Inspired by a recent Guardian article, I’ve started to examine my own experiences of dinner parties and how they present themselves, both at university and after graduation. There are some key differences about the expectations of both guests and hosts at these dinner dates, so to avoid you committing a faux pas and becoming a social pariah, here’s a handy guide to navigating adult dinner parties.
If you’re a guest:
- Bring a contribution – wine will do, or perhaps a course (dessert?) Make sure the host hasn’t already prepared this though, as that can certainly come across as rude!
- Make your requirements known in advance – if you’re vegetarian/vegan/gluten free, make sure that you have told your host. If they’re a regular human being, they’ll be able to cater to your needs without throwing a fit, but make sure to remind them at least a week in advance!
- Dress appropriately – make sure to gauge the situation and try to dress accordingly. If your host is cooking a three course meal and there is likely to be fancy wine or something bubbly, it’s always wise to go for something a little more formal. If you’re having a Mexican night with nachos, fajitas and tequila, something casual and dressed-down would be much more acceptable. A general rule of thumb would be to dress casual for finger foods, and dress up for cutlery.
- Offer a hand – this one is a little more subjective; some people might find it rude that you’re assuming they can’t rope in the kitchen. But really, this is about common courtesy, and offering to plate up, set the table or even wash up afterwards, will go a long way to making your host feel appreciated. Which brings me to my final point…
- Say “thank you” – this shouldn’t need to go on the list but So, so many people overlook these two words. You’re getting a hassle-free, thoughtfully-made dinner. Even if it doesn’t taste great, the effort it takes should be enough to warrant a thank you.
As a host, you’re responsibilities are somewhat different. You’re inviting people into your home, and preparing an elaborate meal. Realistically, should you even need to do anything else? Well yes, there are perhaps a few things you should make an effort to do:
- Prepare in advance – make a note of what you’re going to cook; whether it’s a 3-course meal or just snacks and a big dish, you need to have all of the ingredients at least a few days beforehand, so that your not running around on the day trying to buy vegetables. And try to keep track of people’s dietary requirements while you’re at it – that way you won’t be caught off guard and will already have a substitute.
- Clean the place up – I know organising a dinner party is a lot of effort, but cleaning up before your guests arrive should really be an automatic thing. You’re inviting people to come and eat in your home; they might not have much of an appetite if they can see dust on all the surfaces and dirt all over the floor.
- Be clear – make sure you’ve told people what to expect; is it just a meal and some drinks? Are you prepping 3 courses? Is it just casual snacks? It doesn’t matter, just make sure that you measure people’s expectations and stick to it. It’s not fair to promise a huge meal and then only serve canapes, leaving people hungry. Just as it’s unfair to you if people eat beforehand because they think it’s going to be snacks and you’ve cooked a roast dinner with dessert. The best way to make sure everyone gets what they’ve bargained for is to be clear in the first place.
- Don’t expect anything – now, this might seem like a contradiction, given that I just told all the guests to bring something, but not everyone will have read my stellar advice… unless you’ve been explicitly told that someone is going to bring a drink/dessert/flowers, don’t expect a damn thing and make sure you’ve stocked plenty to go around.
- Don’t get bladdered – this is key. It’s your party but you can’t do whatever you want! Be the host(ess) with the most(ess) and have a tipple, but make sure that your guests are a priority. None of them should have to put you to bed in your own home, at least, not after your uni days are over…
I hope you’ve enjoyed my host of tips to throwing a grown-up dinner party! What are some of your tips?