Attending a dinner party can sometimes be an awkward occasion. Read about some rules you can follow to make yourself more comfortable.
Do you avoid dinner parties because you are not sure how to act in such situations? Does the prospect of a formal gathering terrify you? Relax, it is not rocket science. Just keep a few things in mind and you will be able to enjoy the occasion.
Be on time
Being fashionably late might get you off the hook if you are a celebrity, but arriving late at a formal occasion is a strict no-no. If circumstances are such that you will be delayed, try not to arrive more than thirty minutes late. Also, make it a point to call up your hostess and inform her that you are going to be late.
Avoid bringing uninvited guests
Do not forget to tell your hostess if you plan to attend or not. A dinner party is usually organised for a specific number of guests. Forgetting to confirm that you will be attending could result in your hostess not setting a place at the table for you. Another point to remember is not to bring along uninvited guests. Doing this is rude and it disrupts all the arrangements that have been so carefully made. If you must bring someone along, do ask your hostess for permission first. If you bring an invited guest, make sure that he is not ignored while you are busy socialising.
Socialise before dinner
Make it a point to bring your hostess a small but practical gift that she does not have to use immediately. Flowers might sound like a great gift idea but if you bring them, she would have to put them in a vase and display them immediately. This is because flowers only remain fresh for a short time. It will also force her to change her previous flower arrangements. Instead, you could gift a bottle of wine or a small wall hanging that she could use whenever she feels it is appropriate.
Do your best to talk with everyone at the party. Avoid breaking up into small groups as that will isolate you further. If you notice someone sitting quietly or not talking to anyone, do your best to draw that person into a conversation to make him feel at ease.
When the hostess calls you for dinner, do not rush to the table. Walk calmly and sit at your assigned place. After you are seated, open out your napkin and place it on your lap. Your napkin should remain on your lap throughout the meal. If you need to leave the table during dinner, lightly fold your napkin and place it on the chair seat. When you return to the table, place the napkin on your lap again.
Do not be bewildered by the array of silverware on the table. If you have never used so many forks and spoons for a meal before, do not panic. The easiest rule to remember is to begin with the silverware that is farthest from your plate. If you are still not sure what you are supposed to do, discreetly look at the people around you and try to follow their lead.
Do not begin eating immediately. Wait for everyone to be served. Also, you should wait for your hostess to begin eating before you do so. At the end of each course, someone will clear away your plate from the table. Avoid staring at your empty plate till it is cleared. Instead, try and make polite conversation with your neighbours. Avoid discussing controversial topics such as sex, politics, and religion. A polite disagreement over opposing views is acceptable but if it is heating up into an argument, it is best to change the subject.
After dinner rules
At the end of the meal, your hostess may ask you to move into another room for coffee or drinks. At this time, obey your hostess' instructions and try to participate in any of the games organised. Otherwise, occupy yourself by talking to the other guests until it is time for you to leave.
When it is time for you to take your leave, your hostess will usually accompany you to the door and briefly speak to you. Try not to talk to her for a long time as she has all the other guests to attend to. Remember to call or write a note to your hostess, thanking her for inviting you and telling her you had a lovely evening.
There is no reason why attending a formal dinner should not be an enjoyable experience. Preparing in advance and following a few basic rules of etiquette is all you need to put people around you at ease.
Have you ever attended a formal dinner party? Did you feel awkward? If so, did you manage to get over it? How were you able to relate to the people around you? To share your tips and experiences, click here.