In a pickle: What to do if your dinner party goes bad

Feb 14, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. ET

Have you ever attended a dinner party that's gone bad? Or worse yet, thrown one? Unfortunately, this happens to the best of us, and there's never a need to lose your cool.

Empty dinner party

Dinner parties go wrong more often than you think. With so many different variables — the food, last-minute cancellations or additions, avoiding awkward silences and more — something's bound to go awry. When this happens, try not to freak out and risk the possibility of embarrassing yourself. Instead, take deep breaths and realize that it's not the end of the world (trust us, it's not!). Here, we'll show you how to make the best of any bad dinner party situation.

The food is ruined!

Whether you go to slice the roast and realize it's as dry as a bone or take your lasagna out of the oven only to see you've burned it to a crisp, the delicious meal you slaved over is no more. Instead of crying and causing a scene, learn to let go and laugh at yourself! Politely (if you start laughing, that's OK) tell your guests that you apologize, but the meal unfortunately is not edible, and you'll be ordering take-out. Take a vote — pizza or Chinese — and pour yourself an extra glass of wine!

Remember, we're all human, and we all make mistakes. Your guests will appreciate your honesty and your ability to remain calm in a stressful situation.

Extra guests are coming — last minute!

You planned on eight guests and prepared enough food for eight guests, only to realize two more are showing up unannounced. "Great," you think to yourself, "just what I need." You're probably angry and are tempted to just call the whole thing off, wondering how certain people can be so rude. We have an easy solution for you, though, and it doesn't involve you and your husband skipping out on dinner so the extra guests can enjoy your plates. Instead, break out the chips and dip and any other miscellaneous snack foods you have around! You'd be surprised at how much people eat if food is in front of them. Allow everyone to fill up on junk so there's enough food to go around — for you and your extra guests!

… or some canceled.

This one's easy. Yes, it's annoying when guests cancel. You now have more food than you need, more place settings than guests and more drinks than you know what to do with. That's OK — in fact, it's better than OK. If you're a leftovers person, you now have dinner for a few days, and if not? Send everyone home with a plate Thanksgiving-style. You'll officially go down in the books as the best dinner party host ever.

The dreaded awkward silences!

As a dinner party host, it's your job to make sure everyone's having a good time. When you notice your whole house goes silent, panic sets in. Instead of panicking, have a few questions in mind you can ask the group, such as:

  • Anyone taking any fun vacations this year?
  • What are your plans this weekend?

These two simple questions are a great way to get the conversation going again — and for a while without anyone thinking you talk too much or ask too many questions. Win, win! Another great way to avoid awkward silences is by playing games — so have a few prepared. Our favorites are Catch Phrase, Apples to Apples and Pictionary!

Dinner parties are all about having a good time. No matter what goes wrong, make the most of it and enjoy yourself (and hey, there's always more wine)!

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