Guide to Navigating a Private Dinner Party

December 10, 2013
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There will come a time in your life when you will be invited to a fancy-pancy dinner party. Or maybe just a slightly fancy dinner party. When this time comes, you’ll know that you have crossed over the threshold from boy to someone people trust with their good china. First of all, I would advise you to calm down and make sure you R.S.V.P. There is nothing more annoying that someone not R.S.V.P-ing.

Things like private dinner parties are meticulously planned. Time and thought is put into the menu, the seating, the drinks and even the music. So just showing up is a big no-no. Not replying at all is a big no-no.

Navigating a dinner party

Ok, now that you’ve got your invitation, and you’ve R.S.V.P-ed, what do you do on the actual night of the party? Here are some tips to help you navigate the night and come out a shining gentleman.

Before Arriving

Please do not show up with an extra person in tow. I shall repeat this again for emphasis. Please do not show up with an extra person in tow. Plus-one’s are a HUGE no-no. Generally, an invitation will state if you’re allowed a plus-one or not. If it doesn’t, then assume that you’re the only one invited. At sit-down dinners your host has planned for exact numbers. Not only is it a hassle to have to set another plate last minute, it is also a sure fire way to never get invited again. If you have to bring someone, please make sure you ask well ahead of time.

Also, please make an effort to dress up a little. No need to put on a tuxedo, but something smart casual is much preferred to jeans and a t-shirt.

Navigating a dinner party

What to Bring:


Always ask if you can bring something, and even if your host politely says, “nothing,” please don’t be that guy that shows up empty-handed. Always come with a good bottle of something. The drinks of choice at events like this are champagne or wine. If you are bringing a bottle of liquor, make sure it’s a brand of something good. So, that’ll be premium brands of liquor. If you’re bringing champagne, it doesn’t have to be the best bottle of Dom Perignon, but do splurge a little on something other than the cheapest brand that you can find. After all, your host will be spending quite a bit for your dinner. The same goes for the bottle of wine. Your host will surely have alcohol prepared, but it’s always nice to come with a little something.


It is also becoming trendy to bring gifts that are not alcoholic beverages. A jar of fancy marmalade, a premium bottle of extra virgin olive oil, a bag of good coffee . I’m sure you get the idea. Showing up with a yummy cut of cheese will also score you extra points. But with cheese, make sure your host isn’t serving sushi or anything else that won’t go with cheese. Again, this is one of those times to hit the premium deli and not your corner store.


You could bring a nice bouquet of flowers, but make sure it is already cut and put in a vase so that your host doesn’t have to run around doing that.

Come on Time

Seriously, if the invitation says 7pm, be sure you arrive at 7pm. There is nothing so annoying as a guests that arrives too early OR late. If you are going to be late, be sure to let your host know. They probably have food on the stove and it’s not fun to be the guy making everyone else wait.

Navigating a dinner party

Don’t get drunk

There is nothing wrong with getting a little bit tipsy by the end of the night (be sure to be safe and not drink and drive). I’m pretty sure everyone else will be too (unless this is one of those, no alcohol parties), but getting drunk before dinner even starts is just uncomfortable for everyone.

Your host will surely be serving some cocktails before dinner and wine during dinner, so make sure you sip and not gulp, and if you can’t handle your alcohol, alternate your alcohol with water or something non alcoholic.

What to talk about

Keep the conversation light, stay away from politics and dark places. Talk about art, a book you’re currently reading or even a new film in the cinema. If you have nothing to say, ask questions. Everyone loves talking about themselves!

Compliment the food

Unless the food tastes like crap, it’s always nice to be thanked for all the time and effort put into creating a meal. So be sure to pay attention and compliment the cook. Just don’t go overboard!

Offer to Help

Even if the hosts don’t need it, it’s always nice to have someone help out at a dinner party. Whether it is carrying a dish out, pouring out drinks, or making the after dinner coffee. If you’re the really nice kind, you could even help load the dishwasher! A helper is always remembered with a lot of gratitude.

Is it Time to go?

Unless it’s been a horrible party, it’s always hard to gauge when to leave. Too early and you’re being rude, too late and you’re overstaying your welcome. A good rule of thumb is to stay for an after dinner drink or two and leave when other guests are leaving too. Don’t be that guy that is the last one to leave. If the hosts are yawning, you’ve been there too long!

Say Thank You!

I’m sure you’ll say your thank yous when you are walking out the door, but a nice thank you note the next day will go a long way. In fact, a bouquet of Thank You flowers will go even longer!

So there you have BaDoink’s simple guide to navigating a dinner party. Have anything else to add to this guide? Let us know in the comments!

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