A recent New York Times article entitled, “Guess Who Isn’t Coming to Dinner” states that the once-revered dinner party is flat-lining. Fast.
Socialites and debutantes all chime in that yes, “It’s dying” a slow and apathetic death, being replaced by gatherings-on-the-go at restaurants and cocktail lounges instead. But you can’t linger at hip restaurants that want table turnover for increased profit margins. You can’t get cozy or really network at the latest it-spot with your nearest and dearest. And you certainly can’t mix and mingle freely the way you would at a dinner party.
So we enlisted the help of Canada’s etiquette expert, owner of Etiquette Ladies and host of mannerstv.com, Louise Fox on how to throw a proper dinner party without the freak out factor.
You want to throw a dinner party? PPPPP or prior planning prevents poor performance, aka the mantra followed by most party planners and etiquette expert, Louise Fox. She suggests you send out an invitation and allow two weeks’ notice with a set date for an RSVP (make sure all details re: time, location etc. are included.) Fox advises you decide on budget, menu, beverages, and seating arrangements ahead of time. “Make a detailed timeline for yourself: what to do when and do as much as you can in advance, make sure you have enough fridge and oven space to execute your menu or adjust it accordingly.” Also, ask about dietary restrictions so as to avoid any “incidents” and don’t invite more guests than you can fit around the table. Sardine-like is no way to party.
Mix it up
Before social media took over our social lives, including dating, dinner parties were a favourite way to meet partners, business prospects and fortify friendships in and outside of the office. They can still check those boxes, just make sure, advises Fox, that you invite a variety of people to the party. You don’t want a room full of “bores or conversationally challenged individuals”, but rather an eclectic group that you, as the host, welcome into your home and make feel comfortable.
Don the chic threads
Forget yoga pants and t-shirts! Instead, take this opportunity to dress up. It used to be that tuxes and long cocktail gowns were du rigueur, so you’ve got it comparatively easy to the Crawley family in Downton Abbey. Put on a pretty frock, that silk shirt of those snappy, pressed pants. Go on, dress to impress, but make it so you can still move and be comfortable because a mermaid, body skimming dress when you’re trying to take the roast out of the oven can be a challenge of note. Fox says, “Dressing well shows respect. Always better to be more formal than less formal. When in doubt, ASK.”
Pull out the silver and china
Fox suggests you set a table that suits the occasion. Here’s your opportunity to use those pretty settings and silver you got as wedding or birthday gifts. Enjoy and share what you’ve got with your guests, but don’t overwhelm yourself with intricate plans that may be too much to execute. “If you are stressed out with elaborate preparations you won’t have a good time and if the host doesn’t have a good time, neither will the guests,” says Fox. Been there, done that! Fox advises hosts relax and don’t aim for perfection. The important thing is family/friends, fun, food and conversation. You pick the order.
Can’t cook? That’s okay. Fox suggests you can buy quality, prepared foods or have your meal catered. Can’t afford it but can cook? Then keep it simple, delicious and non-fussy. “The focus should be on the socialization rather than the food. Having said that, you wouldn’t serve something that requires guests to make a mess of themselves (after all they are dressed up), that is too difficult to eat, totally unfamiliar to them (you put them on the spot) or a microwave dinner (that only reflects badly on you). Serve food you know your guests will enjoy,” advises Fox. And most importantly, have a good time. The word “party” is included in dinner party for a reason, after all!