August 7, 2014

The art of receiving guests

You organize a dinner at your house but you do not really know how to accommodate your guests? La Belle Assiette offers you some tips to help you in this task.

receiving guests

  • Before your guests arrive …

Prepare your menu in advance and be sure to ask your guests whether they have allergies or special dietary habits. Start preparing your menu the night before you receive your guests to avoid a day of total panic!

Make your table plans in advance so that your guests are well matched. If you are unfamiliar with table planning, be sure to read the article we publish on this topic: it will deliver a lot of useful tips.

Clean your home or apartment, ready your bathroom (soap, towels for drying hands, etc.). Your home must be spotless so that it can welcome your guests as it should!


  • When your guests arrive home…

Take their coats, umbrellas, and bags off them.

Some of your guests may bring gifts, in any case, do not wait for your guests to leave to open them!
If they brought flowers, immediately put them in a vase and place them in your living room to show your guest that you appreciate the attention.
If it is an object (e.g. decorative): Again, place it in your living room.
If it’s a bottle: open it and think about serving them during the aperitif or with the meals.
In the case of chocolates or sweets: offer them to your guests over a cup of coffee/tea/herbal tea.

Be sure to thank your guests for their gifts, while being tactful enough to avoid making those that didn’t bring you anything uncomfortable…

The animation of the meal depends largely on you, the host, and you must thus always keep the conversation going to prevent awkward silences. Thus, you should lead the conversation, and ensure that no one is left out. Your partner (if any) should also assist in this task.


  • Introduce the guests to each other…

Often, the people you invite to your dinner will be meeting each other for the first time. In this case, it is crucial that you introduce them to each other, the mood of your dinner depends on it!

The biggest challenge for you as the host will be to manage the conversations. To do this, here are some tips:
Introduce your guests by giving each of their full names. You can specify their occupations. Also present their relationships to you (distant cousin, childhood friend or other) to help locate the person from the other guests.
All this is important because this is what will help generate topics of conversation between them.

Also, lets precise that there are unwritten rules when introducing people, and it should thus be done in the following way:
You should normally introduce a man to a woman (example: “Ms. Durant, this is Mr. Smith”), the youngest to the eldest (example: “Mrs. Bernard, this is Marie”), the person with the lesser status to the person with the most important status, a guest who comes from your country to a guest that comes from abroad (eg Mr. O’Neill, this is Mr. Durant”).


  • Aperitif

It is the householder that should undertake serving the appetizers to the guests. He will ensure to open the bottles to be presented to guests beforehand, so that they have no scruples when it comes to serving themselves from different bottles. He should also remember to put non-alcoholic beverages on the table so those who do not drink alcohol can take advantage of this moment of conviviality!


  • At the table

Place the guests in accordance with table plan that you have previously established (feel free to put, or not, a label for each guest).

It’s the hostess who will serve the dishes to the guests. She should also pay attention to the rules: we never serve men first, but women. Similarly, older guests should be served before younger ones. We proceed in the same way for men.
When serving food, they should present themselves from the left side of the guests.
Women never serving wine by the rules, and it is thus the man of the house’s job to do so. Wine is served from the right side of the guests, and the glasses should not be filled completely.

Traditionally, guests will not start eating before the hostess, or before she indicates that they can start if she is busy doing something else. So if you have things to prepare in the kitchen, and you want the guests begin, be sure to let them know that they should not wait for you!

As hosts, remember to never leave the guests alone.

Remember to pass each of the dishes to your guests twice during the meal (except for the soup, cheese and dessert that should only be served once).

Change the plates after serving the entry, cheese and dessert.


  • When the dinner ends …

When dishing out, do not stack your plates! It is preferable is to have a container to empty plates discreetly.

When the dinner ends, it is the housewife who should indicate when the guests can leave the table. You can then take them to the lounge to serve their coffee or tea.

After this, thank your guests for coming to your dinner. Moreover, it is always tactful to offer to call a taxi for them, in case they need one to go home.

Finally, walk them to your front door without pressing them, to not avoid making them think that you want them to leave!


Good luck!


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