Holidays and entertaining go hand in hand. Over the next few months, there is a good chance you’ll be invited to someone’s house to celebrate. Most likely they will serve food. Lucky you… it means that you will be a dinner guest!
I’ve thrown many dinner parties myself, been a guest at dozens more, and participated in a slew of pot-luck dinners. Here are my top 10.5 DOs and DON’Ts for dinner guests. They fall in the realm of common sense but they are definitely worth repeating.
1) DO NOT show up early. There is a good chance that your hosts are doing last-minute preparations (perhaps frantically) and might not be able to properly greet you, help you get settled, hand you a drink. You don’t want to be the reason they burned the shrimp. Drive around the neighborhood if you have to.
2) DO NOT bring a bouquet of flowers. This means the host has to unwrap them, find a vase the right size, fill it with water, find a place to put them, and smile thankfully while doing it. Opt for a potted plant. Chocolates, fancy cocktail napkins, or candles are better.
2.5) If you bring wine and your hosts have already chosen wines to pair with each course, DO NOT expect yours to be served. Just be thankful that you are being treated to such a fancy meal!
3) DO NOT bring a dish or course unless you’ve been asked to do so. Your hosts have the meal planned. Trust them to have it all covered. Your granny’s potato salad might not go well with an Italian meal. Maybe a third dessert isn’t needed.
4) If you are asked to contribute, DO NOT bring food that requires special equipment or additional preparation. Have your rolls baked and your cream whipped. The oven might be in use (perhaps for roasting a turkey?) and maybe there isn’t room for you to work at the kitchen counter. Arriving with the right serving utensils is always welcome.
5) DO NOT drink too much alcohol. Whatever your normal intake is, stay below it. Everyone will have a better time, including you.
6) DO tell your hosts ahead of time if you are a vegetarian, vegan, lactose-intolerant, gluten-free, or have food allergies. Offer to make it easy for them by bringing a meatless dish or a dairy-free dessert. Also, if you ONLY drink something your hosts are not likely to serve, like wine without sulfites or Diet Dr. Pepper, please bring it.
7) DO let your hosts know if you are going to be late. Traffic happens and navigation systems do not always give optimum directions. A text message might be easy to miss in the hubbub; calling is probably better.
8) DO silence your phone. Share pictures of your pets, kids, grandkids, latest vacation or remodel in moderation…and then put it away.
9) DO leave at a reasonable time. You don’t want to rush out the door right after dessert is served but you don’t want to linger beyond your welcome. Watch for signs that the party is over and your tired hosts want to call it a night. If you didn’t drink too much, this is easier to do.
10) DO reciprocate. Whether it’s a formal or an informal gathering, take a turn hosting. It doesn’t have to be elaborate and it is not a competition. Sharing your home and food is a wonderful gift to give friends and family.