April 16, 2014

How to Behave at a Dinner Party

By the title of this post, you might think I get invited to a lot of dinner parties. This isn't exactly true. I don't think it's a reflection on my being unwelcome at these types of events, but instead says something about my close circle of friends. I guess we're more for casual outings, restaurant dinners and laid-back gatherings at home as opposed to fancy dinner parties. But you never know when you might get an invite to a soiree or gala.

What, you don't go to dinner parties much either? No matter, these tips will serve you for any social occasion in which you might happen to find yourself.

 by bubbo.etsy.com
1) Make Conversation 

This seems painfully obvious, but I encounter so many folks who seem to lack this skill. I guess when they say conversation is a lost art, it's the truth.

How it works is, you ask other people polite questions (more on that in a second) and then you smile and nod while they answer you. Then, if they ask you questions, you answer them as well.

Conversation is not one person doing all the talking while the rest try to get a word in. And it's not sitting there scrolling through your phone. Which leads me to number 2...


Really? This is not something we should have to be told. But sadly, it is. I'm not talking about checking your phone to see if the baby-sitter texted a question about your child or taking an emergency call.

I'm referring to people who slump down in their chairs, scrolling aimlessly through their Facebook news feed while a dinner party is going on around them. I don't get this at all. It sends the message to the host that their efforts aren't worth your time. And it sends a message to the other guests that they aren't as interesting as a random Internet meme or cat video being shared on social media.

And if you are older than 40, you should definitely know better than to do this. You lived in a world without smartphones for goodness sake.

3) Don't Ask Inappropriate Questions or Discuss Topics that Might be Offensive

Recently, a dear friend of mine went to a party and upon her polite refusal of wine, another guest turned to her and asked if she was an alcoholic. First of all, it's nobody's business why she didn't want wine. She's not an alcoholic, but if she were, how awkward would that have been?

And none of anyone's business for sure!

Don't ask people if they are an alcoholic. Or what their political affiliation is. Or how they voted. Or how much their paycheck was.

Again, this all seems like obvious stuff, but maybe we're getting away from common sense and need to be reminded.

Other dinner party conversation topics to avoid: dissection, animal slaughter, feces...actually anything to do with the bathroom in general or in specific.

4) Don't Name Drop

So your best friend is a famous celebrity. That's awesome. But it's really not being a good friend to try and leverage their "it" factor to make yourself look better at parties. If it comes up casually or if someone asks you directly, it's okay to mention it, but don't be 'that person' who's obsessed with who they know.

The doll's biscuit was stale, but she bit her tongue lest she offend her kind hostess {via}
5) Don't Make a Fuss 

So you're a vegetarian and the main dish is chicken. This happened to me recently. If you can politely convey this message to your host(ess) prior to the food being served, I think that's okay. Otherwise, just push it to the side. Don't make a big fuss about how it was murdered. Even if you think it was.

6) Don't Ask to Bring a Guest

Throwing a dinner party seems like it would be a great deal of work. And it takes much planning. If you are invited to a party, but aren't given the option of bringing a date/plus one/guest, don't ask to do so.

The party host has probably considered his/her budget, seating limits, and guest list in the planning stage and an extra person could really throw that out of balance.

And never, ever show up with unannounced with an extra person. This is just rude.

Aunt Bee is a gracious southern hostess, she won't lead you astray!
7) Follow the Host's Lead

If in doubt, just look to your host or hostess. If she takes second helpings, it's a sign that you can too. If he opens more wine, have some. If your hosts don't serve alcohol, don't ask for any. You can be sure that your host wants you to be comfortable and at ease.

Any type of social gathering should be fun. And when you follow these simple, basic, social rules, you'll be the hit of every party.

Other things to consider:

Bringing a Hostess Gift - This is a great thing to do when you're invited to any social gathering, as long as it isn't something that requires the host to take his or her focus away from the party. Cut flowers, a potted plant, a bottle of wine or even a basket of local jam & honey is nice. Never a pet.

Writing a Thank You Note - Non-negotiable. You MUST write a Thank You Note and you must do so promptly. And NOT an email. Some belles carry Thank You Notes in their purses and leave one in the mailbox on the way out for their hosts to find the next morning. I like to show that I'm not too cheap to buy a stamp. Plus, every host will appreciate getting a few kindly penned words by post.