night is wrapping up is when your host closes the bar, advises Lizzie Post. If you missed that hint, then take note of your host beginning to refer to the evening in the past tense (“Well, that was a wonderful night!”). If your host is clear, but you don’t clear out, that can sour an otherwise awesome evening. Learn modern party etiquette rules if you ever want to invited back.
When you bring wine to a dinner party, it’s a gift, not a menu item, according to wine blog Vine Pair. That means you don’t take it home with you when you leave, even if your host didn’t open it during the dinner party. And about that? It’s not rude of the host not to open your wine. It’s perfectly reasonable for your host to have picked out his or her own wine selections to go with the meal he or she planned.
“Dinner parties are tough on the hosts,” according to Daniel Post Senning, a spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute and co-host of “The Awesome Etiquette Podcast.” “This is your opportunity to make an impression and it’s especially true if the dinner party was in a professional capacity.
If you enjoy being a dinner party guest, then, by all means, return the favour: invite your host over for the next dinner party. Dinner party guests who like being dinner party guests can help ensure future invitations by extending invitations, themselves.
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