Dinner parties have certainly changed since Emily Post was around to advise the rest of us on etiquette. But just because there aren’t finger bowls or tomato aspic on the table doesn’t mean manners should fly out the window. Even if you’re eating off paper plates in your host’s backyard, you should still follow a few simple rules to being a good guest:
Whether by snail mail, phone or Facebook, let your host know whether or not you’ll be there. If you want to bring a plus-one, ask first. If you suddenly can’t attend, let your host know ASAP. (But remember: day-of cancelations are so verboten, it is enough to get you permanently removed from future guest lists.) About Facebook: please, no “Maybe attending” a week or less before the party.
2. Ask what you can bring.
Your host may want you to bring a side dish. If they insist they need nothing, a bottle of wine (or maybe a nice six-pack) is still a MUST. If you know your host happens to be a teetotaler, a simple pre-made bouquet from a reputable florist will assure you don’t show up empty handed (Note: NEVER bring loose or wrapped flowers and simply hand them to the host – the last thing they need to think about while they are cooking dinner is where to find a vase and how to arrange your flowers).
3. Be on time. Not late. And please, not early.
It should be obvious, but yes, be on time! Anything later than fifteen minutes is too late. And whatever you do, for the love of manners, don’t be early. This is a party, not a job interview. Your hosts have enough on their minds without having to worry that you’ll show up in the middle of his last-minute shave or before she’s slipped into her Spanx.
4. Don’t get too tipsy.
Know your limits. A good rule of thumb is to have one glass of water for every alcoholic drink – it keeps you hydrated and helps you pace yourself. Of course, you can be more relaxed around good friends than at a business dinner, but you should still avoid getting lampshade-on-head drunk. It’s no fun for your hosts and no fun for you, especially the next morning, between hangover and ridicule.
5. Be thankful.
Thank your host for a lovely evening on your way out the door. Chances are your host has spent a lot of time and money to entertain you, so the least you can do is to properly acknowledge it. A phone call, email or (preferably) a hand-written thank-you note the next day is another absolute must! (A thank-you text? Only for your closest of close friends).
6. Party on.
Whenever possible, return the favor by inviting the hosts to your own fabulous dinner parties – but not before you read my upcoming guide to being a good dinner party host!