Philip Galanes on Dinner Party Etiquette

Friday, May 03, 2013

Philip Galanes talks about dinner party etiquette—how do deal with diet restrictions, unexpected guests, hostess gifts, and steering conversation. He's the New York Times Social Q’s columnist and author of Social Q's: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today.

Share your dinner party etiquette questions!


Philip Galanes

Comments [22]

Brenda from New York City

If you need abstract rules to navigate a relationship it probably isn't that meaningful a relationship.

Jul. 18 2013 07:24 AM

i kinda hate this guys comments... new york used to be so real. people would say what they think... all this 'nice and polite' proper shit is ruining real interaction.

as for the guest coming early... send them out to go get some beer and napkins. put em to work... i had a guest come early once because she had to be somewhere else later... and waiting around for something to eat.... totally irritating...

May. 04 2013 12:52 AM
Roberta from NJ

I have a food allergy that produces anaphylaxis within a half hour. I always bring food with me just in case all the food has the ingredient. I always give my hosts as heads up in advance but some don't take me seriously because some people think allergies are psychosomatic. I actually attended a party were I cheerfully would have partake n of just the bread and fruit but was taken to task for not eating.

May. 03 2013 12:54 PM

what about bed bugs!

May. 03 2013 12:51 PM
Nelly from Rosedale, Queens

I come from a family that have always brought a dish or wine to any dinning gathering as a sign of a thank you for inviting me. I have suggested bring a dish to dinner parties for friends who are very particular about what they eat as a thank you and also to covertly serve as a meal for them just in case the host did not prepare any dinner choices they can eat like Gluten free or Vegan meal. What do you say on this?

May. 03 2013 12:51 PM

How do you respond to invitations when you know your spouse isn't going want to go?

May. 03 2013 12:49 PM
Chuck from Westchester

What is one to do about guests that don't reciprocate? Do you not invite them anymore? I enjoy some of my friend's company when I invite them over to my dinner parties, but I never seem to be invited over to their homes. Although I enjoy entertaining, I would like to be the guest on occasion, too.

May. 03 2013 12:48 PM
Valerie Gross from manhattan

how refreshing to hear the advice that guests may re-learn how to stray from their comfort zones for a few hours in someone else's home. food allergies have become so confining to a host.

May. 03 2013 12:48 PM

Social BBQ's!


May. 03 2013 12:46 PM

I usually don't mention to hosts that I don't eat meat because I don't want the host to have to go to extra trouble just for me, and most of my friends already know I don't eat meat. But one time I went to a dinner that turned out to be smaller than I expected: just me, my husband and the couple who invited us, and the central dish was a meat dish with very little else. I didn't mind, was fine with bread, some salad and the cheese from the appetizers, but my host felt terrible, and I felt that on this occasion I had committed a faux pas, that avoiding inconveniencing the host turned out to be unkind. So it can go both ways.

May. 03 2013 12:46 PM
Lisa from Forest Hills, NY

I love entertaining but my husband always comes up with a reason not to do it. I do all the cooking and cleaning to keep him happy, but he still prefers not to. Any suggestions on how to engage him?

May. 03 2013 12:45 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Bruce: In addition to Mr. Galanes' advice...send your guest home w/a doggie bag.

May. 03 2013 12:45 PM
ann from Manahttan

Yes, no dogs! A couple showed up for dinner with their dog once and I really didn't appreciate it. It was like having a 2-year-old, very demanding. Very annoying and rude to do to a host.

May. 03 2013 12:44 PM

...didn't Freud identify it as a form of narcissism??

May. 03 2013 12:42 PM
Henry from Manhattan

With the vegan who won’t come to a dinner with meat.

It’s not controlling, they are doing you a favor because they know that won’t react well. Don’t take it to mean, “you must not have meat or I won’t come” but, “I just won’t be comfortable around meat so it’s better that I don’t come.”

Not saying I agree, I’m just trying to shed a different perspective other than assuming all vegans as controlling. Maybe imagine the meat is dog or cat and whether you’d want to be in a room with people noshing on Fido and Fifi.

May. 03 2013 12:42 PM
Amy from Manhattan

For the vegan guest who wouldn't come if there was meat on the table: seat her at her own table.

To Anna: My party invitations warn guests that if they arrive early, I'll put them to work getting things ready!

May. 03 2013 12:41 PM
beth from brooklyn

What to do when a dinner party guest -- a good friend -- drinks too much and then locks themselves in the WC right off the dining room, and "takes ill" vomiting for a half hour? This recently happened to me -- No one noticed the guest was going over-capacity until too late. Really embarrassing! for me the host

May. 03 2013 12:40 PM

My friend always wants to bring her dog along when we have her over for dinner, and then wants to feed her dog some of the food we have cooked for her. I would rather not allow that. What would be an appropriate response?

May. 03 2013 12:39 PM

Could we please, just qualify our semantics??

Vegan is a cult, no??

May. 03 2013 12:39 PM
Bree from NYC

I think the most important thing for hosts -and guests- to remember is that the event is about hospitality. You should be a gracious hostess, but guests should be willing to roll with whatever comes along, should be a good companion and make an effort to contribute to EVERYONE having a good evening. That might mean eating something you don't like, or drawing out a fellow guest or keeping things breezy in the face of mishaps.

May. 03 2013 12:36 PM
Christine from Westchester

What are good hostess gifts to bring? Most hosts have planned their meal so unless I've pre-planned with them, I don't bring food. Wine seems kind of tired. Any suggestions?

May. 03 2013 12:02 PM
Anna from Manhattan

What should a host do when guests arrive early to a dinner? I recently had some guests arrive an hour early for a dinner I was hosting. to avoid them waiting 2 hours for dinner I had to scrap my planned appetizers and move on to cooking the main meal. Should I have continued with my plan even though it would have meant a 2 hour wait for the main course?

May. 03 2013 11:14 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.