By the Rules
Dinner Party? Be Impeccable.
It’s prime holiday entertaining season. Brush up on simple tips with local lifestyle blogger and certified etiquette coach Susan Beckwith to ensure your guests leave blissful and hosts keep you at the top of their must-invite lists.
As a host
You set the mood for your gathering by how you act and interact with guests.
Hello & Welcome | Set the right tone by warmly greeting each guest as they arrive. Guests can become tense if they sense the host is frazzled. Prior to everyone’s arrival, determine a plan for coats and belongings.
Menu | Stick to dishes you’re familiar with and aren’t too involved. Testing new recipes for a party could be disastrous, and you don’t want to be a slave to the stove.
Ambiance | Create a pleasant environment with candles, music and lighting. My favorite candles are Thymes Frasier Fur candles (see page 12). Regarding music, I like to stick to the classics such as Frank Sinatra for dinner parties.
Make it an occasion | Details show your guests how much you appreciate them. Set a beautiful table, use name cards and select a festive centerpiece. If you don’t have enough service to accommodate your entire party, mix it up. Use multiple patterns and pieces.
Leave it be | Enjoy your guests and save the dishes and clean up until the next day.
As a guest
Equally important as hostess etiquette is being a courteous dinner guest.
RSVP | It’s difficult to plan accordingly if you don’t know how many guests to anticipate.
Arrival | Never arrive early and try not to arrive more than 15 minutes after a party is scheduled to start.
Hostess gift | A small gift is always a nice gesture. I typically opt to bring my favorite candle or a specialty food item. If you want to bring flowers, bring them already in a vase so it doesn’t create additional work for the host. For some unique gifts options, check out Conner Prairie’s gift shop. It has an entire section dedicated to Indiana-made products.
Be engaged | An excellent guest shows excitement about the evening, the food and your host.
Give thanks | Planning a party can be a big undertaking. Proper etiquette encourages a thank you note be sent as soon as possible after to express appreciation for their hospitality. At the very least, send an email or text message expressing gratitude.
Susan Beckwith is a certified etiquette coach and blogs at BelleoftheMidwest.com