What A Dinner Party In The Bowels Of Etiquette Hell Might Look Like

by admin on March 20, 2017

This a story of my lapse in etiquette and I am probably throwing myself under the bus for even submitting this. You can all tell me if you think I was completely horrible or if I was somewhat justified in my behavior. I have recently attended a dinner party at the home of my good friends, Annie & John. They are relatively good cooks – John especially cooks a great steak and they like to try new recipes and do some different things. The dinner was quite small, it consisted of my husband and me, Annie & John and 3 other people. We arrive and are the first there. There are appetizers and we chat with our friends for a little while. The other guests come shortly thereafter. As is the case with Annie & John nothing happens immediately. They are already somewhat prepared and nothing they made or are making will take any real time to cook. I understand It is a delicate dance when cooking so that everything is ready at the same time so the entire dinner can be served all at the same time. They are lovely hosts and I can’t fault the fact that they supplied a nice dinner and were friendly and talkative.

So, we wait a couple hours for them to get the show on the road. I understand that there needs to be some time to chat, it should be a leisurely meal not a frantic pace: time to eat a few appetizers – have a couple cocktails but this always seems to be their MO. It isn’t the first time we’ve waited hours before sitting down for dinner. So we wait, I expected to wait but the house is unbearably hot. It a warm day in summer, upper eighties, the air conditioning isn’t on and all the windows are closed. We have a cocktail – and they tell us that they are running quite low and are almost out of ice. The ice they do have smells and tastes funny. I thought perhaps it was just me and my drink – and I tried to discreetly to get my husband’s attention to ask if his drink tasted similarly while the hosts are out of the room. I tap the glass a few times and point at my glass and my great husband says quite loud – “why are you doing that? I don’t know what tapping the glass means!!” It is loud enough so that John hears and he comes and asks me if there is anything wrong. I say no – everything is fine, it’s all good. I should have just asked my husband later in the car on the way home but no, like a lousy friend and guest I ended up embarrassing myself and I’m now furious with my husband for being so obvious!!

We go outside, since it’s so hot and wait some more. I refrain from drinking any more of my cocktail and I really can’t make a new one because there isn’t any more ice which was probably a good thing. Finally, Annie tells us to come in for dinner. She serves us salad. John is outside now grilling the steaks and doesn’t come in for the salad portion. We finish eating the salad and sit there and wait. My husband gets up from the table to go outside because it has now been a ten minute wait and the sweat is pouring down his face. I look around and except for Annie, we are all sweating. Next Annie brings in the mashed potatoes. We pass the potatoes around and since the steaks still aren’t finished we end up eating those too. We wait a little longer and finally in comes John with the steaks. I’m thinking – well the vegetable should come out now – I mean – veggies don’t take all that long to cook – and they were probably done for some time since we waited so long for the steaks. No – we are well in to the steaks before the vegetables arrive.

Finally, dinner is over. We all make a beeline for the living room since the dining room is now very hot from all seven of us being in there together and from the heat of the kitchen. Well, for my next infraction: when we come into the equally warm living room I’m afraid I went ahead and opened a couple of windows. I understand it is their home and they have a right to keep it how they like it but it is so hot I couldn’t help myself. I could see that my husband is now exhausted and overheated. I thought this would help matters and we could enjoy the rest of the evening chatting with everyone in a more comfortable setting. Annie and John decide now that they will entertain us with pictures from their recent trip to Iceland so we grab what is left of our wine from dinner. For the entire dinner they had planned on 2 bottles for all seven of us and both bottles are both now pretty much exhausted.

I have to admit that yeah – I do want to see what Iceland is like. It is probably quite interesting. Well, the first hundred pictures were in fact, interesting. We also watch a couple of videos. The pictures are of the natural terrain and they have quite a few beautiful waterfalls, craters, geysers etc. Yeah, quite a bit. They decide now to serve dessert. We have a hour drive to get home and decide to skip dessert and go home. Once in the car, my husband says that it was just awful. He said, we ate our meal in increments and he was so bored with the thousands of pictures from their trip and there wasn’t anything more to drink. 0929-16

I can have pity on hosts who struggle to get every element of a meal prepared and ready to serve at the same time.  It takes practice.   This, however, sounds like torture.

{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie March 20, 2017 at 4:34 am

Dinner troubles aside, when showing pictures of your vacation you have to:

– Either limit the amount to 20 pictures
– Give the guests a photobook they can go through at their own pace (which means they can skip through it quickly if they’re not interested without being rude)
– Put the pictures on social media so people can enjoy them at their own discretion

My parents have gotten the message, and they no longer make us sit through their “selection” of 500 pictures. Not, this is not an exaggeration, they intentionally cut it down to “only” 500.

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clairedelune March 21, 2017 at 7:45 am

YES! My word, dinner party slideshows are one tradition that deserves to stay in the past.

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Kay March 20, 2017 at 5:30 am

I understand your frustration. It’s not fair to expect others to be uncomfortable in the heat indoors in hot temperatures. Nor healthy.
My husband and I were invited to a Christmas gathering a few years ago a week or so before Christmas. Upon arrival, when he asked where the beverages were, he was shown a single warm, flat bottle of coke. No ice. When he asked if there was liquor, the hostess emerged from the terrace holding a quarter full small bottle of generic rum. That’s all they had to drink for a Christmas gathering of about 10 people. No water, or juice, anything. The food was also minimal.
My husband drove to the store, purchased liquor, beer and soda to which the “hosts” readily consumed. Every time I have had anyone to my home we have a reasonably stocked bar and plenty to eat and drink. I also provide a hostess gift of a nice bottle of wine if we are attending a gathering, which is usually gobbled up by same friend. Needless to say, the gesture was never reciprocated by her except one time with an undrinkable dessert wine that I guesstimate was no more than a few dollars.
After this we didn’t really attend gatherings at this friends home anymore.

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Kali March 20, 2017 at 1:17 pm

How did they not at least have water? Did they not have taps?

