Throwing a formal dinner party is always fun. It’s one of those few times your home will look magical. The chandelier in your dining room will be lit, creating sparkles and twinkles up and down your table. The fresh scent of flowers will float through the room, waiting for the arrival of guests, fancily attired, faces aglow with smiles and great expectation.
Formal dinner parties are fun for everyone. So, if you have the fancy tableware and glasses out, why not go all out and follow up with some aristocratic etiquette.
1.. Arrive in your receiving or formal living room a few minutes before the time of your party. You never know if a guest will arrive a few minutes before the hour. And by scheduling your time this way, it will give you the chance to do a final check and fix any problem that may arise at the last minute. Most importantly, it will prevent you from being late to your own party.
2.. If you are not the one opening your front door for guests, stand or sit near the door so that you will be in a convenient position to greet each guest as they arrive. If you are sitting, make sure to stand and greet both ladies and gentlemen.
If you hire servants for the night, you can stand by the door with your gentleman partner to form a receiving line – greeting each guest immediately upon arrival. The longer the line of guests waiting for your greeting, the shorter your pleasantry should be.
3.. When it is time to enter the dining room, the host should offer his right arm to the lady of the highest rank and begin walking to the dining room. Then you, the hostess, should request that each gentleman escort a lady into the dining room. Once all your guests proceed to the dining room, you should follow up on the arm of the gentlemen of the highest rank.
4.. Once the couples reach the dining room, the host should indicate where everyone should sit. If he chooses to forgo this tradition, he should arrange ahead of time for the butler to do it.
As for the seating of the host and hostess… The lady escorted by the host into the dining room should be placed on the right side of the host at the dining table. The hostess should arrange for the two highest ranking gentlemen to be seated on either side of her.
TIP: Make sure to inform the host early that day where everyone should sit. Be ready to jump in if your host forgets. Having a host indicate where everyone should sit, is easier and quicker than having guests roaming up and down the dining room, looking for their name on a place card. If you are hosting a large dinner of over 12 guests or consisting of more than one table, place cards may be easier and quicker for everyone involved.
5.. When the dinner has ended, do not stay at the dining table to continue the conversation. Instead, indicate the dinner is at its end by formally nodding to the lady of the highest rank and then leading the ladies to the drawing or formal living room.
By leaving the dining room once the meal is over, you will allow your servants the chance to clean the room. And you will also give your guests the chance to time a perfect leave. It is rude to leave a dinner party while sitting at the dining room. So, if you prolong their stay at the table, you may forced them to break protocol or stay longer than they wish.
6.. Once in the drawing or formal living room, you should make sure you speak to all your guests while coffee is passed around. Do not make anyone feel left out. Don’t let any lady become a wallflower at your dinner party. Not only should you take pride in your ability to provide an entertaining time for all your guests, you should have enough consideration to know how discomforting it is to be a wallflower.
7.. If you are hosting a group of evenly numbered ladies and gentlemen, you can end your dinner party with some light dancing. There’s nothing like good music and graceful spins across the dance floor to turn a dinner party into a dreamy affair.
You can also end your dinner party with a short concert or performance. If you have guests who are proficient in music, you can ask them to do a short performance. But be careful. You don’t want them to believe you only invited them for their talent. If you want everyone to sit back and enjoy themselves, it is best you hire a small group of musicians.