It’s been some time since I did an Always A Lady post because I’ve been busy trying to raise a lady which can be pretty time consuming. But, I miss this column a ton and so I thought I’d bring it back with a post that’s been sitting in my drafts for almost a year. My last Always A Lady post dealt with etiquette tips for hosting a dinner party so on the flip side, I wanted to talk about etiquette tips for being a gracious dinner guest.
Tips To Be A Gracious Dinner Guest
Who’s Invited? – When someone invites you to dinner, they usually have a number of people in mind and even a mood they are trying to create. Does the invite say Ms. X? Ms. X and guest? Ms. X and Mr. Y and family? Typically, you want to RSVP with no more guests than were actually invited. If it’s a close friend, you can always ask if you can bring the kids but don’t be offended if they want to host an adult’s only night. If it’s a more formal relationship (a work gathering) and “family” is not specified on the invite then I would not bring the kids, and wouldn’t ask if I could bring them.
Don’t Come Empty-Handed – When I was younger I always remember that whenever we went to someone’s house we always brought something, usually Italian pastries or a cake. If you’re invited to someone’s home for dinner then you should always bring something. Good standbys are always dessert, wine or flowers. You can ask if your host if he/she wants you to bring something, or you can bring something that you know they will like. It’s not the cost of the gift, it’s the thought that’s important.
Dress Appropriately – No matter what the occasion, it’s always important to dress appropriately. Just because you’re hanging out at someone’s house doesn’t mean you should wear your sweatpants. If you’re meeting with a close group of friends for an informal dinner at someone’s house then just wear your standard fare.
Don’t Come Late or Not Show Up – Your dinner guest probably has her menu on a time schedule so you should arrive on time. If you’re going to a close friend’s house and you are always late, then the host has probably factored that in. But, if you’re going to a more formal dinner then definitely don’t show up late and definitely don’t be a no-show. If there are exigent circumstances that prevent you from being on time or late then immediately communicate that to the host. Don’t just show up a half-hour late – it’s extremely rude.
Eat – Hopefully, you’ll like the food your host created (or took out or is serving). If you don’t like it at all, try your best to make a good effort at eating a decent amount – you don’t want to insult the host.
Compliment the Chef – complimenting the chef doesn’t hurt! Usually the sound of silence is good because people are eating but it’s always nice to let the host know that you are enjoying the dinner.
Chat it Up – if you’re with a group of close friends then you’ll have no problem being social. If you’re being introduced to new people then be sure to make the rounds and try to get a little conversation in with some new people. If the host invited a select group of people then it’s probably because he/she felt that the group would enjoy each other’s company. Don’t miss out on opportunity to make new friends or network.
Offer to Help Out – Offering to help out the host with some clean-up is always a nice gesture, but not mandatory. Hosting a dinner is a lot of work and by the end of dinner the host may be tired and it’s always nice to have a team effort on clean-up.
Thank you – Don’t forget to say thank you. The following day, it’s always nice to send a note thanking the host for dinner. Handwritten notes are always nice (and carry so much more weight in this e-age we live in). If it’s a close friend then an email or text will be enough. If it’s a work even then I would go with a handwritten note, but if you feel that’s too formal then an email will work too.
I hope that helps you navigate the waters of being a gracious dinner guest. Ultimately, you have to go with what you feel is right for the specific situation. What you would do with close friends isn’t what you would necessarily do with work associates. You know those relationships best, and I hope I’ve been able to help you sort out what to do in each scenario.