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.