party etiquette: Domino Magazine November 2007
For the host and the invitee, practical wisdom to sidestep common faux paus.
before the festivities
how formal for the invites?
For midsize gatherings, many prefer “blanks” (cards that say “time,” “place,” etc.) with specifics handwritten in; for 40+, go custom. Unanswered invites should be followed up by e-mail. For small bashes, asking by phone or e-mail is fine.
“Printed invites are a bit much for a party of less than 12. E-mail is acceptable, but ‘Evites’ never are.”—Tom Scheerer
is it alright to cancel?
That last-minute cancellations have become rampant doesn’t make them any less rude. Even if it’s a big party, RSVP promptly and, unless an emergency arises, show up if you said you would.
good hostess gifts?
Instead of flowers (which force a busy host to find a vase as well as a place for them), try an antique monogrammed hand towel, a box of fancy chocolates, artisanal olive oil or a bottle of Belle de Brillet, a delicious pear liqueur that nobody has and everybody likes.
at the event
is it appropriate to arrive on time for cocktails?
Showing up promptly is all very good for business meetings and job interviews, but at a cocktail party, you don’t want to be first—better to get there 10 to 15 minutes after the starting time. At a larger affair, you can be up to 35 minutes late.
“For dinner, be 10 to 20 minutes late. Let them be not only glad but also relieved to see you.”—David Netto
should you give guests a house tour?
A third of our panelists gave a resounding “no,” but the rest said yes, why not, agreeing that look-sees be kept quick and not include closets, messy rooms or long-winded explanations of renovations (snore!).
“It feels a little nosy to wander by oneself, so I love it when hosts give me a tour, and I always do the same for my guests.”—Lili Diallo
For a decent-size soiree (more than 20), it’s all about the “French leave,” which means sneaking out quietly (and, of course, calling or e-mailing the next day to thank your host), instead of disrupting the swing of things with drawn-out goodbyes.
how to kick them out?
If coming out in PJs brushing your teeth feels too direct, turn off the music to send a strong but polite “good night, everyone” signal.
the morning after
best way to thank your host?
Nobody will turn up her nose at a handwritten note. If you send flowers after a dinner party, your host—likely busy cleaning and recovering from the previous night—will be oh-so-grateful. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with a short call or e-mail saying, “I had a great time, you looked terrific”—or words to that effect.
“It’s really nice to send flowers the next day—a modest arrangement in a simple, beautiful vase.”—Gil Schafer
If you’re the host, don’t…
be late serving the food.
seat spouses or significant others together—boring.
rush through courses. Pause between them, leaving time for second helpings.
serve dessert at the table—get up and have it in the living room to spice things up.
start washing dishes—cleaning up is a guaranteed evening-ender.
If you’re a guest, don’t…
be more than 25 minutes late, but never be exactly on time or early.
bring something you expect the host to integrate into the meal—he or she has everything planned.
use BlackBerrys or cell phones during the dinner, or at any other time during the evening—ever.
forget to pay attention to both people you are sitting next to.
stay too late or leave too early (especially at a small fete, where one premature departure can spur a mass exodus).