Dinner party etiquette – or in other words, how to have a good do!
We all love a good get together at Boxcitement, and between us have had friends over for everything from a cuppa and a cake to black tie cocktail parties. Our most recent subscription box, “Guess who’s Coming to Dinner” reflected our love of entertaining and pampering, and we thought it would be a good excuse to write our latest blog on the art of entertaining – and the ‘rules’ around hosting the perfect dinner party.
Of course there are no real rules that need to be followed, but just for fun we thought we’d look up how one is supposed to behave as a host and as a guest. (Did you like how our language got awfully posh just then? One indeed!). Consulting Debrett’s seemed like the obvious place to start; in their own words, Debrett’s are “the arbiter of society etiquette.” With a heritage dating back to 1769, we think they know what they are talking about – so we’ve been inspired by their advice in our tips below.
- The formality of the event is indicated by the formality of the invite. ‘Fancy popping over for a glass of bubbly later?’ sent by text clearly indicates a less formal event than a printed letterpress card indicating ‘black tie’ sent several weeks in advance (like the ones we provided in our latest subscription box!). At Boxcitement we love both; who doesn’t love a last minute invite to a friends for a chilled glass of something lovely, and we also love receiving printed mail, especially in the form of a letterpress printed invite to a formal party. See one of our other blogs; Letterpress printing – a love story. Modern communication methods (social media, email and mobiles) make it easy to stick to the ‘rules’ when organising an event. Debrett’s tell us to ensure our invite indicates clearly the special event – such a birthday or retirement – being celebrated…. Facebook makes this easy by having the event feature built in!
- The host of the event should ideally plan and prepare as much as possible ahead of the guests arriving, including easily overlooked things like emtying the bins and the dishwasher, and putting fresh towels and soaps in the loo. Allowing enough time in your order of events to be a gracious host by socialising, introducing guests to each other and allowing for the inevitable late arrivals. Try and practice a run-through before the actual event, or jot down the order in which things need to happen so that you remain calm and in control on the day.
- When it comes to seating, use name card, mixing up the guests so people socialise with strangers, and keeping people apart who don’t always agree with each other! Couples should always be mixed up and men and women seated alternately. The host should sit nearest the door which will need to be used to fetch and carry food.
- As the party progresses, it’s really important for the host to keep an eye on proceedings and keep the conversation flowing. One tip is to enforce a seat swapping rule between the main, dessert and cheese courses which will help those stuck with people they don’t have much in common with to move along, and meet someone new.
Some more tips we have come across:
• It’s traditional to serve ladies first from eldest to youngest followed by the men
• If you are serving food into bowls, place a plate underneath them to catch spills and create a ‘restaurant’ look. Remove them all at the same time.
• Don’t overload plates, but let everyone know they are welcome to have seconds.
• Serve food from the left, collect finished plates on the right.
• Allow conversation to flow, don’t rush; allow ample time between courses.
• Clear condiments and spare cutlery away before serving dessert.
• Move away from the table after dinner to allow guests to mingle freely.
•Leave the clearing up until everyone has left, but if anyone insists on helping accept graciously.
Wine and food – the magic list
In our recent subscription box we included a dinner party planner which included tips about what wine to serve with what food – we thought it was really useful advice and worth repeating here:
1. Sparkling wines – perfect with salty dishes
Champagne, Prosecco and Cava have a faint touch of sweetness which is refreshing when served with salty foods.
Suggested meals: Noodle dishes or good old British fish and chips.
2. Sauvignon Blanc – a great balance for tangy sauces
Keep the zing in tangy foods with Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde and Verdejo.
Suggested meals: Scallops with seafood sauce or sweet and sour dishes.
3. Pinot Grigio works well with light fish dishes
Light seafood dishes are enhanced when matched with delicate Pinot Grigio or Chablis.
Suggested meals: Cod in parsley sauce or seafood platters.
4. Choose Chardonnay for oily fish or fish in buttery sauces
Chardonnays from California, Chile or Australia are delicious with fish like salmon or any kind of seafood in a rich sauce.
Suggested meals: Salmon with avocado salad or fish pie.
5. Riesling is delicious with spicy dishes
The slight sweetness of many Rieslings, Gewürztraminers and Vouvrays helps tame the heat of spicy Asian and Indian dishes.
Suggested meals: Thai green curry, or an Indian takeaway.
6. Pair a dry Rosé with rich, cheesy dishes
Almost all cheeses work well with dry rosé, which has the acidity of white wine and the fruit character of red.
Suggested meals: Lasagne, cheesy pasta dishes, baked Camembert with fresh bread.
7. Pinot Noir is great for dishes with earthy flavours
Recipes made with ingredients like mushrooms and truffles taste great with reds like Pinot Noir, which are light-bodied but full of savoury depth.
Suggested meals: Homemade pizzas, mushroom risotto.
8. Cabernet Sauvignon is fabulous with juicy red meat
Cabernet, Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style blends are terrific with steaks or chops, helping to refresh the palate after each bite of meat.
Suggested meals: Herby Lamb Chops, any cut of beef or gourmet beef burgers.
Interactive table games can help get the party started…
Here are a couple of suggestions…
Me in Three
The perfect game for a group of people who know each other fairly well.
What You Need:
A piece of paper and a pen for each guest.
How to Play:
During dinner, ask everyone to describe themselves in three words – no more or less. It’s up to them whether they want to write their words out in a list (happy, loving, mad) or as a phrase (lover of chocolate). People then give their paper to the host who mixes them up and reads them aloud. Players then have to match the description with the person who wrote it.
Who Am I?
The perfect game for after dinner when everyone is relaxed and talkative.
What You Need:
Blank white stickers or mailing labels, a pen, and a list of famous people.
How to Play:
Create a list of famous people and write their names on each mailing label or sticker. Place a sticker on each person’s forehead, taking care that they don’t see the name. People then take turns guessing who they are by asking questions which can only be answered with a ‘yes or ‘no’. The winner is the first person to guess correctly who they are.
We hope some of these tips amy inspire you when you’re holding your next social event! At Boxcitement we’re taking these tips to heart, so if you happen to be at our next dinner party you may find that we’ve upped our game!