‘At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.’
W Somerset Maugham
When hosting a dinner party, do as much as you can before the guests arrive. Lay the table, sort out the crockery, prepare as much food as possible – you will be able to spend more time with your guests rather than in the kitchen. Offer them a drink upon arrival. Spirits should be available as well as wine and beer. A glass of champagne is also a good option.
If someone brings a bottle you may like to open it at some point in the evening, but have your own bottle ready and opened, in case your guests don’t bring wine. If you do not open your guests’ wine on the night, make sure you tell them that their wine is too exceptional for the assembled group and that you’re saving it for a special occasion.
A table plan is a good way of organising your guests, but can look over-formal. If you want the atmosphere to feel laid back and spontaneous, let people choose where they want to sit; just make sure that couples are separated. Keep an eye on the conversational dynamic during the first two courses; if your guests aren’t meshing, suggest everyone moves round and mingles for the latter part of the evening. As host it is your duty to ensure conversation flows throughout the meal. Steer it away from topics that you know will be awkward for any of your guests.
If you have been invited to a dinner party make sure you RSVP promptly (mentioning any dietary requirements you may have). If you can’t make it you’ll be giving the host plenty of time to find someone else. If you have to cancel, give as much notice as possible. Never arrive early to a dinner party. A few minutes after the time stated on the invitation is polite; if you are going to be more than 15 minutes late phone ahead and warn your host.
It is polite to take a gift; chocolates, flowers, or a bottle of wine are all good choices. Take a couple of bottles if there are two of you. It is not customary to take a gift to a very
formal dinner, i.e. one at which dinner jackets are worn. Always write a thank you note as soon as possible after the event. A phone call is also fine.