The traditional dinner party is changing. No longer fanciful events with guests dressed in smart clothing sharing anecdotes over five-course meals, they’re now rather casual affairs. According to Ginger Research, the term “ dinner party ” has become outdated, with “kitchen suppers” the favoured term, and 50% of people said they prefer to stay home and cook for a group of friends instead of eating out. Of course, this may be because buying ingredients and cooking at home is much cheaper.
From where to place cutlery and glasses to what topics to avoid at the dinner table, the formal rules of dinner party etiquette are fast becoming outdated and irrelevant to most people. A lot of other traditional dinner party rules are also either extremely obvious—leaving your children at home unless they’ve been invited, or helping with tidying up after the meal—or downright contradictory. For example, etiquette expert William Hanson suggests that guests shouldn’t arrive on time, but also shouldn’t be late. Here’s what does matter to the modern day dinner party guest:
Bring a gift
Since a lot of planning goes into a dinner party, which can leave the host stressed out, buying them a gift is a lovely way of saying thank you for the invitation and hospitality. Even better, bring something that can be enjoyed over the course of the evening. For example, you could consider buying a cheesebox as a gift. The Cheese Geek, for example, offers customers a variety of cheeses that aren’t typically available in your local supermarket. As a nation, Brits love cheese—92% of them, to be specific—with most eating it at least twice a week. Served with a variety of choices and condiments, a cheeseboard is a classic after-dinner course. Not only for your host, but this also makes a great gift for other guests, especially if a cheese platter isn’t already on the cards.
Other gift ideas for your host could include boxes of chocolates, a scented candle, or flowers. You could also help your host out by bringing a side dish or dessert for the meal, as long as you’ve checked that it’s OK with them first. They might not appreciate the gesture if their meal has already been thoroughly planned and prepared.
Bring more alcohol than you need
As another gesture of goodwill, bringing alcohol (or a non-alcoholic alternative) to a dinner party is a must. Depending on the vibe, a bottle of wine can accompany the meal well, and finding out whether it’s a low-key weekday gathering or a weekend ‘let-your-hair-down’ gathering can help you decide how many bottles to bring. As a general rule, you should always bring more than you need. Knowing what kind of atmosphere the host is going for will also help you with other choices, such as whether to go casual or fancy with your outfits and gift ideas.
While wine is generally the standard choice for a dinner party drink, don’t limit yourself—if you and the party prefer cider, beer, or a spirit, bring it along. This way the host won’t end up with 8 different bottles of wine. Generally, every guest will bring a bottle. If you don’t drink alcohol, there are plenty of alcohol-free versions to choose from too.
Leave the technology behind
Many of us are attached to our phones, constantly checking notifications and scrolling endlessly through social media. The average American checks their phone 52 times a day, according to recent Deloitte research. But doing this at a dinner party can come across as rude. As William Hanson said: “If someone has invited you for dinner they want to spend time with you and not your phone.” So, unless there’s something life-threateningly important you can’t miss, there’s no reason not to leave your phone on silent, or even turn it off altogether. Just let yourself enjoy the meal, company, and buzzing conversation without checking the latest tweets or news updates.
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