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5 rules about throwing dinner parties, according to everyone I know.

Chandon
Thanks to our brand partner, Chandon

There’s nothing more relaxing than a dinner party with close friends, but if there are no hard and fast rules in place, things can quickly turn to mayhem.

After a few nights of trial and error (and more than a few ruined dinners) my friends and I have developed a set of rules that keep our dinner parties – and friendships – flowing smoothly.

Rule One: The best laid plan is no seating plan.

Once upon a time there was a rigid formality to dinner party seating. Couples were seated away from each other next to suitable companions so they could expand their social horizons, while eligible ladies and gents were encouraged to sit shoulder to shoulder to see if sparks would fly.

But the best rule of thumb in my dinner party circles now is to let people sit wherever they like. It leads to a more relaxed feel to the evening if the conversation across the table between unknown parties can just flow naturally over a glass of sparkling wine with some slow beats going in the background.

Does it work? Almost always, unless your dinner party guests are wandering around like lost sheep, there is no need to shepherd them.

Rule Two: There’s nothing lucky about pot luck.

Chandon
But you're VERY lucky if someone brings Chandon so you can make Spritzy cocktails. Image: Supplied.

The "everyone bring a plate" method of dinner party planning can be a delightful one. It can lead to you trying out some new dishes, and it doesn't put the entire burden of group nourishment onto the host.

Where this can be a dangerous endeavour, however, is when there's no clear system in place of who is bringing what.

A society cannot exist without rules and neither can a dinner party. This kind of anarchy is what leads to a cheese plate with no crackers, or heaven forbid, an evening with a scant offering of desserts. We can't have that.

It's become common practice now in my dinner party circles for each of us to be assigned an item of a specific dinner "tier". Tier one is pre-dinner nibbles, tier two is entree and so on, until you get to dessert and drinks, so every item on the menu is accounted for. I'll bring the Chandon Rosé, if you don't mind (and you really won't).

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Does it work? As long as everyone follows the rules you have a perfectly balanced dinner. But there's always one guest who will go rogue and throw the menu into chaos...

Rule Three: You are cordially invited to dinner, but your phone is not.

The phone stack rule is one that my friends and I have tried to initiate on more than one occasion.

The idea of a phone stack is that everyone forks over their phones to be placed in a neat little pile on the table so that no one is tempted away from the dinner party banter to check their Instagram direct messages.

The rule here is that the first person to cave and reach for their phone is then obliged to bring an extra bottle to the next shindig. The rules allows guests to chat and make eye contact (when they are not sneaking longing glances at their phone, of course).

Does it work? Not... really. With the need to Instagram the aesthetically pleasing party goodness and have a cheeky peek at Facebook just too hard to resist for a few hours, it's probably best to accept that every guest you invite comes with an automatic plus one in the form of a phone.

And if we don't have our phones, we can't Instagram beautiful platters like this:

Rule Four: Friends arrive a little late but only enemies arrive a little early.

Look, no one loves a dinner party guest who bursts through the door two hours late just as the last spoonful of dessert is being scooped off the plate. And in an age of Facebook events where it's easy to RSVP and then forget about 10 different events, loose schedules are always an issue.

Arriving 15 minutes after the assigned time is perfection, but anything over 30 minutes is just plain rude unless you've got a very good reason. But the golden rule is never to arrive too early - that will stress your host out more than burning the risotto ever will.

Does it work? My friends all abide by the 15-minute rule so it works perfectly... most of the time.

Rule Five: 'Share plate' dinners only work if you divide them among the table.

It's been a trend for a while now to place share style platters along the table and let everyone dig in and help themselves.

It's a great idea in theory, but what if you miss out on something on the other side of the table? Look, you can always can ask someone to pass it over. But, even better, split each dish into two smaller dishes so that each end of the table is accommodated, and pass each dish to the left as you serve yourself.

Another tip is to match the right sparkling with the right dishes. For example, Chandon Brut goes well with appetisers like oysters, zucchini flowers or goats' cheese, while Chandon Vintage Brut is better suited to mains like roast chicken, duck breast with cherry sauce, or sashimi and sushi.

Does it work? It's a pretty sure-fire plan, but there are still a few traffic jams that can take place at the table. Never mind, embrace the fun and chaos and clink those glasses together for a "cheers".

What kind of dinner party rules do you and your friends have? 

Top image credit: Chandon

Chandon

Australia's #1 sparkling wine, born in France BUT grown and crafted in Australia, we draw on our french roots and the innovative spirit of Australian winemaking to craft fresh, vibrant, sophisticated wines for shared, casual Australian moments.

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