We all know the basic rules of dinner party etiquette -- be clear about whether or not you're attending, don't bring a surprise guest, arrive on time, make a point to thank the host -- but even polite people can make all-too-common mistakes in today's world of modern get-togethers. Etiquette expert Jodi R.R. Smith recently spoke with #OWNSHOW about four faux pas that well-intentioned invitees often overlook in their efforts to be a gracious guest.
Mistake #1: Springing your dietary restrictions on the host.
Whether you're vegetarian, gluten-free or allergic to dairy, Smith says it's OK to inform the host of any dietary restrictions as long as you do it well before the party. "You're allowed to tell the host what you can or cannot eat, but you need to do it when you accept the invitation," Smith says. "For you to arrive at the dinner party [after] the host has been spending all this time cooking, cleaning, shopping, chopping, and you sit down and that's when you tell them that you don't eat any meat... that's not fair to anybody."
If you didn't tell the host in advance, the onus is on you to eat what's available, Smith says. "You can have some of the salad, you can have some of the rolls, you can have a lot of dessert, a little bit of extra wine," she advises.
Mistake #2: Trying to have a friendly conversation with someone you dislike.
Even if you don't care for everyone invited to the dinner party, you can still have a meaningful conversation beyond basic polite chit-chat. Smith's trick to elevating friendly, superficial talks? Change your approach. "Put on your journalist hat," she suggests. "Instead of thinking of this as somebody you're going to have a friendly conversation with, have an interesting conversation. Find out more about where they're coming from, what their interests are. And then, whenever possible, include other people at the table."
Mistake #3: Eating before the host is seated at the table.
There are different schools of thought on this topic, with different people calculating a wide range of variables before arriving at an answer: the length of time you've been waiting, the number of guests at the table, the temperature of the food, etc. For Smith, however, the answer is very clear-cut. "As an adult, you can wait until the host or hostess sits down," she says. "Now, if you're under the age of 5 or over the age of 85, then clearly you can have a little bit of a nibble of your roll or some bread. But other than that, you should be waiting until everyone's seated."
Mistake #4: Overstaying your welcome.
As the dinner winds down and the conversations kick up, some guests unknowingly stick around longer than their host would like. So how can you be sure when it's time to leave? A good host, Smith says, will provide clear clues; it's up to you as a guest to read those cues. "It's going to be clear from my actions when I say, 'It was so nice of you all to come,' or 'I really need to take the dog for her evening walk,' that it's time for you to go," Smith says.