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Amanda H. March 23, 2017 at 2:37 pm

It’s possible whatever was available wasn’t potable. Not super likely, sure, but I’ve lived in some places where you did NOT want to drink the tap water due to too-high levels of certain contaminants. The house I grew up in had tap water that was too high in sulfur, for instance. My parents had to pay to have a special tank and tap put in to clean the water for drinking, and if that broke we were stuck for a awhile.

It could also be that no one thought of tap water. I’ve been to parties before where the hosts only had alcoholic beverages and apologized that there was nothing else for the teetotalers (myself and my husband) to drink, and never once thought to offer water. (Nor did we ask, at the one. It was very awkward because I had only just met everyone, and my husband had only worked with them for about two months at the time, and I’m kind of socially awkward at best.)

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PM March 20, 2017 at 5:18 pm

I have an acquaintance who simply FAILS to recognize that having a nice home does not make you a good hostess. She honestly thinks inviting people to her (admittedly very comfortable and nicely decorated home should be ENOUGH, and people should be grateful to be invited into her home without all “that other stuff” like food or drinks. She’ll invite people to a holiday party at her home during the dinner hours and set out cheese and crackers and a single two liter of soda for 30 people, and then be hurt and surprised when people leave early. She’s actually confused as to why people linger for games and conversation at other people’s less comfortable/decorated homes. I’ve tried to explain that those other people serve ample food/drink per person and make an effort to make the guests feel welcome, but she just shakes her head and says, “No, that can’t be it.”

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EchoGirl March 21, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Agreed about the conditions. I fully understand that AC isn’t always an option — not every place has central air, and room air conditioners don’t easily move around — but they should still do whatever possible (open windows, fans, etc.) to make the temperature comfortable.

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Dominic March 20, 2017 at 6:45 am

Was the “We are running low on ice and are almost out” comment intended to elicit a response from one of the guests to “Let me run out and get some while you finish dinner”? That’s what I would have done. As far as the temperature of the house, was there any reason a guest could not have asked the hosts to open windows because it was warm? If these are good friends, there is no need to suffer in silence. Speak up, and maybe offer to help if you don’t like how the meal is coming out!

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Anon March 20, 2017 at 11:26 am

If you aren’t going to have enough of something and want to passive-aggressively suggest that one of the guests needs to go out and spend their own money to buy it, then why not just put it as part of the invitation? Why should guests have to be spending their own money to be able to enjoy a gathering that they were told they didn’t have to bring anything to?

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Tanja March 20, 2017 at 12:43 pm

I am quite baffled by the idea of buying ice, unless this is in a region where freezers are not common. Any good host in my area would fill ice trays before expecting company. Perhaps freezers are not as universal as I had thought.

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NostalgicGal March 21, 2017 at 9:33 am

It depends. In hot weather you can use up your ice supply without realizing it, and it does take TIME to freeze up ice. I have an icemaker and I still on occasion buy bagged ice just because that icemaker won’t keep up.

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HelenB March 21, 2017 at 9:34 am

Some people don’t like the way their ice tastes when made from their tap water, so they buy bags of ice to make drinks with. And sometimes people don’t want to have to go through the bother of filling, emptying into a container in the freezer, filling, emptying ice cube trays until they have enough ice for a party.

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BagLady March 21, 2017 at 7:11 pm

Not to mention that if there are picnic coolers involved — as there usually are at larger parties and outdoor gatherings of any size — there’s no way the average household’s supply of ice trays will provide enough ice to keep a cooler full of drinks cold, even if they also have an icemaker built into the fridge.

Homemade ice *might* be adequate for a small dinner party as described in the OP, but it still takes some planning. You have to remember to fill, freeze, empty, store, refill, rinse and repeat. And it doesn’t take long for ice to pick up an off-taste or smell sitting exposed in the freezer.

If you’re serving drinks, an adequate supply of fresh ice is a must, especially for a warm-weather party. Hosts definitely dropped the ball — or the ice cube — in the OP.

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Amanda H. March 23, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Not only that, not everyone has enough ice cube trays (we only own two) or enough freezer space (ours is super-narrow and already full of lots of food) to make their own ice in bulk. Sure, our fridge also has an ice-maker, but in the year and a half we’ve had this fridge, I’ve already seen that ice-maker run out completely once (and yes, it takes time to freeze up more) when we had guests, and nearly so a few other times when the ice-making part has taken its sweet time refilling after a dinner with guests.

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kgg March 20, 2017 at 7:26 am

Next time they invite you to their place: “Sorry, we have other plans.”

I would never want to trash anyone who takes the time, energy, and expense to host, but that was awful!

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clairedelune March 20, 2017 at 7:33 am

Opening windows when the alternative is slow suffocation is not an etiquette infraction.

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Colleen halbert March 27, 2017 at 11:12 am

But they should have asked the host rather than just take it upon themselves.

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AS March 20, 2017 at 7:56 am

I cringed when I read this, because I could totally imagine my husband having exactly the same reaction as yours for tapping the glass! And I’d be very irritated with him too. I’ve give up trying to draw his attention, and found it more effective if I tell him to come with me somewhere – maybe to see what the hosts are doing, and then take a detour outside to have a word with him.

Waiting for 2 hours for dinner to have cocktails and chat works fine depending on when the party started. If it started at 4 or 5 PM, it is okay to chat until 7PM or so to start dinner (in the US, some countries start dinner later). But if the invitation was at 6 or 7PM, and then there was a wait for 2 hours, that can get a little overwhelming.

I’m not sure opening the windows is a bad idea. When people are so uncomfortable that they are sweating off at a dinner, you are welcome to do something to make yourself comfortable. Even if they didn’t want to turn on the AC, at least a fan or something should have been there.

I thought looking at vacation pictures at dinner parties was a thing of the past, since the invention of Facebook! 🙂

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Jo Bleakley March 20, 2017 at 9:13 pm

I cringed too…..with sympathy for the husband. Maybe he shouldn’t have said it loudly, but what DOES tapping the glass mean??? Do you want another drink, do you want to swap drinks?, is it too strong? Too weak???? Why can’t you just stand beside him and whisper, “Does your ice taste odd?” Not all of us are mind readers!

