Being of a sociable persuasion there is nothing we relish more than an invitation for dinner. There’s so much to look forward to: getting togged up, good food, good wine, great chat and perhaps the opportunity to meet new people.
However, we’re aware that for some people an invitation to dine is greeted with a shiver of anxiety.
To which, we would respond, lighten up – it’s supposed to be fun. Resist the tangle of etiquette and descent into neurosis, life is much less formal than it used to be, all you need are a few key pointers – mostly common sense, and your passage into charmed dining is assured.
1. What to Wear.
Whilst the fall back standard of the trouser/blazer/combo is perfectly acceptable on all but the most formal occasions, there are more stylish alternatives. Tweed is a definite dinner winner. Understated and well dressed at it’s best.
2. What to Take
Clearly something in a bottle will be welcomed. A good question to ask yourself is, how much would you spend on a bottle of wine in a restaurant? Then agree to spend a similar amount. If you’re not confident buying wine, go to a good independent wine merchant where staff are generally more knowledgeable and able to advise.
Of course, you won’t know what your host is serving and, for this reason, you should not be offended if your host chooses not to open the bottle you brought. Your host may well have chosen the wines to complement the food.
Flowers are always welcome, as are chocolates – one, or the other. Home grown seasonal flowers can’t be beaten, neither can artisan chocolates – think quality, not quantity.
3. Great Chat
If you can, find out who else will be at dinner. Even if you haven’t met before, this gives you the chance to discover a little about them and what you may have in common. It also means there is more chance of you remembering the names of other guests when you’re introduced.
There is nothing quite so charming as an interested listener – which is quite different to a passive listener – ask questions of your dining companion. The best conversations occur when both parties are genuinely enthusiastic so try to find topics of conversation that are of common interest.
If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself seated next to someone with whom you have little in common, resist the urge to ignore them or seek solace in your wine glass. Instead, be gracious, try to enlarge your conversation and draw your neighbour into a wider circle.
Lastly, never forget to offer assistance to your host, who may well have the topping of glasses, deporting of plates and washing of dishes in hand but will nonetheless appreciate any offers of help.
Thank your host on departure and follow up with a thank you card – no, a text, or email will not do!