How To Be The *Perfect* Dinner Party Guest, According To A Butler

Dinner parties are like exams for your table manners. At this stage in adulthood you should be pretty confident in your abilities to lift food from a plate into your mouth, hold a decent conversation and make a good first impression.

However, be it for business or pleasure, dinner parties have an air of intensity around them. Everyone is dressed up, you’re presumably eating something fancier than you’d get a Pizza Express and you’re surround by people you’ve never met.

Anxieties start flooding the brain chambers: “Which fork should I be using? When should I start the soup, no-one else has soup? Oh god, am I slurping? Everyone is using different forks, what do I do?!!!”

dinner party

Image credit: RexFeatures

Breathe, there’s help on the way. Author and longtime butler Charles MacPherson (he was born to be a butler with that name) has collated his pearls of wisdom from 26 years of service.

No elbows on the table

Nobody really knows why it’s considered rude to put your elbows on the table but it’s considered rude… for some reason. Etiquette dictates that you should keep them tucked into your body, especially when lifting food into your mouth.

Some say that it’s a tradition that originated in the great manors of England where everyone sat on one side only. To put elbow weight on the table would cause the table to collapse… believe it or not.

Play it cool if you spill something

Everyone spills sooner or later; what matters is how you react to the station. Don’t get in a state trying to clean it up with one napkin and definitely don’t try to clean other guests. Ask the server for more napkins and try to rectify the situation calmly… well, as calmly as you can.

Lay your cutlery down

If you’re the type to tell a 20 minute story with your hands, maybe lay down the fork before you gesticulate something to death. You’re also meant to put down your silverwear when chewing… who actually does that one, though?

Always try the food

Fussy eaters don’t get to hide in plain sight. If you have allergies or dietary requirements, be all means let the staff know, however, picky eaters are just going have to suck it and try the food. It’s fine if you don’t like it, just be polite and eat twice as much dessert.

Sit up straight

Closed body language is a subconscious deterrent and haunching over your meal can seem like you’re only at the party for the food. Sitting up straight says: “Hi, I’m here for the free food, but I’m open for conversation, too”.