Friday, April 5, 2013


Formal Dinner Setting
Some people just seem to know how to be the perfect dinner guest, others may be in a quandary about proper etiquette for business invitations and still there is the casual dinner with close friends that usually has no restrictions at all where you can be at ease. Guidelines herewith provide pointers for attending modern semi formal and formal dinner parties. These tips will help you to avoid a faux pas and worst have your name removed from any further invitations. Dinner parties are not to be trifled with, but given their due respect, and you should always be prompt but never earlier than the time designated for arrival.

FASHIONABLE ATTIRE A dinner party is the kind of social affair that requires particular savoir faire, manners and dressing for the occasion. Yes, it is important to coordinate your attire to emulate the dinner party’s theme. In other words, save your jeans for a backyard barbecue invitation. Quite often, the host will tell you in advance why the dinner party is being held; an anniversary celebration, a birthday, a promotion---there are numerous reasons why a host will hold a dinner party and that will give you a clue as to the dress code for the evening. An invitation to a business dinner means you will have to be clear about the attire expected, mind your manners and avoid excess drinking of libations.

A FORMAL AFFAIR Formal black tie and evening gown dinners are usually banquet affairs; testimonials, award ceremonies or the like, held in a hotel ballroom. For such occasions you know instinctively that the dress code is formal. In a home setting a formal dressy affair, a tuxedo and gown invitation, reminds me of something out of the past, like a 1920’s movie set. However, I have found that on rare occasions a formal dinner lends a special flair to the celebration. I held a formal dinner for six one time to celebrate birthday milestone, and the fact that everyone dressed up to the occasion gave the affair a tone of elegance and panache.

HOSPITALITY POINTERS The matter of a hospitality gift is a courtesy, so you might ask the host, “May I bring some wine?” If you are told, “No, do not bring anything, just yourself,” ignore the hosts protestation and bring something anyway. If you do bring wine, and the host does not open it that evening, do not be disappointed. The host may have planned the choice of wines for the dinner with such precision that your wine will be kept for another occasion. Instead of wine consider gourmet chocolates or a designer scented candle. Flowers are also a lovely choice, but then the busy hostess, greeting guests, has to find a vase. Anyway she or he may have already coordinated flower arrangements to suit the color scheme of the evening. Sending flowers the next day as a ‘thank you’ is a better choice.

INTERACTING WITH GUESTS That said, depending upon the occasion, you might politely ask the host who will also be attending the dinner and explain that your inquiry is merely to be prepared so that you can interact with the guests on their cultural level. If foreigners are among the guests, be prepared and know in advance the customs of their country in order to avoid any faux pas. Some men still gallantly take a woman’s hand and kiss it, but that is a gesture that is reserved for people they know. When introductions are made a polite handshake is sufficient.

THE PERFECT DINNER GUEST The perfect dinner guest is someone who is interesting and interested in the people to the left and right of him or her at the dinner table. However, a brash guest should never monopolize the conversation and talk about himself. The best way to open up the conversation is to ask a question, which you could easily do since you have received beforehand information about the guests. Look for ways to connect. A woman can easily chat with another woman by merely admiring her jewelry or her dress. A gentleman might open up a conversation by discussing some artifact in the dining room or a newspaper item that is fresh on everyone’s mind, but nothing too controversial. By all means wait for your host to sit down and invite everyone to start eating. A toast may be offered first, so follow the host’s lead and rise to the occasion.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH It’s never quite clear how long to linger after the dinner. Guests may be urged to stay for an after dinner drink while others may have a train to catch or pressing business and need to leave early right after the dinner has concluded. Remember, before you exit be sure to say something about how much you enjoyed the dinner, and thank the host. Whether you stay on at the host’s request or not, remember to send a ‘thank you note’ the very next day expressing how much you enjoyed the dinner party, and mention something special about the evening.

WRITE FROM THE HEART “It was such a delightful evening and I was glad to be counted among your special guests. The salmon cordon blue was excellent as was the entire dinner, which I so very much enjoyed, especially the pot de crème dessert. I particularly enjoyed meeting Mr. and Mrs. So and So, and the lady from India. Thank you again for inviting me. I hope to see you soon again.” Okay that’s not your style, but it is just an example; say something from the heart, something that will make the host smile and feel appreciated.