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Lerah99 March 21, 2017 at 9:34 am

I’m with @Jo Bleakley 100% here.
How on earth was your husband supposed to know what tapping your glass meant?
And then when he makes it clear he has no idea what you’re trying to communicate you get huffy.

It’s very frustrating to be the person trying to interpret a significant other’s charades. For goodness sake, just tell me what you want.

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AS March 22, 2017 at 9:52 am

@Jo Bleakley and Lerah 99 – no one has to be a mind reader. Tapping the glass means I am trying to draw attention. There is no reason to be annoyed about it.
My husband (and probably so was OP’s husband) would be / was probably annoyed because he is already uncomfortable due to the heat. But doesn’t mean it is not annoying for the wife.

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Amanda H. March 23, 2017 at 2:44 pm

Frankly I think the ball was dropped by both here. OP used a gesture with multiple possible interpretations to try to get her husband’s attention and got huffy when he didn’t immediately get it. At the same time, her husband was quite tactless in how he addressed the issue, speaking rather loudly and rudely rather than responding to her ambiguous gesture with, say, a questioning look. Or approaching her and asking her more quietly what she meant because he didn’t know what tapping her glass was supposed to mean.

Frankly that’s how my husband and I would’ve handled it. I might have given him an ambiguous gesture (because of thinking it to be clearer than it is), at which point he’d give me a raised eyebrow and I would try to find a way to explain myself without drawing attention. In fact, we’ve done that quite a bit in our married lives.

stacey March 20, 2017 at 9:24 am

An overly warm house, ice that’s contaminated, elements of a meal strung out so far that the main course and accompaniments don’t arrive together- these aren’t the makings of a good memory. Worse, they could form the basis of heat induced or food borne illness. I think in a situation like this, you can excuse yourself early (feeling suddenly ill) and resolve not to visit these friends for dinner in the summertime. It’s even more difficult to understand how experienced hosts who are also known to be exceptional cooks came to be in these difficulties for a small gathering with a simplified menu. Salad/ Mashed Potatoes-Steak isn’t hard. We’ve all had gaffes in the kitchen. Humor helps. But this smacks of being careless, heedless and clueless.

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Lemon Zinger March 20, 2017 at 10:46 am

Perfectly worded. Everything about this visit strikes me as… unhealthy.

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Semperviren March 20, 2017 at 9:28 am

I can’t really see any truly awful faux pas on the OP’s part. The cocktail thing was a bit unfortunate-perhaps it would have been a kindness for someone to offer a run to the store for some ice. Opening the windows? I’d give that a pass under the circumstances.

The evening sounds dreadful. It’s a bit hard to tell from the letter if Annie and John really just weren’t on the ball this particular night (it can happen to the best of hosts) or if this is their usual MO (it sounds like they can be a bit laissez-faire about timing things). Things like the weather are outside a host’s control; but in addition to planning the evening, a good host needs to be flexible and responsive to what’s actually happening and how their guests are actually feeling, and not just plow on.

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ladyv21454 March 20, 2017 at 11:44 am

Actually, the OP specifically stated “this always seems to be their MO” – so it definitely was NOT just a one-off.

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Lerah99 March 20, 2017 at 9:29 am

As a large woman, who gets hot and sweats easily, this is my nightmare.
It’s common for me to feel a little warm at friend’s houses and just deal with it.

But weather in the 80’s with no a/c, no fans, and not even a window cracked?
I would have made polite excuses after 30 minutes and left.

From the post it sounds like this isn’t the first time you’ve gone through one of these glacial dinner parties hosted by Annie & John. Why on earth would you say yes to a 2nd invitation?

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Garden Gal March 21, 2017 at 7:04 pm

I totally agree! I run hot, and I’m always a little warm. In this scenario I would have asked then to turn on the A/C (preferably) or open a window (if they don’t have A/C). And if I hadn’t been cooler in half an hour I’d be too ill to continue enjoying myself and would have to leave.

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eddie March 20, 2017 at 9:31 am

I don’t think either “offense” was rude. The host did not know you were complaining about the ice, all you did was tap your glass. I probably would have asked much earlier if it was OK to open some windows. I have to believe that the hosts did not *want* guests to be miserable, but were unaware of the suffering.

It does sounds like the hosts were struggling quite a bit.

If OP was invited to such a small dinner party, can I assume they are pretty close? If so, I would have offered to go get ice when told it was running short. I would have stepped in to help with the meal prep when I realized the hosts were struggling to get things ready at the same time. I would have mentioned kindly that it was getting quite warm and asked if they minded me opening a window. I

In my circle, party hosting often turns into a bit of a group effort. When I have guests I always have sincere offers of help during the “stress” points–serving drinks, putting out food, cleanup, etc. If I am prepared enough, I decline the help, but I usually accept help gladly.

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Anon March 20, 2017 at 11:28 am

I’d only get ice if they paid me back for it.

If they found out they needed ice beforehand, they can call and ask someone to bring it, but to have the party, then try to subtly say that one of the guests needs to go and get ice and spend their own money on it, without suggesting that they’ll be paid back… nope.

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Lerah99 March 21, 2017 at 8:15 am

But it doesn’t sound like the hosts were struggling at all.
It sounds like this is how they normally do things.

Sit around for 2 hours than FINALLY decide to start cooking.
Cook each dish independently rather than all together.

Then sit around and talk for an hour.
Then pull out hundreds of vacation photos.
Then offer dessert…

As a guest, I would think I was being punked.
I don’t expect my friends to be Martha Stewart.

But mashed potatoes, veggies, and steak – that’s not a difficult menu to pull off.
And there is no reason for dinner to turn into a 6 hour slog!

Chat for 30 minutes over drinks while the food finishes.
Serve dinner
Chat for 15 minutes after dinner then plate desserts.
Serve dessert and enjoy each other’s company for another half hour or so.
Then the hosts start cleaning up plates, doing the dishes, etc… to the let the guests know the evening is coming to a close.

Everyone gets to talk about what a lovely time they had. Voila! Dinner party accomplished.

There is no reason to hold your guests hostage.

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Amanda H. March 23, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Agreed. I’m nowhere near super-hostess myself, but I still have a basic handle on timing.

