INVITED FOR DINNER?
- If you want to take wine, then make sure it isn't 'plonk'. You don't have to go mad with a bottle of Don Perignon or Moet, for example, but take something in the £6 to £10 range. I can recall my own wedding, where we requested no presents, but asked guests to bring a bottle of Champagne instead, knowing that there was a range of fizz from as little as £15 to £200. We had some of the latter but much of the former, but one couple 'splashed-out' (sarcasm) on a £4 bottle of sparkling wine. I knew who it was, but kept quiet. But I digress - other possible gifts to take to a supper party include an interesting book or a small box of after-dinner chocolates. Never take flowers, which have to be trimmed and put in a vase just when the host is likely to have their hands full with a million other things.
- By all means, offer to make a course, but if the host says no, don't take something anyway because you happen to be baking. And certainly don't take some baking you've acquired from a farm shop, local market or the WI!
- It's fine to get drunk (as long as you are a 'nice' drunk - I'm not), buy never, ever arrive at a dinner party already drunk, or in mood because you've had a big fall-out with your other-half.
- It's polite to make an effort to look nice for someone's dinner party and not turn up in a dirty shirt or with unwashed hair. However, don't overdo it and run the risk of outshining the host. Don't wear stilettos or Cuban heels (if anyone can remember what those are) - the host might have wooden floors.
- You host will be excited about their dinner party and may be planning the meals in advance (I hope they are!), so if you have any dietary quirks, mention them when you'r invited.
- Don't hog the conversation at the dinner table. Let your hosts and fellow guests 'get a word in'. Try to keep you response to questions as succinct as you can - you're not being interviewed for a job. Avoid becoming boring or trying to overimpress - your best friend might well be Dr Robert Winston, but you don't have to go on about it!
- If you arrive any earlier than 15 minutes before the stated arrival time, you will catch your host on the hop. The latest you ought to arrive is 30 minutes. Some former friends of ours were constantly 60 to 90 minutes late to every dinner party to which we invited them. Their rudeness finally took its toll. If you are going to be more than 30 minutes late, then you need to start calling to apologise, and give some approximate arrival time, to avoid a well planned supper being ruined by your lateness.
- As for leaving times, if you're all under thirty with no children, the sky is the limit. If you hosts have small children or demanding jobs, it's best to make a move at around 10.30 pm.
- Finally, remember that the best guests are the ones who bring a positive attitude to the table.