Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Season Etiquette: Making the Most of Attending a Dinner Party

I think it's safe to say we are smack dab in the thick of the holiday season. The malls are decorated, the holidays cards are arriving, and hopefully FedEx won't lose another one of my packages (to their credit, they were very helpful after a little nagging). And just as with wedding season, dinner parties are par for the course when a festive occasion approaches. Personally, I love dinner parties, but when you're not in charge of the menu, you're sometimes forced to graciously accept a mound of questionable looking mystery meat, which your host has dubbed "meat loaf." (You laugh, but once my mom made meat loaf that looked like - okay, maybe a little like dog food - and it was surprisingly very tasty.) So whether it's navigating the dinner table's epicurean selections or learning how to make conversation with a very reserved seat neighbor, I thought I'd share a few random tips for making the most of being a dinner party attendee.

- Don't shy away from the red wine, but don't drink it from the bottle if you know what I mean. Studies have shown that red wine is a rich source of antioxidants and that it can protect against heart disease, but don't forget it's still alcohol, which is not really that great for you and can leave you dancing on the table if you're not careful.

- Bring your host a gift. It doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't have to cost a lot. It doesn't have to match your outfit, it just needs to show your appreciation. Wine or flowers are pretty acceptable.

- Traditionally, it's the job of the host(s) to keep the conversation flowing, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be armed with charming convo skills. Unless you already know your dinner mates well, steer clear of politics and religion and personally, I suggest staying away from the weather as a conversation opener. (If you really want to talk politics, here's an article on keeping it diplomatic.) Some people are naturally good at talking to strangers, but if this isn't the case for you, don't be afraid to chat. Discuss movies, vacations, sports, hobbies, anything is on the table! Your biggest weapon? Most people love talking about themself, so you can usually pull even the shyest person out of the shell with a few questions.

- Last but not least, when you are offered a funky looking dish, you have three options. You can politely decline, you can be adventurous and take a bite, or you can loudly declare that you're allergic to (insert food here). But whatever the circumstance, you should never twist your mouth down, furrow your eyebrows, and look at whatever is being offered to you as if it just came out of the swamp. (You can get away with this when you're five, not when you're twenty-five.) After all, your host went through the effort to prepare this meal, be gracious enough to at least try it.

Photo found via Country Living - Black Tie Backyard Dinner Party

sources: Ivillage - Benefits of Red Wine


wedding-venue said...

I agree that the best thing is to ask questions about the other person and more importantly to actually listen to the answer not just worry about what you're going to say next. :)

TheCluelessCrafter said...

Ugh, I hate that I ask a question and immediately forget a name. It takes a lot of focus. My grandmother told my mother, in the old way of entertaining, that the key is to keep yourself on a pivot. Be ready to make a quarter turn frequently before you get stuck in a conversation and miss out on the rest of the guests.

Caveat: When I was at the art fairs this weekend, I was reminded that remembering too much about what a male counterpart said re his career earlier in the evening will be taken as a sign of interest later. Ugh! And I was just being friendly - such a slime!

wedding-venue said...

@ TheCluelessCrafter
I'm horrible with names as well. If it were up to me people would wear the 'Hi My Name is' stickers. :)

Jennifer said...

@CluelessCrafter - I used to be really bad at remembering names too, but I've gotten better at. I love your grandmother's advice about staying on a pivot!

And about the guy at the art fair - some guys think you're coming on to them when all you want is to be friendly. Eh, wishful thinking for him, lol. :)

RoseAllen@ Maui Wedding said...

Thanks for the tips. This are very good information and I must say that I was often the shy type and the never talk person during such occasions and the last one is very humane that even a foolish person shouldn't try to do so. What else was the sense of partying if you won't even take a bite?

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