The one time Hubby and I forgot timing on a dish, we’d forgotten one of the sides completely. There was plenty else to eat (it was Christmas and we planned big for ourselves and the one or two guests we had coming), so we just skipped that side.

But agreed, veggies, mashed potatoes, and steak don’t sound difficult. I’ve learned the timing on the sides, and we have a fair idea of how long the steak should take. We would’ve had the sides ready to go, and if the steaks took a bit longer, then we’d do the socializing thing while I kept the sides warm and Hubby hurried to finish the meat. Then everything gets served together. Chatting, dessert, and cleanup afterward.

Do people still get together to show off vacation photos? I thought that petered out with the advent of social media.

And frankly, the only reason we have for dinner parties to go 6+ hours is when we’ve planned dinner and board games for a group of friends. Not for a small dinner party with photos.

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@LizaJane March 24, 2017 at 10:06 am

That comes out to 2 hours for cocktails, dinner and dessert, which is certainly long enough, but just barely.

It seems sort of whambamthankyoumam for a small party of close friends.

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Anon March 20, 2017 at 9:37 am

OP, that sounds terrible! You must have felt trapped.

I think there are a few things you can do in that situation that are within the bounds of politeness. You can offer to run out for more ice and/or more wine. You can mention that you feel quite hot, and would your hosts mind if you opened a window. You can suggest going outside to cool off for a bit.

The staging of the food sounds quite outside of your control, but I suppose you could ask your hostess whether she needs any help in the kitchen.

Yes, it does take practice to get a meal timed correctly, but this sounds like quite poor timing. Had the hosts imbibed before you came over perhaps??

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PatGreen March 20, 2017 at 9:39 am

Quick question, why did no one ask the hosts about the heat? For example instead of rolling down the windows yourself or sitting there dying of heat why not, “I’m sorry it’s a bit warm in here for me, would you mind if I open a window?” I’ve had people visit comment that it’s a bit hot or a little chilly and I adjust the temperature.

In the future I would eat before going to their house if you know from experience that they will take hours to serve you.

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Anna March 20, 2017 at 9:47 am

I’m not sure where the OP had a lapse in etiquette, as long as you didn’t show up empty-handed and thanked them for having you even if you didn’t have a good time.

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NostalgicGal March 20, 2017 at 10:16 am

Hot alone would have done me in, with the state of my health, even mid 80’s will turn me ‘cooked’ and physically ill (I collapse from heat and it can take days to recover).

As for the stringing out of the meal, that wasn’t good either. Trip pictures would have been fine as long as it wasn’t frying hot. I wonder what the thinking was over stringing out the food so long plus no ventilation? Even a fan to move air can help. For a meal they usually tell you for 7 people to figure 4 bottles of wine… or about half a bottle per person. Funny tasting ice, if the stuff was in the icemaker in the fridge for a while or certain things have been in fridge or freezer, it can taint the ice… so it probably was okay just off.

Shaking head. Perhaps you need to rethink accepting invitations to John and Annie’s place during the hot weather. And have a sandwich before you go over to tide you until something is served. I don’t think you were all that bad, OP. Just chalk it up to you’re not going to repeat and wait for fall to accept another invitation to their place….

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ladyv21454 March 20, 2017 at 10:36 am

So: the hosts plan a cocktail hour, but don’t have enough ice; the house is ridiculously hot; guests wait two hours for dinner to be even STARTED; the various components of the meal aren’t remotely coordinated; and to top it all off, guests have to watch an overly lengthy presentation on the hosts’ trip to Iceland before they can get dessert – and OP thinks SHE had a lapse in etiquette? Au contraire – the hosts are the ones that have no sense of etiquette. I agree with Jeanne that it can be a little difficult to perfectly coordinate all aspects of a meal, but this is ridiculous! It isn’t as though this was a seated formal dinner for forty people – it was a small, casual dinner party, with very basic elements.

What really stood out to me in the original submission is this: “but this always seems to be their MO. It isn’t the first time we’ve waited hours before sitting down for dinner.” If this is true, my response to any invitation from these people would be, “I’m afraid we can’t make it for the cocktail hour, but we’ll be sure to be there in time for dinner – could you tell us what time you plan for the meal to start?” If enough people did this, maybe the hosts would see the error of their ways.

Side note: it makes me completely crazy when people invite you to what sounds like a convivial evening, with a nice dinner and good conversation afterwards, and then spring something like the Iceland trip extravaganza on their guests. Guests should know in advance what they’re in for as far as “entertainment” – they then have the option of whether to accept the invitation or not.

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Dee March 20, 2017 at 11:17 am

ladyv21454 – You got everything right. John and Annie may be good cooks but they are the worst hosts. A meal poorly cooked by great hosts is always tolerable, because much can be salvaged out of an evening even if the meal is ruined, but you cannot cover for a lousy evening overall. John and Annie sound quite selfish, really, not ever thinking of their guests.

I don’t understand, though, why OP didn’t just ask for a glass of water or whatever else the hosts had on hand instead of getting dehydrated. Alcohol is not required for entertaining and neither is ice, so complaining about the lack of either is irrelevant. But the guests should be made as comfortable as reasonably possible and every host can provide at least water.

OP, you did nothing wrong with the exception of accepting the invitation. Now that you know better if you accept the next one you cannot complain, since you are well aware of how thoughtless John and Annie are.

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Annie March 20, 2017 at 11:12 am

At large family gatherings at my house, people always open the windows, even in the dead of winter. I don’t think that’s rude at all. I like it on the warmer side but most people don’t, and I want my guests to be comfortable. I turn off the heat before people arrive, but with 30 people in the house and the oven on, it does get a little warm.

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Anon March 20, 2017 at 11:31 am

I can’t stand waiting a long time for dinners I’m invited to. I’ll wait an hour at the most. I have a small stomach and if I stave off hunger with appetizers, it’s going to take me a while to be hungry again and I’ll have to miss the main meal. I can’t even go out to a Mexican restaurant and eat some of the chips I’ll get so stuffed.

