So, having established that you are indeed taking up the kind invitation, it’s incumbent on you to share with your host if you have issues with food, and I’m not just talking about ‘I’m not mad about anchovies’ or ‘I don’t much like cucumber in my Hendricks.’ I’m talking about food intolerances, not eating meat or being a die-hard pescetarian or vegan. I don’t know how guests expect their hosts to be mind readers but it’s not kosher to just turn up on the night and announce you have food issues.
I still vividly remember an early dinner party fiasco where I spent hours stuffing pork steak with fancy spinach, served with an array of exotic vegetables and it all ended up a damp squib when four of the six dinner guests arrived and announced they didn’t eat vegetables! If my memory serves me right, I think someone did a mercy dash to Caffola’s on Mespil Road for fish and chips.
Don’t suddenly decide that you are empowered to bring a plus one. They may not have enough food, or chairs, and they could have been married once to one of the other guests. Eeeek!
Never arrive with your hands hanging and always bring a gift to the house. It may not be a bottle of wine any more because odd bottles of vino drunk back to back are a recipe for hangovers. The days of the bottle of Piat d’Or and a Viennetta ice-cream cake are certainly gone. I always think a nice candle is the perfect choice for a host/hostess who has put in a lot of effort.
I was rather intrigued to hear from a London society hostess during an interview that her choice of party gift was a large box of long matches. Unusual, yes, but definitely handy, especially if you love lighting lots of candles. Personally, I love tall white lilies but many people have issues with their fragrance and their orange stamens that stain like hell. A statuesque white potted orchid is always classy, just don’t knock off the best part as you get out of the car.
If you are being hosted by a serious foodie, they might appreciate some unusual goodies like seriously good olive oil (you know, the ones in silver foil) or a vintage balsamic vinegar or handmade chocolates — even some smelly cheese. If you are in a rush and running late on the night and the prospect of garage forecourt flowers and a box of After Eight doesn’t work for you, simply send lovely flowers the next day.
Don’t decide to play God with the place settings by arriving early and re-arranging them while the hostess is steaming the asparagus. Just because you don’t fancy sitting beside your partner’s boring boss does not give you an excuse to upset the hostess’s grand plan. And for God’s sake, don’t pipe up and suggest everyone changes seats between courses — that’s just Celtic Tiger networking malarkey.