Dinner party etiquette


At OKA, we love dinner parties. It’s a fabulous chance to dress up both yourself and your dinner table with colourful china, faux flowers and an abundance of candles. Whether you’re the Hostess with the Mostest or the guest of honour, it’s important to abide by a few long-standing traditions to avoid causing offence.

We consult Debrett’s to discover how we really should behave.

Who should I invite?

When considering who to invite, remember that “even numbers are traditional but not essential, it is still considered bad luck to host a dinner party for 13.” If you plan on cooking something a little more complicated, like a soufflé, we’d suggest sticking to this tradition to keep luck on your side.

How should you dress?

When sending (or receiving) invites, “the invitation should indicate the level of formality of the occasion.” This will help to avoid any Bridget Jones-esque moments. After all, one does not want to turn up at a black-tie affair in a rabbit costume.

What about special diet requirements?

Upon receiving your invitation it’s polite to let the host know if you have any dietary requirements. Although, as Debrett’s states, “if a very strict but temporary regime is being adhered to, consider staying at home”, it is not fair to expect a host to create you a carb-less, meat-less, low-fat, gluten-free, iron-rich dinner for one.

What time should you arrive?

Arrive shortly after the proposed time to give your host a chance to finish any preparations and let the party begin!

What should I talk about?

Small talk can seem tedious but it’s important to remember what is appropriate and inappropriate to speak about. Religion, politics and your feelings are all off the cards: “If genuinely asked how you are the answer is: ‘Very well thank you, how are you?’ Do not give a true account of your state of health.” It is rare that one quote can singularly manage to encompass an entire culture.

How should you plan a dining table?

When planning your table and menu, keep in mind that “men and women are alternated where possible and couples should not be seated next to one another.” An adequately spacious table is also paramount to guest comfort, Debrett’s recommends that “place settings should be no less than 20 inches wide to allow plenty of space.”

What food should you avoid?

The menu should be planned out in accordance with your capabilities, if dinner is usually eaten out do not attempt a galantine. Debrett’s also suggests that you “avoid very hot and spicy dishes, and food guests may object to, such as foie gras.”

When is it polite to leave?

Towards the end of the night, one should be alert to signals from the host regarding when it is time to end the evening. “They may be verbal, such as mentioning an early start, or non-verbal, such as not offering more drinks.” It is important not to overstay your welcome yet as a host it is also important not to make a fuss when people are ready to leave.

How should I thank the host?

Always remember to thank your host after a dinner party and “above all, guests must reciprocate and invite their hosts back; not to do so is very bad manners.”