My aunt and uncle take a long time, but you can also see the dishes as they are being made when you get there, so it’s not like they waited till the last minute, so I at least know it’s going to be soon. But otherwise I tend to eat beforehand if I know “so and so is going to take 2-3 hours to actually have the meal come out”.

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stacey March 20, 2017 at 11:57 am

Forgive the off-topic comment, but I wondered if it wouldn’t be enlightening to recast the evening somewhat in the guise of “best dinner party EVER”? In other words- aside from avoiding the evils of no edible ice, overheating, and a meal whose timing looks like the “zombie apocalypse” has arrived… what makes a similar meal truly memorable?

For myself- I’ll admit to being an over-stuffer… if you’re coming to my house, your best option is to bring your A-game for appetite and be prepared to be sent home with provisions if I’m back on the diet next day!
My secret weapon for small dinner parties is my lovely sis- whose convivial and eclectically informed presence has charmed all of my guests to date! (Which leaves me free to get dinner ON the table.)
May I ask YOUR collective best tips for dinner parties?

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Dee March 21, 2017 at 9:53 am

Tips for dinner parties – it depends greatly on the invited guests. Is it an adult’s birthday party? Or a more somber occasion? Are the guests mainly elderly, teetotalers, non-foodies, games people, … The best dinner party would be one tailored to fit the guests and the environment. In the OP’s case, cocktails with plenty of ice were what was wanted, and a meal served on time and all together. In another instance, those cocktails may be turned down by every guest, so, again, make it work for your particular guests and then all is good.

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Jazzgirl205 March 21, 2017 at 5:03 pm

I choose side dishes that can be prepared a day before and put in the fridge. The main meat dish is either something roasted with very little tending or a quick stirfry. The side dishes are put in the oven for 30 minutes while the guests have cocktails and appetizers and the main dish is being finished up. Everything is chopped and prepped ahead of time so I have time to visit. That also makes room in the kitchen sink for the dinner dishes. Also, I don’t clean up while guests are still there nor do I expect my guests to roll up their sleeves and help.

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JD March 20, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Ha, the glass tapping thing reminds me of an old story from my husband’s family, decades ago. His family was eating dinner at a relative’s house, which they were visiting from out of town. The food was always plentiful and good at this house and there were platters of different foods to choose from. My husband’s sister was happily chowing down at the table when she stopped to say to her mother who was across the table, “Mama, why did you kick me?” Her mother said she was sorry, she didn’t mean to kick her. Later, when they were alone, she revealed that she had indeed kicked her daughter under the table to get the daughter to look at her, so Mom could silently let her daughter know to stop eating that particular meat — it was fried opossum.
OP, you could have asked about opening a window first before doing it, but I can’t imagine that you really committed an infraction here — getting nauseous from eating while too hot could have easily happened if you hadn’t opened a window. The hosts, however good their intentions, were utter failures at this party. I agree with other commenters — I’d have to think hard about going there again.

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Anon March 21, 2017 at 9:55 am

Yeah I really dislike it when people use signs to try an tell someone something specific.

Sorry, but you hitting or kicking me is not going to get through to me. Use your WORDS. Tell me you need to tell me something really quickly or like, get me to make eye contact, quietly point to the meat, and then shake your head. That’s more specific than, “random kick/hit”.

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Ajay March 21, 2017 at 10:10 pm

This screams deliberate obtuseness – the kick/tap was to get your attention as you were obviously ignoring every other sign…

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Anon March 22, 2017 at 10:10 am

Yeah no, some people immediately go to the kick/hit. Tapping isn’t hitting. People will HIT you. Tapping would be much more preferred, but most people don’t do it.

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Cat March 20, 2017 at 12:16 pm

I can think of two useful sentences: “I’ll run out and grab a bag of ice for drinks.” and “It’s a bit warm in here-mind if I open a few windows?”
Suffering in silence is fine if you are a community of monks doing penance. For the rest of us-grab some more ice and open up the windows.

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Anon March 21, 2017 at 9:56 am

You mean the host saying “I’ll run out and grab a bag of ice for drinks.” Expecting your guests to do it is rude.

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sillyme March 20, 2017 at 12:35 pm

I’m diabetic, and my glucose is a roller coaster from high to low. I’ve gotten into it with my SIL for asking us to be there at 1:00, and so I manage my meals thinking we’d eat around 1:30-2:00, and the meal doesn’t happen until 3:00 – 3:30. Appetizers will only get you so far.

She also “withholds” dessert until the “entertainment,” which is usually watching a member of her family (herself or her children) open presents from the attendees.

Also, that kind of heat, coupled with the poor meal planning, would have made me ill. Seriously: nauseous & weak. I don’t know your ages, but if they’d done that to elderly (or menopausal) people, it would have been unforgiveable.

Friend, I don’t think you were at a dinner party. I think you were lured in with the promise of dinner to what was really a show about what a wonderful trip your friends had to Iceland, aka a brag-fest.

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Anon March 21, 2017 at 9:57 am

I’d eat anyway and then when asked why you aren’t eating tell her that she’s unpredictable and you have to stay on a strict schedule.

It’s what I have to do and I don’t even have diabetes. I have to stop eating 3 hours before going to bed. That means I’m not going to eat past 8PM.

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stacey March 21, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Agreed! “Getting into it” with blood relatives, in-laws or out-laws over meals and timing isn’t productive. You can mention your issue, minimize exposure and bring snacks. Better yet, just decline to attend when you know the hostess has an off sense of timing. No discomfort, no drama. (Well, none that you have to respond to, anyway.)

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Ajay March 21, 2017 at 10:14 pm

My dear MiL has diabetes and if people constantly drag meals out she will state firmly and without aggression that they are causing her a health issue – if they repeat it their inconsideration towards her, well, we have been known to pop down to the local takeaways to ensure she doesn’t collapse or go go into a diabetic coma.

repeated invitations are not accepted…

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NostalgicGal March 24, 2017 at 11:46 am

I always carry provisions. I used to be type II (rigidly controlled these days through diet-I have the A1c scores to prove it) and I still have to be careful. Then if a meal isn’t happening on the schedule I need to, I excuse myself, say I’m sorry but I’m having blood sugar issues, and go to the bathroom and scarf as needed. Yes I will mention blood sugar. That means it’s a medical concern, I am not laying blame on my host(ess) and I have a legit reason for doing whatever. If the calories then appear ‘off timing’ I can and will politely decline as needed.

