The art of… entertaining
Follow these simple rules and advice on how to host a successful formal dinner party.
Be the perfect host
Follow these tips to make sure the evening goes smoothly:
- Set the date for your special occasion and invite people at least three weeks before the time. Ask them to specify any dietary requirements when they RSVP.
- Make sure you welcome each of the guests personally when they arrive. You can also serve small hors d’oeuvres.
- Buy or make place cards to make sure everyone sits at the right place. You can also have a menu on the table, to give your guests something to talk about as soon as they sit down, but this isn’t a necessity.
- It is preferable to use linen napkins; keep your paper serviettes for less formal occasions.
- Besides being in charge of drinks, the meal, dishing up, serving and clearing, it’s also your job to make sure your guests are comfortable and having a good time.
- Offer coffee at the end of the meal or a little later in the evening. Make sure you thank everyone and say goodbye when they leave.
Seating your guests
Seating can be a real dilemma for a hostess. There’s nothing worse than awkward silences or heated arguments around the table.
To ensure that the conversation flows, think about the people you’ve invited and try to decide what type of personality they have and what their interests are. Try to seat people with common interests, such as hobbies or professions, together. Do they have similar-aged children or are they single?
Do they like each other or not?
Keep the following tips on personality in mind to help plan your seating arrangement so that everyone has a good time.
Make sure you are seated near the kitchen so you are able to move freely without climbing over the other guests when you need to check if the food is cooked or to serve it at the correct time.
If you have a co-host (for example, your husband), sit at opposite sides of the table so that he can help you to make sure everyone is being looked after.
Sit next to: the kitchen, the mouse and the queen bee.
You should not be seated next to: the co-host.
The queen bee
This person loves to talk, especially about herself. It’s a good idea to put her next to the quiet or shy person.
The queen bee can carry on talking and the shy person doesn’t need to feel awkward for being quiet.
Sit them next to: the mouse or the charmer.
They should not be seated next to: the comedian.
This is the guest who knows everybody’s business. Sit her next to the people who will find her amusing and won’t mind her gossip. Avoid people who might get irritated by her or who might be judgmental.
Sit them next to: the host, the charmer or the tag-along.
They should not be seated next to: the professor.
Not exactly the life and soul of the party, these people are introverts. They are quiet and shy, and don’t like to be confronted with too many questions.
Sit them next to: the host, the charmer, or the chatterbox.
They should not be seated next to: the tag-along, or the professor.
Everybody loves the charmers. They are able to make everyone feel good about themselves, with plenty of compliments and smiles. They will also help lend a hand with the catering and sort out any problems that may arise.
Sit them next to: any of the guests.
They should not be seated next to: the host or co-host.
This guest knows all the answers and has an opinion on everything that anybody is talking about. They usually talk about issues that are topical or even controversial, and will be guaranteed to stir up a debate around the dinner table. Try to change the subject if they start to get a little out of hand.
Sit them next to: the queen bee, the comedian or the host.
They should not be seated next to: the mouse or the chatterbox.
Always full of jokes and amusing stories, the comedian is not quite as overbearing as the chatterbox. They are guaranteed to be fun to sit next to and to offer plenty of interesting conversation and laughs.
Sit them next to: the chatterbox or the mouse.
They should not be seated next to: the queen bee or the host.
This is the person who is tagging along with one of your guests. There’s a good chance no-one else knows them and it might be difficult for them to fit in with the other guests.
Sit them next to: The person who brought them along, the charmer, or the host.
They should not be seated next to: the mouse.