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How can I Prepare to Attend a Dinner Party?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 23, 2024
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Once you receive an invitation and begin to prepare to attend a dinner party, the first thing you should do is inform the host. There is generally a return card or a number to call to R.S.V.P. included with the invitation. Responding is very important, not only because it is the courteous thing to do, but also because it allows the host to determine how many guests will be at the dinner party. This way, he or she can decide the proper seating arrangement, have place cards printed, and determine the amount of food and beverages necessary to serve each of his or her guests.

As you prepare for the dinner party, it is a good idea to call the host if you have not heard from him or her since your return card was mailed, to make sure it was received. If you phoned, you may still want to call if the host is a close, personal friend, to see if you can help in some way. He or she may ask you to arrive a bit early to help greet other guests, for example.

Another thing to consider is your attire for the evening. The invitation should give you some indication about whether the event is black tie or if it’s just a casual get together. If you are unsure, contact the host to make sure you don’t arrive under- or overdressed for the occasion. You should also check your planned wardrobe in advance while you prepare to make sure everything is clean and pressed, shoes are shined, and you have proper stockings or hosiery for the ensemble.

A host gift is a must any time you prepare to attend a dinner party. A nice bottle of wine that will complement the evening’s fare or a nice dessert wine is generally appreciated. You will need to be aware of the menu in order to choose something appropriate, and if you aren’t a wine aficionado, it pays to do a little research before you make your purchase.

If you are unsure about wine, select a high end candle or guest soaps in a neutral color. Fresh flowers are nice, but only if already arranged and given in a quality vase. You don’t want the host or hostess to have to fuss over flowers while trying to greet other guests.

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Discussion Comments

By drtroubles — On Nov 19, 2011

My wife is insisting that we throw a dinner party for her parent's wedding anniversary and I am wondering if it would be OK to go with a prepared meal delivery service for the event?

I am not a huge cook, and frankly, my wife isn't either, so I was thinking we could save a lot of hassle by dealing with a gourmet meal delivery service. This way, my wife can still have fun arranging the buffet herself, but the food will be edible.

Also, what are some guidelines for how to write an invitation for something that will end up being a surprise party? We want to make sure everyone attends, but without giving her parents any clue about it.

By Sara007 — On Nov 18, 2011

@lonelygod - The best thing for you to do is to simply respond to the RSVP notice given in the invitation with a polite thank you for the invitation, and a simple notice that you will be unable to attend. Just leave it at that and don't get into making too many excuses for yourself. I think when it comes down to how to decline invitations it should be very short and to the point.

Whenever I am busy with a dinner party my mind is too wrapped up with figuring out dinner delivery plans, meal preparation and how to get everyone organized that a declined invitation is the least of your problems. If you really need a good excuse though, just work the night of the party.

By lonelygod — On Nov 17, 2011

I was wondering about how to decline an invitation when the person who has sent the invitation is a family friend?

My parents really want me to attend the event but I have never been comfortable in large groups of people, and know it would be really awkward trying to mingle with a bunch of people I don't know. My friend has offered to help me out by saying she'll go with me, and even get me outfitted in a proper suit, but I just can't stand the idea of going to a party where everyone is going to be a good decade older than me.

It is really tough because my mother is such good friends with the person throwing the party. I don't live at home, but my mom has a pretty good idea of my schedule.

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