CW March 20, 2017 at 1:09 pm

I just wonder about the relationship and how close of friends these are. My friends (and their families) have gone over to each other’s houses for gatherings so frequently that if I DIDN’T change the temperate when everyone’s clearly u comfortable, I’d get yelled at! My house is open. Get what you need from the pantry/cabinets/fridge. Tell me if it’s too hot and I’ll open the window or turn on the AC (which I had to do at a party we had in January… lots of bodies tend to generate heat). I’m not shy about it either. When new people come over, I will tell them to make themselves at home and if you can’t find what you need, ask me and I’ll help.

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jokergirl129 March 20, 2017 at 2:15 pm

OP from what I’ve read you didn’t really do anything wrong. You were polite, didn’t complain and basically just acted like a regular polite guest. Maybe you could have asked first before opening some of the windows but honestly I don’t blame you for doing so. Everyone sounded uncomfortable and being stuck in a hot and stuffy house doesn’t make for a good time. Odd they didn’t have the AC or a fan on or didn’t have any of the windows open.

Annie and John really did plan poorly when it comes to cooking and serving the meals. Depending on what is being served yes it can be difficult to time everything just right so that the food comes out more or less at the same time. But between waiting two hours before the meal and then more waiting between each dish… that would be annoying. I’ll be honest I don’t know how long it take for steaks to cook on a grill but the rest of the food being served wouldn’t take that long at all. Salad and veggies take no time at all. The mashed potatoes might vary slightly. If they came from a box then they wouldn’t take that long at all. If made by hand then it would take a little longer since you have to peel and mash the potatoes yourself but otherwise it wouldn’t take that long. Instead of forcing the guests to wait two hours John should have gotten started on the steaks as soon as all of the guest have arrived, then a little later the rest of meal would be prepared and then everything would have been served on time. The fact that this is normal for them is odd.

If you are really close to Annie and John maybe you can talk to them about this. Or offer to help if you and your husband accept about dinner invitation. Otherwise it might be best to decline next time.

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Calli Arcale March 20, 2017 at 2:21 pm

No, I think you were fine from an etiquette standpoint. I think your hosts are not very good at timing things. I have a relative who is terrible at this sort of thing, which is why he has all of his dinner parties catered now — he recognizes he doesn’t know how to time the meal prep, and he would much rather be visiting with guests than cooking, so now that he’s in a financial position where he can hire a caterer, that’s what he does. And I gotta say, his parties are awesome. 😉

As Admin said, it takes practice to learn how to time these things. Hopefully they’ll get better with time, but I wouldn’t count on it. If they’re not close to you, I would politely decline further invites.

That said, I always try to remember that the only person whose behavior you can change is yourself, so after a situation like this it’s worth looking to see if there was anything you could do. Others have already suggested volunteering to get ice; another thing would be to definitely speak up and ask to open the windows if it is too hot, and do it right away. You are unlikely to be the only suffering guest, so you’ll be doing everyone a favor, while also alerting the hosts discreetly to the fact that this is something they should keep in mind for the next time they host a party. Whether or not they pick up on it and improve their own hosting is of course up to them.

All in all, I’d say you were fine — no etiquette hell for you! The hosts did a lousy job putting this party on, and one can only hope they have enough self-awareness to realize that.

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Michelle March 20, 2017 at 2:32 pm

This sounds positively ghastly! Everyone can have a gaffe or mishap when hosting but it sounds like John has a rep as a good cook, so this must not be their first time hosting. The meal being dragged out with each individual item being served separately and so far apart is bizarre. Is this usual for this couple or was this a one off?

I really don’t think you did anything rude, OP. My body temp runs warm so I would have had to ask for the window to be opened much earlier or offered to go for ice and take the long way around and blast the car AC. I would have assumed they were having an off night and excused myself before the pictures were brought out.

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Ashley March 20, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Okay so maybe OP could have asked before opening the windows….

And yeah I wouldn’t expect my husband to know what tapping on the glass meant either…

But neither of those things is a reason to be cast into the fires.

Your hosts set themselves up for this. They didn’t plan properly and their guests suffered as a result.

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Amanda March 20, 2017 at 4:21 pm

When we have guests over for dinner, I am very warm from running around cooking and keeping glasses full. I would appreciate it if my guests opened a door or window if they felt too warm or letting me know that they were uncomfortable so I could fix it. I also never run out of wine!

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Lanes March 20, 2017 at 4:24 pm

I run rather cool, so often have the opposite problem – hosts open doors and windows and even my extra layer of clothing isn’t enough.

I think the hosts just had a bad night, it sounds like generally their dinners run to schedule. I’m surprised there wasn’t any apology at the end, though. It’s as though they thought everything went swimmingly…?

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Anon March 21, 2017 at 9:59 am

I have one aunt and uncle whom I swear keep their house at a nice 50 degrees. I regularly have to wear sweaters and a few layers over there in the summer, even when it’s 90 degrees out.

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Amanda H. March 23, 2017 at 2:57 pm

I actually frequently run into this problem (and the reverse) at church. In the summer the AC tends to run too high in one of the classrooms, so despite the Southern US heat outdoors people still have to bring sweaters or shawls. And yet in the winter, we have to wear coats outside, but the heat indoors is enough that the coats come off, which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that there’s no coat closet, so coats have to get lugged around to classes.

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NostalgicGal March 25, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Is there a hallway where a row of coathooks could be installed? Would solve the issue then.

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lakey March 20, 2017 at 4:40 pm

“I can have pity on hosts who struggle to get every element of a meal prepared and ready to serve at the same time. It takes practice. ”

Which is why I like to make lasagne. Of course that would be a bit much for a hot summer day. Especially in a house without air conditioning.

