Guest Post! Mr H Does Dinner Party Etiquette

Cordelia has asked me to guest write a post for her blog for several weeks now. (Un)fortunately I have been variously busy, hideously hungover or at another social function so haven’t been able to. Until now.

Apparently I am not allowed to write about one of the more detailed points of Inheritance Tax law so instead here are my thoughts on the virtues of hosting a New Year’s Eve party, the simple but oft forgotten etiquette of a dinner party and how to be a good host.

The advantages of hosting for New Year’s Eve (and indeed any dinner party) versus going out are numerous:

  1. Decent food

You will after all be cooking so you only have yourself (or your co-host) to blame if the food is bad. If in doubt, follow the C. Masters patented method and cook nothing but Nigella. Fool proof.

  1. Good company

This does depend upon whom you and, importantly, your significant other wants to or has to invite out of politeness however at least you have a degree of choice.

  1. Not having to get home

Are you enjoying finding, organising or booking a taxi South of the river for New Years Eve? Few things will sober you up quicker than seeing the effect of a 2x Uber charge on your bank account. There are of course the buses. Enough said.

  1. Waking up in your own bed

The older I get the more I appreciate this. There will be washing up and a lot of it but believe me its worth not having to wake up in an uncomfortable bed or, God forbid, some cushions on a floor (sorry Jess and Julia), before making hungover small talk and ultimately repeating step 3 above.

With that said here are some musings on how to host and what you should expect from your guests.

‘The Look’

I don’t really do dressing up but Cordelia says I need a photo of what I plan to be wearing. The rule is just because a NYE party is taking place in your own house rather than an overpriced restaurant or club doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort.

Look at this jacket (John Lewis Kin). It was a present to me, from me and it’s glorious. Originally purchased for a work do I’m wearing it with a shirt, trousers and shoes from Zara.

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Timing

I have told Cordelia that if she turns up to the church more than 20 minutes late on our wedding day then I will have already left. She thinks I am joking. I’m not. I cannot abide lateness but dinner parties are a rare exception to this.

Please don’t arrive early. The thirty minutes before a party starts are a rush of cooking, tidying, hovering and candle lighting often punctuated by swearing and tension. The last thing a host wants at this point is the doorbell to ring and for a guest to sit awkwardly in a corner while the table is laid next to them. The only exception to this rule is when a guest has travelled a long way and has left in plenty of time to avoid…

Being late is worse than being early. There is no excuse for arriving more than 30 minutes late or, worst of all, cancelling at the last minute. Blame the trains or concoct an illness if it makes you feel better, just don’t expect another invite anytime soon.

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Note timings pinned up…

Table dressing and decorations

I have no role in this but Cordelia does a great job.

img_6138What to bring

 I live in fear of hosting a dinner party and the wine running out. All eyes turn to you as host to supply what you don’t have and that two thirds empty bottle of sherry you use for cooking isn’t going to cut it.

Cordelia says I am not allowed to turn away guests who turn up without at least one bottle because this, apparently, is ruder than turning up without something in the first place. A bottle of wine is the bare minimum and -as a tip- maybe peel the price sticker off the bottle you brought in the corner shop at the end of the road.

NYE calls for champagne and cocktails and I have my tried and tested recipes for causing merriment and, ultimately, a world-ending hangover the next day.

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Conversation and games

Modern etiquette guides will tell you to avoid discussing politics but good luck with that. Instead Cordelia and I love a game. At the moment we are playing Scrawl a cross between adult Pictionary and Chinese whispers. Cue merriment.

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Calling time 

Even the best dinner party must come to an end. The key though is knowing when it is time to call it a day. And with that I wish you a happy New Year!

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