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What to Bring to a Dinner Party: basic guidelines

Updated on June 21, 2011

The Dinner Party

You have been invited to a dinner party and are wondering what to bring. Now this will depend on who has invited you. If it is family or someone you know well, then you know what to do, but what if it is a new acquaintance, someone from work or someone you do not know all that well?

Some say that the best gift you can bring is yourself and your conversation. Do not bring flowers or food. If it is a potluck that is another story but if you are being invited to dinner then the person throwing the dinner will provide the food.

Do not bring desert or chocolates. You do not know what if any allergies your host(s) may have and, in the case, of the flowers, have no idea about the meal’s motif so to avoid any clashes no flowers.

Bringing a bottle of wine is often good form, but you shouldn't expect the host or hostess to serve it at the party. For one thing, you may not know what the dinner will be so the wine you bring may not be appropriate. It is perfectly fine, if you bring wine and the host(s) set it aside.

They can enjoy it later. Another point do they drink? Today that is not the certainty it might once have been. However, I am willing to take the chance and bring a good bottle of wine, one that I am fond of and have shared with others and received a favourable response. The host(s), even if they do not drink, can always serve it to others.

Always arrive on time, do not be early or late both are poor form. If you are early, the host has to deal with you while taking care of any last minute preparations and there are always last minute preparations.

If you are late, you are keeping people and the food waiting and depending on who is there and what is being served, you may begetting the evening off to a bad start, also lateness is simply rude.

Conversation, diner parties are a great time to practice your listening skills. People like people who show an interest in what they have to say and what they think. Listening is one way to send the signal that the conversation matters.

But do not remain quiet, talk but keep it light and short. Do not dominate the table telling that story that you think is so funny or informative that everyone you know must hear it.

Be respectful. Let them finish their story before jumping in with yours. A dinner party is not a competition that the best wit will win.

Be sure to compliment the host on the meal, early in the evening. Be sincere and do not heap praise but if you do enjoy the meal say that. You can say; this is delicious, for example.

At the end of the evening and be sure not to overstay your welcome, thank the host for the evening.

Sitting down to a meal with others is a great way to establish relationships and have a fun time. Relax and enjoy the evening.


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    adg55 9 years ago

    Ive just returned home from a dinner party my partner and I had been invited to, and I have to say it was one of those unpleasant experiences I do not wish to repeat anytime soon. We are moderately friendly w the host couple, specifically my partner has had more of a longtime connection w/ one half of the host couple, and I've grown to like this person very much myself. The problem is his partner (who happens to be the owner of the home). He is just one of these people who has an annoying, offputting need to dominate all conversation, talks right over his guests, ignores their input, and makes no inquiries as to his guests interests, involvements, news, etc. To make matters more annoying in retrospect, after we had been invited and accepted, our hosts called to invite another mutual friend whom they hadn't seen for quite a long time, but who himself had no means of transportation, so it fell upon us to pick this person and drop them off afterwards. But once there, it became apparent that the great bulk of the conversation would be repeatedly diverted back to the subject of "catching up" about common acquaintances they had shared w/ the car-less guest, involving people whom neither I nor my partner even knew. At the end of the evening I had felt like I had served my purpose as a taxi service, and left feeling no real connection (or appeal for) at least the one half of the host couple. This is by no means the first time this individual has displayed such rude behavior. And not unimportantly, this individual always seems to end up drinking too much by the end of the evening, slurring his words, etc. But the rude behavior is a constant ... it seems to prevail whether he's sober or not-so-sober.

    You spoke at length in your column about how a guest should go about being polite and gracious, but seem to make no mention of the more likely scenario of feeling trapped in a situation where the only relief from a rude and overbearing host ... leaving an intimate dinner party early ... makes the abused guest look like the sour puss. Please post this comment to remind your readers that it's not only the duty of a guest to be warm and engaging, but in my mind it's even more essential that a host display such courtesy to their invited guests.

  • jstankevicz profile image

    jstankevicz 10 years ago from Cave Creek

    Nice set of reminders on being a good guest!