When you accept a friend's invitation to dinner, you take on a certain responsibility to be a good guest. To stay on the right side of good manners - and hopefully get invited back again - avoid these "don'ts" the next time you gather with friends for a social meal.
Don't show up "fashionably late." While you have a 10-15 minute window to arrive at a cocktail party, a dinner party follows more precise timing. It's important to be punctual so that you won't find yourself ringing the doorbell after guests have taken their seats at the table or worse, causing everyone to wait for you when the food is ready and getting cold.
Don't hand out your business card. A business card doesn't belong at a social function. It sends the message that you are using the opportunity to promote a business rather than to build new friendships. If someone asks you for a card, share it discreetly and in private.
Don't monopolize the host's time. Although you may be looking forward to catching up with your friend, she's working hard to stay on a schedule, while entertaining and making sure all her guests are comfortable and having a good time. While she may look breezy and carefree, she is meticulously juggling multiple tasks in order to ensure the evening comes off without a hitch. Schedule an in-depth visit another time.
Don't double dip in the butter dish. If you don't have access to individual butter pats or a clean bread knife, skip it rather than put a soiled utensil in the community butter dish. Consider your role: you are not really there to eat; you are there because your host feels you have something positive to offer.
Don't make yourself at home in the kitchen. No matter how strong your culinary skills or opinions may be, avoid taking over meal preparation under the guise of "help." Even if you're sure the onions need to be caramelized a bit more, remember that it's not your party. You may think you are improving the taste, but you're actually insulting the host. Allow the host to decide how to prepare the meal and keep your opinions to yourself.
Don't ask for salt and pepper. If spices are absent from the table, it's a sign the host doesn't feel it necessary to season the food any further. It would be offensive to ask for additional condiments to either alter or mask the taste of menu items.
Don't take a telephone call. Also avoid checking your device during the meal. Technology doesn't belong at the table. If you are waiting for an important call, or you are in a profession that requires you to be close to the phone, keep it in your pocket or your lap so you can feel it vibrate. Excuse yourself and return to the table as quickly as possible.
Don't expect the host to serve your bottle of wine. Unless your host specifically requested you bring a bottle of wine to share at the table, an un-chilled bottle of wine is considered a hostess gift. Your host may have a specific wine selected to serve guests during the course of the meal.
Don't use your linen napkin to clean up a red wine spill. In the event of an unfortunate mishap, ask the host which towels she'd prefer you use to clean up the stain. While you're at it, blot your lipstick before you sit down at the table so you don't leave behind waxy residue on the cloth serviette.
Don't trump the host. Give the host a chance to share a welcome toast. If she does not, you may certainly raise your glass in honor of her beautiful meal. Just allow the host time to have the initial opportunity to propose the first toast.
Don't start clearing the plates from the table. If the host is sitting and enjoying her guests, resist the urge to take the dishes to the kitchen sink. Regardless of your good intentions, this gives an unspoken cue to other guests to rush through their meal, or worse, that they also should leap up and help with the dishes. Offer your host a hand with food preparation or clean up, but respect their wishes if they decline your offer. Always follow your host's lead.
For more of Diane's dining etiquette tips, you may also enjoy How to Turn A Restaurant Faux Pas Into a Successful Meal. Visit Diane's blog, connect with her here on The Huffington Post, follow her on Pinterest and Instagram and "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook.