Dinner parties, a meal with friends sandwiched between status updates and careful cropping. We have laid out our guide to simple yet highly important dinner party etiquette, relevant to all occasions, ages and types of individuals. We've channelled great-great-grandmother vibes and updated her dinner-party rules for the hashtag generation!
What time should you arrive?
Fashionably late is defiantly a thing, although being un-fashionably late can just be rude! When the invitation goes out, if it says arrive at 7:30pm you should either turn up on the dot, or at 7:45, never early!
The host has been slaving all day, don't leave them stressed and having to entertain your impatience! In Italy it’s polite to arrive even an hour late, as they are very laid back. However, if you are in Germany make sure you turn up on the dot. Do not be late.
In the (regrettable, but likely) event you are running late, be up front with the host about your E.T.A., perhaps even overestimate. Be brief and honest and leave the protracted sagas to Tolstoy. Also, give the host permission to proceed without you, and if you’re going to be more than an hour late, ask the host if it’s better you just don’t come, at least the ball is then back in their court.
Host: Be ready when you said the evening would begin. It sounds pretty simple, but it’s a common mistake, Post laments. “One of the easiest mistakes that hosts and hostesses make is that they’re not ready on time. Let’s say you told people to arrive at seven. Chances are people will get there between 7 and 7:30, but you tell people to arrive at 7, and at 7, you’ve still got way too much stuff on the stovetop and you haven’t laid out the hors d’oeuvres or drinks.”
Should You Bring A Present?
Traditionally you would NEVER bring a bottle of wine, as it insinuated that the host’s collection was not good enough! Nowadays, the rules are slightly more relaxed, but you should always tailor the wine to your hosts preference. If they like a Merlot from France, then don’t just pick up the cheapest one on the shelf!
If the host doesn’t like wine, then buy them chocolates, because everyone likes chocolates, and in the rare occasion they don’t, they will know someone who does. Or something seasonal that may not be for the evening, like a jam or preserve.
NEVER bring flowers! This is very rude. If you bring flowers then you are only asking them to do more work! They don’t have time to be cutting stems while the soufflé is in the oven! If you do insist on gifting flowers, then send them a few days prior, or make sure they come cut and in a vase with water, maybe a plant or succulent would be a more practical shout.
What If You Don't Like Your Welcome Drink?
More often than not your host will offer you champagne or cocktails upon arrival. So what happens if you don't like it, fear not. A good host won’t leave you to drink something you don’t like, and definitely won’t be mad when you ask for something else. The key is all in the execution of doing that. Let’s start with the don’ts.
Don’t spit out your drink. Don’t fling it in their face. Don’t grimace. And definitely don’t go, “blech!”
Seems obvious enough, right? Now, the approach.
Put your drink aside, and catch the eye of the host. An excellent host is an excellent people person, and in edition to checking in on you regularly will probably notice you’re not enjoying your drink.
Remember also, do not take welcome drinks through to the dinner table when the food is ready. The table has been wonderfully set with a lot of care and attention, and if you are bringing an extra glass to the table, then you are just going to mess everything up. If you haven’t finished the drink, well tough, that is your fault! When you are called for food, find a surface to put your drink on.
How Should You Toast?
At the start of any meal, it’s polite to wait until every guest has been served food and drink prior to digging in. And before you lift a fork, it’s customary to raise glasses and says, “Cheers!" However, whatever you do, don’t ‘clink’ your drink with too much passion! You do not want to damage your hosts crystal glassware. This tradition dates back to when people would drink with wooden tankers in alehouses.
Be sure to make eye contact, and remember it’s unnecessary to actually touch glasses with everyone, especially at a large table, but lifting your glass with a smile or a nod will do. If you’re asked to provide a longer toast or give a speech at the start of a meal, it’s best to keep it short and sweet. Everyone’s hungry!
In addition, if you are a guest at the dinner party, it's better to wait to ‘cheers’ when the host asks you to do so. Likewise, a good host will always command the hosting toast.
Vast numbers of knife and forks can be confusing. However there is a simple rule to follow. Start from the outside and work your way in, and remember that everything bar the soup spoon has a partner, so you should always be double parked with cutlery.
Also please use the acronym BMW to ensure you do not steal anyone else's food! B - Bread, make sure you eat from the side bread plate on your left. M - Middle - eat off the main plate in front of you, and drink from the glass directly ahead of you. W - Wine - Always drink from the wine glass to your right.
How Do You Handle Your Bread?
The bread should be torn not cut. Never cut your bread. This dates back to medieval times where blood would be on the knife, and people not wanting to get blood on their bread. This tradition has carried through the years, so tear off a small chunk of your bread, and bring it to your mouth - not the other way round.
Only use the knife to butter your bread. Whatever you do, if you have a soup with you bread, do not dunk it! This can be seen as common, and should really only be done at your own home with your curtains closed!
How Should You Eat Soup?
When tackling soup, make sure you scoop away from you, and then drink from the nearest side of the spoon. You should under no circumstances, put the whole spoon in your mouth. Please do not slurp either!
Should You Ask Someone To Pass The Food Or Drink?
Even if you are a guest you are part of a communal experience, and should also be looking after other people. That being said, if you want the new potatoes or white wine and it is not in your vicinity, then the etiquette is to ask the person it’s nearest to if they would like some, in the hope they will return the favour and ask you. If all else fails, just simply ask them to pass the item over to you responding with your P's & Q's. If there remains space on the table, return it to the same space, or place it somewhere it is not in the way of anyone.
What's Polite Napkin Etiquette?
If you are hosting and making a fancy napkin arrangement, then place this in the middle of your guest’s space. If it’s a smaller flat napkin, then this should be on the left hand side. As a guest NEVER tuck it into your shirt or dress and trail it down you. You are not in a fast food shop. Place it on your lap.
Traditionally you should never leave the table to go to the toilet during the dinner as it can be deemed very rude. You should control your fluid intake, and just cross your legs. If there is a Monarch in the room then definitely do not leave the table!
If your hosts are more relaxed, then only leave the table between courses, and leave your napkin on the seat. When you are done and leaving the table, place the napkin neatly where your plate was.
Should You Pour Your Own Drinks?
If the host of the party has wine or drinks on the table, then that is them saying ‘help yourself’. If the champagne is to the side of the table then this indicates the host or staff will pour.
Is Asking For Condiments Acceptable?
Slathering your food in tomato ketchup or mayonnaise can be very offensive, as it insinuates that your host has not seasoned your food adequately. However if there are sauces or salt and pepper on the table, this means that your host is happy for you to add them to your dinner.
If you do obsess over a certain condiment not provided, try to ask politely for this before tasting the food, so the