Whether you realize it or not, dining parties do require a certain amount of dining etiquette. Most people tend to fall into one of two categories. They either love to attend dinner parties or they absolutely hate to attend them. Perhaps this is partly due to the stress or lack of stress they experience when it comes to the proper behavior and protocol expected for dinner parties.
A pleasant, stress free experience can be had by those who pay attention to the rules of etiquette that will portray them as gracious guests. This involves blending a few facets from the social graces along with elements of simple table manners.
When you receive your dinner invitation, respond promptly with a cheerful acceptance. If you cannot attend, express regrets that are sincere along with the hope that you will be able to attend the next one.
Although you might be told that nothing is needed, offer to bring a bottle of wine, dessert, or an appetizer. If your hostess insists that nothing is needed, purchase a token gift such as a small bouquet of flowers, a bottle of an after-dinner cordial, or a box of candy.
When you arrive, greet your host or hostess first before greeting the other guests. You can simply say hello or you can express your gratitude at being invited to the dinner party. Next, you should take the time to greet other guests. Introduce yourself to any guests that you don’t already know.
Place your coat, hat, or purse in the area designated for coat checking. Next, use the powder room to freshen up, especially if it has been a long drive. It isn’t necessary to accept a cocktail even if it is being offered. Ask for water if you’d rather not drink.
Once dinner arrives, you can take your cues from your host/hostess for proper table etiquette. Always allow your hostess to set the pace by waiting for her move.
Once she has placed her diner napkin into her lap, it is time for the remaining guests to do so. Loosen the napkin’s folds for easy placement on your lap rather than flourishing it with a wide sweep across the air. Move graciously and slowly so that you don’t draw attention to yourself. If the napkin falls to the floor, you should retrieve it silently. Chances are that no one has even noticed, so there’s no need to bring attention to yourself.
Always wait until every guest has been served before beginning your meal. Ideally, you should wait until your hostess takes her first bite. It is possible that grace will be said or a toast will be given, so wait and see. Also, you should never drink from your glass when a toast has been given to you. If this is the case, smile graciously and murmur a few words of thanks.
Taste your food before seasoning it. Since adding condiments to your entrée before tasting your food is seen as an insult in many social circles, it is best to wait until after you have at least sampled your food with a bite or two.
Greet newcomers by standing up and wait until they sit down before you do so. Always turn your cell phone off during dinner so that it doesn’t disrupt the meal. If you are unsure about which silverware to use, keep your eye on the other dinner guests.
Stimulate conversation with other guests, but steer away from political, religious, or parenting topics. These types of topics are likely to become heated discourses that are better left until after dinner. Always avoid criticism during a dinner party. In fact, smile and compliment the people sitting closest to you to practice social pleasantries.
Once dinner party is over, thank your hostess for a wonderful time as you are leaving. A handshake or lightly-given hug and a verbal thank you should be sufficient. Express your goodbyes to the other dinner companions as well.