Emer O’Reilly-Hyland, journalist, party-goer and host talks about the social mores for a dinner party.
1 When everyone’s a phone-click away from posting pics of themselves, the party, the venue, even their dinner plate on social media, the simple rule is, unless it’s a launch, don’t do it. Or put it another way, the posher the party, the fewer the smartphones. No one wants their faces turning up on your Instagram or Facebook page, especially when they’re in relax mode, ie flushed and fulsome, Margaux in hand; nor do they want their Renoir, their Yeats, their Aubussons, not even their Wedgwood, or their duck confit, up for scrutiny by anyone but the people they invite through the door. You’re on the guest list, your 500 Twitter followers aren’t, so keep your phone in your handbag for the night.
2 There’s only one party rule: eat, drink, enjoy – that’s what we’re there for. Mingle with your co-guests and relish the gorgeous grub and delicious drinks. There’s nothing more annoying than someone talking about their 5:2 while everyone else is tucking into their petits fours and chocolate marquise.
3 Drinks parties can be tricky. On the upside, the volume of guests ups your chances of finding a soulmate, either for life or just for the evening! But if you don’t know many people, it can be a bit nerve-wracking walking into a room packed to the brim with besties having a beano. But cocktail parties are what you make them, and my golden rule is to get stuck in: Introduce yourself to someone, anyone. You’re not in a bar, people won’t block you out, so you can approach without caution. The trick is to do it quick – shyness has a habit of settling in for the evening, so it won’t happen if you think about it too much. If you’re hosting, try to introduce people with a little info about what they might have in common.
4 If you’re not in a good space, if it’s been an annus horribilis – you’ve split from your partner/ had another failed IVF/lost your job – don’t “wear” your woes. Most people aren’t interested; those who are will have compassion for your situation, but now isn’t the time to express it. To give their sympathetic ears a break and give yourself a night off your problems, have a stock phrase to get you through the small talk. You don’t have to be too jolly hockey sticks, but you’re “looking forward to the new year” when you’ll “cement some changes”. And remember, your dinner companion might just be feeling a little less than festive this season too, so you can brave the jollity together!
This article was originally published in the December issue of IMAGE Magazine.