7 Dinner Party Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making

It's always best to be fashionably late. Or is it? We've got some tips for dinner party etiquette that'll keep you on the guest list.

Group of friends enjoying dinner party at home togetherPhoto: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images
Photo: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

Nothing makes me happier than inviting people over for a good old-fashioned dinner party. It gives me the chance to visit with friends and show off some of my favorite dinner party recipes. But throwing a party can be fraught with stress. Do I need a vegetarian option? Should I serve white wine or red? And when it comes to being a guest, I always wonder what I can do to help. Can I bring a dish to pass? (We’ve got a few great make-and-take dishes that are perfect for taking to parties.)

While I can’t always answer these questions perfectly, I do know there are a few sure no-no’s when it comes to hosting (and attending) a soiree.

Mistake #1: Being Fashionably Late

It may seem like the posh thing to do, but arriving more than 15 minutes late to a party can interfere with your host’s plans for the event. You don’t want to delay or miss dinner for vanity’s sake. If you must show up late due to other commitments, notify your host in advance. It’s worth noting that being early is just as much of faux pas—your host is probably using every pre-party minute to prepare.

Mistake #2: Taking a Backseat

You may be a guest in someone’s home, but it’s never polite to sit by and watch your host do all the work. After dinner (or drinks or cake), offer to help clear the table or top off friends’ glasses.

Mistake #3: Giving Guests Too Much to Do

On the flip side, it’s impolite to give your guests big tasks—you’re supposed to be entertaining them, or at least providing an atmosphere where they can relax and mingle. Avoid assigning your guests major responsibilities such as doing the dishes or carving up the main dish. Allow them to kick back instead, and if they insist, give them an easy job—like setting out coffee cups for dessert.

Mistake #4: Arriving Empty-handed

If you’re invited to a get-together (something more formal than a girls night in), it’s always a good idea to bring a small gift. A bottle of wine or flowers are nice options. However, if your host specifies no gifts, whether it be for a holiday party or birthday, it’s best to respect her wishes. In this case, bringing a gift may be considered rude, and it will probably make other guests second-guess themselves.

Mistake #5: Not Making Introductions

The point of a party is for friends to mix and mingle, but that doesn’t mean you should let unacquainted guests fly solo. If your best friend hasn’t met your sister-in-law, be sure to introduce them as soon as it’s convenient. Don’t leave your guests to do all of their own footwork.

Mistake #6: Expecting People to Serve Themselves

I’ve made this mistake more times than I can count. Be sure that any appetizers and beverages are conveniently placed and ready to enjoy. Also, everyone hates being the first to dive in, so appoint a good friend to start the trend. Once one guest has taken a plate, the others will be more inclined to join. (It also helps to have super tempting appetizers, and we’ve got you covered there.)

Mistake #7: Stressing Out!

Preparing for a party can be hard work. Go easy on yourself and opt for easy-to-make dinners and desserts that are ready in 30 minutes or less.

This list should help you avoid a party foul or two. And for overnight guests, check out our tips on how to be the perfect host for them, too.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.