How to avoid going down in history as the worst dinner party host

26-04-2012
 
Who would have thought anything could go wrong at a civilised dinner with friends?
 
When thinking of dinner parties images of polite chit-chat, food and wine matching and other such pleasantries spring to mind. But what about all of those dinner party horror stories one hears about?
 
Dinner party disasters are like folklore to hosts that can cause sleepless nights days before the event. If you don't avoid some key hosting faux-pas your night might go down in history for all of the wrong reasons.
 
To a host or hostess, a dinner party horror story is probably that time the soufflés didn't rise, but what if something far worse happens?
 
Guests from hell
 
Getting the invite list down to a fine art is crucial if you are to avoid any disasters or awkward moments. The best way is to miss off the list anyone who is destined to clash with any of the other guests.
 
We've all seen those episodes of Come Dine With Me when the producers seem to put together five people with completely opposite personalities, who after a few glasses of wine are only going to get verbally abusive or violent with each other.
 
While rude or confrontational guests are one thing to avoid, another is inviting a guest who is painfully shy or socially awkward. It creates a dangerous situation where they might latch on to another guest who has taken kindly to them, meaning they are stuck for the whole night entertaining this one person.
 
Drinking too much
 
This rule applies to the host as well as the guests. A good host or hostess enjoys a drink but limits it to a respectable level, unlike Dawn on Come Dine With Me, who got so drunk that she had a nap after the main course and fell asleep in the dessert.
 
However, it is also the job of the host to have some control over the inebriation levels of the guests.
 
Of course, this is easier in theory than in practice, but one tip in controlling alcohol intake is to have one or two bottles of wine per course depending on the number of guests. This means that you will unlikely serve more than a small glass per course before the bottle is empty, so the guests have to wait until the next dish in order to continue drinking!
 
Don't be a party pooper though and make sure there is enough booze before and after the meal to get some tongues wagging freely for a relaxing and enjoyable night.

Conversation turning outright unacceptable
 
There is no doubting that alcohol is a big influence on which direction the conversation flows in, but ultimately it is the job of the host to control talk when it gets heated or just plain unacceptable.
 
Off-limit topics at any dinner party should be anything that would easily offend peoples' sensibilities, but if you can see a guest squirming during a new mother's talk of the joys of giving birth, that might be another reason to step in and steer the conversation to babies or the state of the economy.

Calling 999
 
You will most definitely go down in dinner party folklore if the emergency services are called. Of course, you don't want fame among your friends and family for being a terrible host, so try to avoid giving any guests food poisoning.
 
But while that might be an obvious one, some other things might not be. Cocktail sticks, for example, are quite a famous one. If you are serving appetisers with cocktail sticks then make sure your guests can easily dispose of them. Fidgeting is the curse of the adult as well as the child and cocktail sticks are perfect tools for flying across rooms or choking with the impatience of having to hold them!
 
A clever host might think to invite a doctor to the party as a good way of avoiding the call to the ambulance service though!
 
Alcohol and fire is another perfect 999 excuse, so if you want to decorate the table with candles, make sure they're properly guarded in a holder or that you have sensible guests!
 
But despite all of these precautions, occasionally there is no foreseeing what might go wrong on the night!
 
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