When throwing a dinner party, it can be challenging to find time to relax and enjoy the company of your guests. With food to prep, tables to set, and people to entertain, it's easy to get caught up in the chaos and forget the proper etiquette of hosting.
, the great-great-granddaughter of etiquette expert and a ambassador, sat down with us to share her top tips for being a polite party planner. From choosing the right number of utensils to handling the clean-up after the party, this etiquette queen breaks down everything you need to know to pull off your next affair with grace.
Start by acknowledging the type of party you’re throwing. Are you planning a casual, impromptu get-together or a more formal gathering? Once you have a better sense of direction, you'll know what type of food to serve, whether it's a buffet-style meal, plated dinner, or cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.
One of the most important things to consider when hosting is to make sure there’s enough space at the venue. "If you have a four-person table in a small apartment, don’t invite 10 people to a dinner party," says Post.
An option for those with limited space is to rent an apartment or house for a day. "There are usually cleaning services available, so you don’t have to worry about clean-up. It’s a great way to get a space that you can actually work with for a night."
Post has noticed that more and more people have come to appreciate formal paper invites, even for small dinner parties. It's a fairly simple way to make the event feel more special. "It’s nice to receive something in the mail that’s not a bill or junk," Post says.
If the occasion simply doesn't call for a handwritten invite, email can work. However, the downside is email invites usually include advertisements, which can take away from the message. "I recently received a baby shower email invitation and the amount of clicking away of ads I had to do just to get through to the actual invite was ridiculous," she says.
Another important question that Post thinks hosts should ask themselves is what they'll be serving. "The only things you need to put on the table are the utensils that will be used for the items being served. You don’t need to put out an oyster fork just because it looks cute."
If you’re serving just one entrée, all you need is one fork, a knife, and a spoon, if necessary. If it's not needed, it's best not to put it out.
When it comes to whether or not food will be served, hosts need to be clear about their intentions. "As the host, it’s up to you to decide what you’re going to serve. It’s not rude to throw a cocktail party without providing dinner, but you need to make it clear so your guests can decide if that works for them."
When invitees neglect to RSVP, it can become difficult to stay organized. To eliminate any stress on the day of the event, Post suggests planning for one or two extra servings of every dish for that just-in-case moment.
If someone shows up without notice or brings along an extra guest, you can quietly add a table setting and divvy up the food a bit differently. And as far as making a scene goes, Post leaves us with this: "Etiquette dictates that at the door, you’re nothing but gracious."
Sometimes people just don't commit to plans and end up canceling at the last minute. Try your best to not take this personally. Instead, focus on the guests who do show up to enjoy your party.
"This is a trend that I would like to see stop, because it’s really not fair to the host," says Post. "We have forgotten how much of an effort goes into planning, because we don’t treat our hosts with a lot of respect."
There's no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to allowing your guests to help with clean-up, but it depends on the type of party and whether or not they are up for helping. Post does have one rule for clean-up, though. "I try not to give them tasks, like taking out the garbage, which will get them dirty," she says.
If your friends volunteer to help with the dishes, there’s no reason to say no, unless you truly want them to feel like they didn't lift a finger all evening. "The only time it's rude is if you ask your guests to do the dishes."