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Ridiculous dinner party etiquette we’re glad no longer holds any sway

You take a gift to a birthday dinner, you take flowers or wine as a thank you to the host for a special evening, you chew with your mouth closed and excuse yourself when you have to leave your date to go to the toilet.

Good manners never go out of fashion, but there are some rules and tips from eras gone by that we are very glad no longer applies. Who wants to be obsessing over sitting just right or getting the table setting perfect when you could be spending the time laughing and catching up with old friends or meeting a new love interest at a braai hosted by a family member.

Five etiquette ‘tips’ that make us giggle:

#1 Don’t be unpleasant, everything is always awesome

Bird eating a worm

A fly flew into your wine? There’s a worm on your salad or a hair in your bolognaise? Your hosts’ toddler spilled some of his chocolate milk on your pants? Make no mention of any of these accidents, it would be seen as extremely impolite. In fact, as a guest you should not even allude to that worm by any of your actions. Don’t try to remove the unpleasant ‘guests’ or clean up any spills, rather suck it up and eat it, or sit there with your chocolate-soaked white linen pants  – you don’t want to make the evening uncomfortable for your gracious host.

What host would want a happy, comfortable guest anyway?

#2 Dress appropriately – poofy-ness compulsory

Lots of laundry

Corsets and crinolines were all the rage. Don’t think you could get away with wearing the same dress from a pre-dinner walk in the garden to sitting down for dinner. No way, you had to steal yourself away from the engaging conversation to change into appropriate attire.

Thank goodness this is no longer the case for anyone older than three after playing in the garden, imagine all the laundry!

A step-by-step guide to hosting a “I’m moving, help me!” party

#3 Lady, you’re sitting wrong

Friends having pizza

Imagine a world where a woman was declared a lady, worthy of the esteemed company she’s in, or not, judged by how she was sitting or standing. Not so long ago this was a reality. Women couldn’t cross their legs at the knees, stand with their hands on their hips, twist in a chair to get comfortable, or lean back when sitting on a chair or sofa.

Thank goodness much has changed and nowadays when having dinner with loved ones and new friends anyone can sit anywhere, and anyway, they see fit. Although the table is probably still a bad idea.

#4 Know how to behave, especially if you’re young and unmarried

chatting at a party

A young, unmarried woman needs an escort, can’t be seen looking around for familiar individuals to strike up a conversation with, and must not chat or laugh loudly, at all. A young woman should also never engage in conversation with someone from the opposite sex without first indicating (non-verbally) that she would like to engage and then waiting for the gentleman to accept her offer.

Today loud laughter and excited chatter is a sign of a successful party and treasured friends catching up, it’s considered rude to ignore someone you know in a busy room upon arrival to a party and anyone can chat to anyone.

#5 Get the order of things right, or you’re very rude

Lonely lady at table

Always arrive 15 minutes late for dinner (yes you read that right) and then wait to be told in what order to proceed to the dinner table. Don’t forget that in between courses men should only talk to the lady on their right.

So formal for an at-home casual dinner party with friends and acquaintances. Appointed seats definitely still has a place, especially for more formal events, while making sure everyone is included in conversation is nothing but  polite and being a good host. But just imagine all the stress and planning that went into the dinner parties of old just to make sure nobody would be offended.

Not sure about you, but just comparing the ease of hosting  a dinner with friends and family today to one in the Victorian era makes us feel like inviting some loved ones over for a feast this weekend, a no-stress feast, thankyouverymuch.


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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