Dinner Party Dos and Don’ts

August 3rd, 2016 Country Entertaining

A few months ago, we offered our readers tips on the proper way to set a table.

Today, we’re taking a broader look at dining etiquette and sharing a few of the dos and don’ts of dinner parties. Read on to find out what to do if you’re throwing a dinner party, or if you’re attending one as a guest.


Bon Appetite offers these suggestions for hosts:

  • Don’t try elaborate new recipes for a dinner party. Stick to dishes you know you’ve mastered.

  • Do make as much as you can in advance. You’ll appreciate having extra moments to prepare the rest of the house, or to just breathe for a bit before guests arrive.

  • Do make a playlist, and have some background music playing.

  • Don’t make the music too loud. No one wants to shout over your speakers.

  • Do take your guests dietary restrictions into consideration. As Bon Appetite says, you might have a great shepherd’s pie recipe, but that limits your vegetarian guests to “salad and wine.”

  • Don’t let those restrictions run the menu. You don’t need to make custom dishes for each guest, but try to be sure everyone has options.

  • Do invite guests who know each other. It’s ok to have one or two strangers – strangers to your guests, that is, not people you invited from Craigslist – in the mix. But your guests should have some things in common.

  • Do let your guests help clean up, if you don’t mind them seeing your messy kitchen.

  • Don’t rely on them for too much. They’re still your guests.

  • Do light some candles. You don’t need to go overboard on decorating your table, but candles are a good place to start.

  • Don’t go into the night with set expectations. You might have planned an evening of sophisticated talk about, say, a book you’ve all read and find that everyone wants to talk about the election, or football, or Game of Thrones. Just go with the flow.

  • Do serve dessert and coffee. It’s what guests will expect. Consider serving it in another room, away from the dinner table.

  • Don’t worry about thank you notes. You can give a small gift as a way of thanking people for coming, or send them a thoughtful e-mail afterwards.

For guests:

  • Don’t show up too late. The etiquette for other parties might allow you to be fashionably late, but for dinner parties, it’s rude to be more than 15 minutes late. If you know the host or hostess well enough, it might even be good manners to call ahead and see if you can come early to assist.

  • Don’t show up too early. The host/hostess will most likely be very busy putting on the finishing touches and getting ready. The 30 minutes before a party can be the most stressful time. If you show up more than a few minutes early you’ll likely be adding to the last minute stress.

  • Do offer to bring something. Your host/hostess will likely tell you it’s ok not to bring anything, but offering is basic party etiquette. When in doubt a bottle of wine or a box of candy is generally a welcome addition.

  • Don’t bring anything that takes too long to prepare. Your host has been cooking all day. Don’t make more work for them, or take up precious kitchen/counter space by trying to throw together your complicated dish at the last minute.

  • Do talk to people you don’t know. It’s a big help to the host or hostess, who are most likely worried about their odd-man-out guests not having anyone to talk with.

  • Do pitch in to help clean up. Many hands make light work, and your hostess will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

  • Don’t forget to thank your host. You don’t necessarily need to send a handwritten card, but be sure to end the evening on a note of gratitude. A follow up email or text the next day is a kind gesture. They put a lot of work into the dinner, and would appreciate knowing you enjoyed yourself.

We hope this guide to planning/attending dinner parties comes in handy next time you’ll be a host or a guest. And remember that Piper Classics can help you plan your party, with our wide selection of placemats, tablecloths, napkins and other country kitchen items. Happy hosting!

Download The Country Guide To Flowers