Accepting a dinner invitation is like signing a contract with mutually agreed upon rules. Sit up straight, no elbows on the table and calligraphed thank you notes might have sufficed in the past, but etiquette nowadays is complicated. The host has signed up to deliver a memorable occasion, and guests in turn have to stretch a little beyond being appreciative and amiable. Read on for our tips to be the ultimate dinner party guest:
Never show up early to a dinner party. While there a few blessed souls out there who spend the last hour before a party sipping a cocktail and waiting for their guests, there are many more of us who need that last hour to freshen up the living room, lay the table or make a last minute dash to the wardrobe. Be considerate; don’t arrive well past the assigned time either. It is a terrible inconvenience to welcome guests after everyone else is seated. 15 minutes post the invited time slot is just perfect.
If it is a large party with many unknown faces it might be tempting to pull out your phone. But remember that your host has put in a lot of effort and it’s your prerogative to mingle with the other guests. Before you Instagram every moment, from the decor to the food, check-in with your hosts and make sure they are comfortable having their homes or tables circulated in public.
Keep an eye on your host
In between entertaining and worrying about everyone’s food or drinks, the host of any party forgets about their needs. Make sure you toast to them once seated, and then keep an eye on their glass. Ask if they would like a refill or make sure all the dishes are passed along to them. It is the 'little things' that matter.
If it is a dinner party, offer to get the dessert or arrive with a bottle of wine, keeping the host’s tastes in mind. DIY gifts work best, as they show you’ve put as much thought into the gift as they have planning the party. Think homemade snacks or sweets (cookie dough is a simple but fabulous option), scented candles or potpourri: gifts they can treasure long after the event.
Time to leave
Nothing is worse than a guest who simply refuses to leave! Once the crowd starts thinning, it is time to go, don’t wait around to polish all the booze! If the host is a close friend, offer to help with clean-up.
Follow Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of legendary etiquette expert Emily Post, who also hosts the Awesome Etiquette Podcast, for deeper insight into the party game. Bon appetit!