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14 Things Your Dinner Party Host Secretly Thinks About You

Got invited to a dinner party? Great! Now here's how to impress, rather than stress, your host.

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Early arrival? Your host will think you’re rude

The right time to arrive at a dinner party is not a moment before you were invited, according to Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of evergreen etiquette arbiter, Emily Post. In a conversation with Vanity Fair about the dos and don’ts of dinner parties, Post was quoted as imploring all dinner guests to never arrive before the appointed time. “It is rude and it puts your host in an uncomfortable position.”


A vase of blue flowers on the windowsill.Alena Zamotaeva/Shutterstock

Forgot a hostess gift? You’ll be viewed as a “noob”

As in, “dinner party newbie.” Whenever you’re invited to a dinner party, it’s your duty as a guest to bring a gift to the hostess, according to Post. “Your best bet is flowers already in a vase,” she advises. But if you don’t bring anything, the question on your host’s mind will be, “First time at a dinner party?” Find the right hostess gift with this ultimate hostess gift guide for every occasion.

Pretty Caucasian woman and her man friend standing at terrace and chatting and drinking wine.LStockStudio/Shutterstock

You get heated about politics? You’ll be seen as provocative…

…and not in a good way. While lively conversation may well meander into politics (or religion or sex, for that matter), it can quickly become “inelegant,” Post says. At that point, it’s up to your host to reroute the discussion, but when he or she does, you’ll want to go with it, lest you be viewed as argumentative.

 

Hands of unrecognisable woman holding a plate with food for outdoor dinner party.LStockStudio/Shutterstock

Brought a dish without being asked? That’s kind of annoying

Unless your host specifically asked you to bring a dish, you most definitely should not bring a dish with you, says The Washington Post’s Miss Manners. It encroaches on the host’s presumably well-planned menu, at best. At worst, you’ll be seen as a nuisance, as it was with the host who told Miss Manners about the time a guest brought a fruit salad and “commandeered” the kitchen for “the better part of an hour” to prepare it. Don’t miss these essential social etiquette secrets.

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If you overdo the booze, you’re burdening your host

Good parties have good bars, according to Post, but that also means there’s a chance a guest might overdo the booze. And when that happens, it’s a huge responsibility for the host, who may feel obliged to take away the guest’s keys and let the guest stay for the night.

 

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If that’s your phone on the table, you’re ruining the vibe

“Real-life interactions are dulled when a person feels the urge to check their phone,” TIME points out, and the distraction can destroy the vibe of a social interaction. Even the mere presence of your mobile phone on the table during dinner interferes with the ability of those at the table to connect in a meaningful way, according to this study.

Handsome Caucasian man typing on his cell phone at outdoor lunch at restaurant.LStockStudio/Shutterstock

And if you’re actually texting at dinner? Ouch to your host

“If you’re having dinner with friends and family, be with them,” writes Cindy Post Senning on EmilyPost.com. “The guideline is that you do not text when you are involved in any type of social interaction—conversation, listening, in class, at a meeting or, especially, at the dinner table. If you really need to communicate with someone who is not at the event—or at the table—excuse yourself, send your message, and then return as soon as you can.” To do otherwise might understandably hurt your host’s feelings. Find out the table etiquette mistakes you need to stop making.

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Helping your host out? You might be a nuisance

While it’s certainly admirable to offer to pitch in, say with serving or clearing, it’s important to be mindful of how quickly your efforts can become burdensome to your host. “Pitching in is admirable if the situation requires it, but it can often verge into awkward territory,” notes Lizzie Post. “You can always offer to help out, but you don’t have to insist upon it. You know, you’re not this person’s best friend. Let yourself be a guest. Don’t try to insert yourself into everything.”

Group of people sitting outdoor and having fun time on dinner party celebration and drinking wine.LStockStudio/Shutterstock

Be friendly and open, or make things awkward

Look around at the other guests at the dinner party, and recognize you all have one thing in common: You’ve been hand-picked by the host to come together for dinner and conversation, according to Saveur magazine. That means your host intended for you to mingle with one another. You have no obligation to make life-long friends, but it would be super-nice for your host and the other guests if you would make a good faith attempt to engage your dinner companions in friendly conversation.

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Didn’t tell your host about your food issue? They’ll still know

No matter how uncomfortable you might feel fessing up to a food allergy or a special diet in advance of the dinner party if you don’t, your host will definitely notice you pushing your food around on your plate. At best, your host will feel awkward and at worst, your host will be insulted. And in any case, you’ll go home hungry.

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If dawn is breaking, you’ve overstayed your welcome

Well, that should be obvious. But a clear signal that the night is wrapping up is when your host closes the bar, advises Lizzie Post. If you missed that hint, then take note of your host beginning to refer to the evening in the past tense (“Well, that was a wonderful night!”). If your host is clear, but you don’t clear out, that can sour an otherwise awesome evening.  Learn modern party etiquette rules if you ever want to invited back.

Wine bottles on wooden table. Red, rose and white wine. Top view with space for your textEvgeny Karandaev/Shutterstock

Brought your wine home with you when you left? Rude

When you bring wine to a dinner party, it’s a gift, not a menu item, according to wine blog Vine Pair. That means you don’t take it home with you when you leave, even if your host didn’t open it during the dinner party. And about that? It’s not rude of the host not to open your wine. It’s perfectly reasonable for your host to have picked out his or her own wine selections to go with the meal he or she planned.

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Hand-written thank you note? Big brownie points!

“Dinner parties are tough on the hosts,” according to Daniel Post Senning, a spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute and co-host of “The Awesome Etiquette Podcast.” “This is your opportunity to make an impression and it’s especially true if the dinner party was in a professional capacity. Find out the top circumstances that call for a hand-written thank you.

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For a return invite, return the favor

If you enjoy being a dinner party guest, then, by all means, return the favor: invite your host over for the next dinner party. Dinner party guests who like being dinner party guests can help ensure future invitations by extending invitations, themselves. Next, find out the 50 little etiquette rules you should always practice.