Attending a Dinner Party

Dining table at a dinner party

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.

Black tie is usually confined to grand houses, or formal or special occasions. For less formal occasions, a helpful host will mention the dress code. As a general rule, the choice of outfit should show that an effort has been made. Change into something that is different from normal day clothes and, if coming straight from work, consider changing shoes or jewellery.

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.

If you are on a special diet and arrangements have not been made with the host in advance, it is more polite just to refuse certain dishes as unobtrusively as possible, so that no one will notice. Avoid boring others with fads; if a very strict but temporary regime is being adhered to, consider staying at home.

Guests should try and pace their eating and keep an eye on others. They should also speak to one neighbour during the first course then turn the other way so that no one gets left out. A woman will usually turn first to her left. If there is a gap, perhaps  because the host or hostess is doing something in the kitchen, then talk across it till they sit down.

Guests should be alert to signals from the host. They may be verbal, such as mentioning an early start, or non-verbal, such as not offering more drinks. If the host gets to their feet or starts tidying, it is definitely time to go. It is usual to leave reasonably promptly after dinner on a week night.

In some circumstances it is polite to take a present; chocolates, flowers, or a bottle of wine are all good choices.  Always write a thank you note as soon as possible after the event; phone call is also fine for casual evenings. A reciprocal invitation should follow where appropriate.

Take the lead from the hosts and never ask to smoke or assume it is acceptable. Guests may smoke with permission in reception rooms if one of the hosts smokes. In practice most people are used to having to smoke outside or not smoking. Electronic cigarettes should be treated in the same manner; ask permission from your host, abstain or go outside.

SHARE THIS:

Home Life

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's Handbook

Debrett's new publication encompassing correct form, modern manners and everyday behaviour

search now
Debrett's Books

Debrett's Books

Debrett's Courses

Debrett's Courses

Training & Classes

Training & Classes

Providing the skills and confidence to be welcome and at ease in any professional or social situation.

search now
Guide to Entertaining Etiquette

Guide to Entertaining Etiquette

Guide to Entertaining Etiquette

Guide to Entertaining Etiquette

Explore and celebrate the many British rituals, customs and traditions that punctuate the year.

buy it now