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Anonymous March 22, 2017 at 11:04 pm

Summer makes it easier–you can get away with an entire meal of things that don’t have to be heated. You could do, say, gazpacho as a starter, then a selection of summer salads as the “main” course (green salad, tabbouleh, pasta and bean salad, and whatever else), and then maybe watermelon or fruit salad for dessert, possibly along with something sweet. Steak, mashed potatoes, and green beans sounds like more of a winter meal anyway, unless you’re barbecuing. If Annie and John really had their hearts set on serving steak, they could have barbecued the steaks, and served them with cold summer salads, rather than hot mashed potatoes. Actually, if they didn’t have a barbecue, they could have cooked the steaks in the kitchen, and served them with cold summer salads, and that would have solved the timing problem. If they did have a barbecue, that would have also addressed the problem of the house being too hot, because then they could have moved the whole party outside.

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rindlrad March 20, 2017 at 4:43 pm

I’m inclined to give the Hosts a bit of a pass regarding getting the all the food to the table at the same time. I’ve been hosting for years and every once in awhile the stars don’t align and everything that can go wrong does – even for the most experienced and organized among us (a certain Thanksgiving dinner, an dead oven, and 5 additional unexpected guests comes to mind). That said – it is hard to imagine what happened to result in the ordeal the OP went through. Not enough ice? Come on, people!! That’s Party 101.

As for the heat – that sounds like a communication issue. Was there a reason the OP and friends couldn’t ask the Hosts to open a window? Sitting there marinating waiting for the Hosts to realize it’s hotter than the hinges of Hades doesn’t seem like best way to handle the situation. I’d have said something…. or offered to go out for ice.

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Anonymous March 20, 2017 at 5:22 pm

The poorly-timed meal, tainted ice, and lack of cooling/ventilation measures on a hot day are definitely etiquette violations, but I think I can see another one that nobody else has pointed out–in the title of this thread, Jeanne used the words “dinner” and “bowels” in the same sentence…..lol.

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Anonymous March 20, 2017 at 5:39 pm

As for the timing of the meal, I think the hosts would have done better to serve something that didn’t have as many component parts that all have to be heated. Chili and rolls (or corn muffins) that were made in advance would have worked well in the winter, and in the summer, they could have done, say, a barbecue with hot dogs or hamburgers, with raw vegetables and maybe chips for sides, and watermelon for dessert. Only one thing would have had to be heated, and it would have been more enjoyable for everyone involved, because the guests wouldn’t have had to wait between….not even courses of the meal, but individual items……and the hosts wouldn’t have been stuck in the kitchen all evening, scrambling to get everything ready.

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NostalgicGal March 24, 2017 at 12:01 pm

I became family cook at age 12, start of junior high. About a month in, I could prepare steaks, mashed potatoes, gravy, and veggies and get them all on the table at the same time in 30 minutes. My gravy was flour not cornstarch but not a mass of lumps either. And the potatoes would have been peeled, boiled, drained, adultered, mashed. So this isn’t a difficult meal to prepare.

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Angela March 20, 2017 at 7:48 pm

I gotta agree with the husband here.

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Lex March 21, 2017 at 4:06 am

This sounds like poor planning to be honest. I have a number of comments I’d like to make regarding this dinner party:

1) I’m not sure you committed any particularly egregious infractions of etiquette – certainly nothing that stood out during your story. I was half expecting you to confess to having verbally dressed down your host or something.

2) Re: The Ice. I expect the ‘funny flavour’ was because it was probably stored in the freezer next to strongly-flavoured items – usually things like frozen peppers, chillies, garlic or onions. I find that if I store Ice next to, say, a bag of onion rings or frozen portions of Chilli con carne then it takes on a horrible metallic flavour. Your husband was a bit dense and accidentally made a scene (I am second-hand-cringing from here), but discretion is the better part of valour and if I’d been in your position, I’d have waited until I had an opportunity to speak quietly to him. But I wouldn’t say it was particularly a ‘sin’ as such.

3) The hosts planned poorly, although you mention that this is not the first time they’ve ‘kept you waiting’, suggesting that you at least had some idea things wouldn’t be well timed? I’d suggest if you accept an invite again, that you eat something light before you go.

4) The temperature in the house sounds torturous. Although ‘Annie’ wasn’t sweating, so clearly she wasn’t as aware of the heat (or didn’t feel it was that hot) as you and the rest of the guests. ‘The Weather’ is an acceptable conversational gambit (if a little cliche), so if I’d been you, I might have opened up a discussion about how warm/humid the weather had been/was. An astute host might have picked up on the subtle indications to reduce the temperature, but I don’t think it would have been rude to ask for a window open. Even if you mention it in a self-deprecating way ‘blaming’ yourself for feeling warm.

5) The Iceland pictures. I hate Show-and-Tell type situations. You don’t invite people over deliberately to sit there and give a presentation on your latest holiday. That is just tedious. It is my opinion that you invite people over to dinner for their company, not to boast about your latest experiences. There are so many ways to share photographs and videos. As a host, you could use them as a backdrop slideshow on your television (silently of course), using it basically as a large E-photo frame. This gives guests the option to pick up on certain pictures and ask questions. Or you could do like we did after our wedding and honeymoon and have photo albums made up and left as ‘Coffee Table books’ for guests to browse at their leisure – this usually works quite well because guests can choose their level of engagement and whether they want to talk about certain pictures that are intriguing.

6) 2 Bottles of wine seems like under-resourcing to me. Half a bottle of wine per person is the usual guide. That being said, bottles of wine are common host gifts – did none of the guests bring bottles with them? Perhaps the hosts thought it might be rude not to open the host gifts and only supplied 2 bottles as a ‘backup’, planning to open host gifted bottles? Did the hosts not receive any offerings at all? Hosts should also provide non-alcoholic options too. Especially in hot weather. Even if they didn’t provide enough wine, there should have been pitchers of soft drinks, water or fruit juices.

Overall, it seems like this was poorly planned on the hosts part, but only you can assess whether it is worth cooling your friendship with them as a result.

