Dinner Party Tips

August 4, 2021

This article about Dinner Party Tips is based on first-hand experience and what I’ve learned, as both host and guest, at several ‘informal’ diplomatic dinner parties.
Please bear in mind that what I’ve written here depends on the cultural norms of country you’re in and the people you are meeting with, and that my advice here should only serve as a basic guideline.

Dinner Party Tips For the host

  • Before your dinner party, it is a mindful touch to ask your guests if they have dietary requirements and try to prepare for them accordingly. Serving your gluten free guests pasta as the only main meal option could put them (and you) in awkward position!
  • If you are not terribly into cooking, and you want to keep it hassle-free, serve a basic plated three-course meal: soup, protein and veg, and dessert. Or lay out the main course dishes on the dining table (or a side table), and let the guests help themselves. Skip the starter and serve ice cream and fruit salad, or another easy dessert alternative.
  • Keep it simple with a party of six (including you and your spouse). Six is quite the magic number for keeping conversation flowing and managing dinner logistics with ease, if you have no help.
  • Create an atmospheric setting: dimmed lights, small candles (a scented candle in the bathroom is always good!), and soft background music like this example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53nwh1aHCU8&ab_channel=RelaxCafeMusic

I’ve also seen people play Jazz or the latest top 100 pop music playlists. Playing music from your home country is also a nice idea!

Fresh flowers around the house are also a nice touch!

  • Serve canapés and pre-drinks when guests arrive. At the dinner parties I’ve attended, I’ve seen that hosts mainly serve breadsticks, cheese blocks, mini meatballs, falafel balls, little quiches, chopped fruits, samosas, and nuts. Here are a few of my favorite inspirations.
  • Don’t let your guests wait too long for dinner to start! Serve the main meal within one hour after the guests arrive!
  • Usually, the hosts sit at the either end of the table; but I’ve seen that seating can be quite flexible. It’s okay to sit next to, or opposite, your spouse.
  • Spruce up your water jugs with mint and lime. It’s a small thing, but it looks (and tastes!) lovely.
  • Don’t put wine bottles on the dinner table. Keep the alcohol on a side table, and serve your guests when their glasses are empty.
  • Have interesting non-alcoholic options available! Elderflower and tonic water is a delicious alternative, as are alcohol-free beers. Frankly, fewer non-drinkers these days are into boxed juice or Coke Zero.
  • Serve coffee or tea after the dessert. Having the option of decaf coffee after dinner is quite special; and serving these hot drinks with chocolates adds a little luxury.

The typical order of proceedings at a dinner party

  1. Arrival. Cocktails, drinks, and canapes in a reception area/living room.
  2. Dinner. However many courses you decide on, and dessert.
  3. After dinner. Have coffee at the dining table, or move to another room.
  4. Drinks. If diners stay seated at the dining table, bottles of after-dinner drinks may be placed on the table. Otherwise, place a tray containing bottles and glasses on an appropriate surface.

Dinner Party Tips For the guest

  • When you receive an invitation, do take care to RSVP within a reasonable time frame. Don’t bring an extra guest, and don’t ask if you can bring extra guests!
  • Dress well for the occasion. It shows respect to your host.
  • Bring a gift for the host (wine or chocolates are safe choices, or something else from your home country, like a jar of honey or other preserves or a bottle of olive oil).
  • You can arrive up to 10 minutes after the event is due to start to give your host some extra time to do last-minute errands. If you are running more than 10-15 minutes late, send a message to apologize and explain, and let them know you are on your way!
  • In many homes, it’s expected that you’ll take off your shoes when you arrive. Be sure to check with your host, and be prepared that you might have to do so. Don’t wear those socks with holes!
  • As a general rule, a good time to depart is around 22:30, for a party that begins at 19:00. The host won’t tell their visitors to leave, out of politeness; so, it’s up to you and your fellow guests to notice when things are winding down and initiate the thank-you’s and goodbyes.
  • Send a thank-you text to your host the next day. It really goes a long way!

If you want to learn more about setting the table, dinner etiquette, and table manners, check out these handy sources of information:

https://www.etiquettescholar.com/dining_etiquette/dinner_party_etiquette.html

https://www.partyswizzle.com/DinnerPartyEtiquette.html

https://www.partyswizzle.com/DinnerPartyTableSetting.html


I hope you found this article enjoyable and helpful. If you have any extra tips or ideas for a dinner party, please add your comments in the box below:)

Sincerely,
Elaine

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