Good food that you don’t have to cook, stimulating conversation, maybe a little wine—isn’t it nice to receive an invitation to a dinner party? Of course, when someone invites you into their home, you want to be sure to make a good impression (you want to be invited back, don’t you!?). In case you’re a little rusty on your dinner party etiquette, here’s a list of nine things you should never do when you’re a guest in someone’s home.
1. Show Up Empty Handed
Relationship and etiquette expert April Masini says showing up empty-handed is a faux pas. “Even if you ask if you can bring something, and the host says no, bring flowers, a short book of poetry, lemons from the tree in your yard—or something to express your gratitude for the invitation. Perishables like wine and candy are always lovely gifts as well. ”
2. Wear Your Napkin As A Bib
Most of us know basic utensil etiquette, but not everyone is well versed on how to use a napkin. Wait for your host or hostess to grab his or her napkin, and then pick yours up and place it on your lap, where it should remain the rest of the evening. Use it to gently dab your mouth, and never as a bib.
3. Tell Risqué Jokes
Mason says that off-color or risqué jokes are bad manners when you’re at a dinner party (and we’d say it’s best to avoid them wherever you are!). “Most people already know not to tell jokes that have a racial, religious, sexist or other type of group as a punchline,” she says. “But you’d be surprised at how many need guidance on this one! Try to lose these altogether, even if you have the best intentions.”
4. Talk Politics
Same goes for politically provocative comments. Masini says you run a high risk of offending another dinner guest if you start talking politics—especially in the current heated political environment. “Keep the convo light and breezy and leave the heavy topics to tete-a-tete dinners with people you know well.”
5. Rest Your Elbows On The Table
Your mama always told you to take your elbows off the table—and for good reason. During a meal, it’s not polite to use the table to rest your arms. However, this only applies when people are eating. If you’re lingering at the table after the meal, you can relax a bit.
6. Bring A List Of Foods You Won’t Eat
Your host has probably worked hard to prepare a nice meal, so Masini says it’s rude to show up with a long list of restrictions. So what can you do?
“If you have a strict diet, mention it to the host ahead of time, and offer to bring food that you can eat if he or she is planning to serve what you can’t,” Masini says. “For instance, if you don’t eat meat, you might mention it for a barbecue event where it’s very likely that there will only be meat. Offer to bring a pasta salad or marinated vegetables for the grill.”
7. Reach Over Someone To Grab Something
If the salt is out of reach, never lean over someone to grab it—just ask someone to pass it to you. No one likes an arm in their face, and you don’t want to call negative attention to yourself.
8. Bring An Uninvited Plus One
Masini says you shouldn’t bring a date to a dinner party unless you were explicitly invited to do so. At the very least, ask your host before you show up with a plus one.
“For most people hosting is no joke—it takes time, energy and money to create a nice dinner party, so be respectful,” she says. “If you’re invited to a dinner party and you don’t want to go alone, ask your host shortly after you receive the invitation.”