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Carolyn March 21, 2017 at 8:36 am

The Iceland vacation photos has me cracking up! My boyfriend and I are desperately trying to avoid being those people with the endless vacation photos – we went to Japan for 15 days a few months ago and people have been asking to see pictures – we keep putting them off telling them we need to edit them and organize them first. One friend was by and would not take no for an answer so I got out the computer and started from the top … halfway through the first day’s pictures I noticed her getting weary and said “wanna continue once we have had a chance to edit the pictures down?” and she readily agreed!

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NostalgicGal March 21, 2017 at 9:51 am

Back in the days of film and flashbulbs… I went with a cousin to her 4-H meeting (so we were about 10). You could earn badges of sorts, and one girl finished her photography one so. We got handed 100 rolls of film worth of pictures (at least 1200, a few were 24 shot rolls). The issue was she was bad at holding still long enough, she had over 900 that were blurry beyond what should be, and out of what was left, I guessed she had 30-40 in decent focus and passable framing. She spent that much money on it so they gave her the badge. (that was the days they printed the entire roll and you had to pay for it, bad shots or not) She was SO proud of her accomplishment and trust me the first and last shots were roughly the same quality, so she had spent a year not learning how to take a picture. A cup of koolaid and a cookie didn’t pay us back for surviving that one. As for your Japan visit, I see you and raise my trip to SF a few years ago, I took over 3500 pictures…. I edited them down to a few hundred, but.

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Amanda H. March 23, 2017 at 3:05 pm

I have a tendency to take a lot of vacation photos now that I have a digital camera and “drive mode.” It’s largely because I take so many shots of my children in action (drive mode lets you hold down the shutter release and take several shots at once, which is perfect for getting the perfect shot of kids running around). One of the first things we do when we get back from vacation is what my Hubby calls “triage,” where I sit and clear out duplicates, fuzzy photos, etc. and narrow things down to a select couple hundred (or less, depending on variety) and sort them by date.

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NostalgicGal March 25, 2017 at 1:20 pm

I’m not taking kid pictures or bursts, but still. Indeed, I will do first pass to kill blurred, accidental (shot my lap trying to turn phone off) etc. Then sort by topic, then by relevance (so folder for trip, folders within for each day, folders within for topic, then folders within for ‘not quite’ and ‘yep’) It takes a few clicks but the 3500 turned into about 300 that tell the story and another assortment of ‘reference’ stuff. (yes actually that cute wooden standing planter full of blooming flowers, I took pictures of the stand too from different angles so I could fake-make one if I want. I will show you the one full of flowers and keep the others elsewhere)

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Goldie March 21, 2017 at 9:04 am

I once was at a family gathering at a relative’s house where we all had to sit through at least an hour of the hostess’ friend showing us the photos from her daughter’s recent wedding. Neither the bride nor the groom were my relatives and I barely knew these people. They had an acrimonious divorce a few years later. Thankfully, there were no pictures.

I cannot begin to understand serving smelly ice to the guests, or the no AC/all windows closed combo. I had an awkward situation myself as a hostess last fall, when I invited three couples to my tiny house for the first time in years, not realizing that having so many people eating and drinking on top of food being cooked in the kitchen, would overheat the small house. I hadn’t thought of turning the AC on in advance, because it was a rather chilly fall evening and I confess it never occurred to me. But I opened every window and every door as soon as it became evident that my guests were overheated. Also, apologized profusely to them! How these hosts could just let the guests fry in a closed-up house with no AC and be all nonchalant about it like it’s a completely normal situation, is beyond me!

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Dippy March 21, 2017 at 9:35 am

I wonder if the A/C went out just before the guests arrived and the hosts thought they could keep the cool in by not opening the windows?

Sounds like a miserable evening!

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Amanda H. March 23, 2017 at 3:06 pm

I’d buy that explanation. We survived a large portion of the Upstate NY summers without running our AC by keeping the windows closed and the shades drawn on the sun-facing side of the apartment. We did understand, however, that hosting would have to change our MO, at least while guests were there, because extra people = extra heat.

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Skaramouche March 21, 2017 at 5:17 pm

To all the people complaining that her husband couldn’t read her mind based on the glass tapping, a rather childish phrase comes to mind: “no duh” 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 :P.

It was a way to get his attention so that she could then somehow indicate what she really wanted to ask. For the record, there’s no better way to announce that you’re about to do something secret than have other people notice you saying “honey, I want to ask you something” or “come here, I want to show you something”. This can be managed quite well in a big group possibly but not in a party of 4 or 5 all sitting in the same room.

If she was in a position to “use her words” and covertly ask him if his drink tasted funny, I don’t think she would have resorted to random glass tapping. How cruel of her husband to out her like that, loudly. Mine would have gotten it if he’d done something like that 😛

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Anon March 22, 2017 at 10:13 am

She could have gone over to him, whispered in here ear that she wanted to tell them something, and then they could go and talk. No need to bring everyone’s attention to her, so that she could then get her husband’s attention.

Why did she have to announce it in front of everyone?

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Anonymous March 22, 2017 at 1:20 pm

This didn’t post before, but in response to the person who implied that ceasing to attend dinner parties with this couple would be “cooling the friendship” with them, I don’t agree–most of us do different things with different friends, depending on people’s interests, abilities, resources, and other factors. So, the OP and her husband could stop doing dinner parties with this couple, but still do movie or game nights, Saturday morning yoga, meals at restaurants, or any number of things. Meanwhile, they might have other friends who are thrifty, and don’t want to eat out at restaurants, but throw amazing dinner parties at home, or who don’t like yoga, but love roller coasters, and so on, and so forth. It’s perfectly fine and healthy to have different friends that you do different things with, or different “categories” of friends (like, say, work friends, church friends, gym friends, neighbours, old friends from school, et cetera) that they wouldn’t mix. So, I don’t think the OP and her husband reclassifying the Scatterbrains as “non-dinner party friends,” and responding to a future dinner party invitation with a counter-invitation to, say, the bowling alley, would count as “cooling the friendship,” but rather, as “customizing” it. I think a lot of etiquette problems, and friendship problems, stem from people assuming a “cooling” when none is intended. Or, maybe this is an Assertiveness Heck problem that could be solved with simple communication, wherein the OP and her husband tell the Scatterbrains how they feel, and the four of them come to a mutually agreeable solution.

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