Dinner Party Spillage Etiquette!

flamingo1121May 29, 2007

What would you do if someone spilled a glass of red wine all over the table, over another guest and onto the area carpet? As a hostess or a guest?

Obviously I am asking as this happened to us the other night at a dinner party we were invited. Fortunately it was my parents, DB & SIL, the host/hostess and their DD and her BF. My DH accidentally spilled his filled glass of RED WINE that doused hostess' DD, his clothes and got the area rug quite good. First reaction was to sop up table, then her DD had to change her shirt, and I proceed to attempt to blot up as much wine as possible out of the carpet.

Hostess said it was ok it was an accident and to relax, my DB said he never saw someone react the way I did that it is only a rug and get over it (IT wasn't his house!). Well I finally did stop blotting (or at least try to do it without most noticing). Next day I dropped off Woolite Oxyclean and hostess did call me later in the day (as they were out earlier) and said in addition to her attempts and the woolite the wine stains are barely visible.

Was I over reacting to try and clean up while the stain was still fresh?

Thank you for your opinions!

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I once dropped a piece of chocolate cake on white carpet at a party. I was horrified and I panicked, didn't know what to do! Fortunately another guest with more presence of mind did something similar to what you did, she ran and got paper towels/sponge, blotted it up and asked our hostess what cleaning stuff she had on hand. I did help after regaining "conciousness" and the hostess was gracious and said it was no problem. I think we got it mostly up. I'm sure that people with white carpet are used to having it cleaned periodically. Anyway I'm still friends with the hostess (this was maybe 5-6 yrs ago) so I think I'm ok!

I think you did the right thing. You don't want to be responsible for permanently messing up her rug, so the best thing to do is try to clean it as much as possible. I can't imagine sitting there doing nothing!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 3:19PM
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I don't know how much blotting you did to know if you were over reacting or not.

Of course, if you spill something at a party, you should try to clean it up, but at the same time, the hostess may prefer her own way of cleaning it. I would have blotted up as much as possible, told the hostess it happened and asked if there was anything else I could do to help so that it wouldn't stain. Accidents happen and people that entertain know and expect that things will get spilled, etc. I think it was nice that you dropped off the Oxiclean, but I don't think it was necessary.

If you seemed too over worried about the whole situation, you may actually have been making the hostess more nervous. I would tend to follow the lead of the hostess in these type of cases. If they're like "quick, get the salt and carpet cleaner" then I would help out asap, but if they're like "Oh, don't worry about it, it's an old rug" (and they don't seem to care) then I would blot a little and then forget about it. It's her house, her rug, and her responsibilty when throwing a party to decide how she wants to handle it.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 5:24PM
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I don't think you overreacted. I remember a friends child spilling a full glass of cola on my brand new carpet. I was right down on my hands and knees sopping it up with paper towels. They probably thought I was a crazy woman. :-) I can't imagine saying "Don't worry about it."

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 7:32PM
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The gracious hostess says "don't worry about it"....the polite guest blots the spots...but ultimatly takes her cue from the hostess. I have been to more than one party where a guest did irreversable damage to something by trying to clean it up using the wrong cleaner and the wrong method. One woman's carpet was ruined because someone scrubbed at the stain usina a towel and roughed up the nap of the carpet....and another wiped at spilled milk with a wet cloth driving it into the carpet and spreading it around rather than getting it out of the carpet.....
Blotting with a paper towel can do no harm...but take your cue from the hostess. If she said relax....it was an accident....I would have quit wiping.
Linda C

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 6:19PM
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Thank you all for your response. I have finally "calmed" down. I have spoken with the hostess again and apologized profusely. She told me that in addition to the blotting and salting I did, she did more before going to bed and the next morning hit the rug stains with a combo of little bit of bleach and lots of water. She said it was slightly visible but when she got home from the parade and saw my oxyclean stuff, the stains are now barely visible at all. She said she will flip the carpet around so it looks like her husband did it if anyone ever happen to notice. Phewww!!

Her DD tank after 3 full days in the sun after repeated washing has finally become white again. My mother is big clothesline/sun fan. Thank goodness for mothers!


    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 10:51AM
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I have been on both ends of this one -- haven't we all?

I agree that guests should try to clean up but be careful to follow the hosts' lead. In addition to possibly not knowing what you're doing, you don't want to ruin the party by turning it into a cleaning session; rather, you want to minimize the interruption. If it is the sort of thing that will need professional cleaning, I would contact the hosts AFTER the party and say I want to pay. I wouldn't quite insist, but I'd go way beyond a vague offer. Like, "Please let me call the carpet cleaners -- I happen to have a coupon anyway [not true, but just to make it easier for them to accept the offer]." If it is a tablecloth or something that you take to the cleaners, I would take it to a good cleaners myself, not just ask the hosts to send me the bill (they never would).

A host should focus on the guests' feelings (everyone, not just the person who made the mess), and make light of it even if your heart is sinking. I think there was a custom that if a guest broke, say, a glass, the host was to break another one immediately. I don't know about that -- but I will always remember two very gracious hosts that handled spilled wine beautifully. The first time, I was the spiller -- we were all clearing the table after a dinner party, and I picked up one of the last items, a pie plate -- but it was stuck to the (linen) tablecloth, which caused an almost-empty bottle of red (of course) wine to tip over and dribble. I righted it as fast as I could, but there it was. When the host saw it, he said, "Hey, the only problem was that that was pretty good wine!" -- and then he picked up the bottle and energetically tossed out the last little bit right onto the tablecloth. I will be grateful to him forever. The other time was at a 50th birthday party, when someone spilled a glass of wine all over the hosts' PIANO. No one breathed. But the clever hostess betrayed no dismay at all; she just said, "Now it's a party!" If she'd had a fit or acted upset or worried, it would have killed the mood.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 5:27PM
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A tablecloth is one thing, but a rug could be several thousand dollars, and with a big red wine spot, OMG. I would have done the same thing, blot, blot , blot, and then call the next day and arrange to pay for a professional to come in and clean it.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2007 at 7:46PM
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Heh heh - I had a guest once topple her drink at the dinner table - she freaked, so i immediately "accidentally" toppled mine as well.

You should have seen the look on her face. Priceless.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 2:26PM
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amyfiddler, she will never forget your kindness. You are a true hostess.

By the way, I ran into the friend whose piano got spilled on, and I told her I had just been thinking about that day. She didn't even remember it very well, but she said, "Well, I'm sure I must have felt sick inside, but what can you do? And I guess the piano must have been fine." I know she must have felt good that people remember her classy, gracious behavior all these years (more than 12, at least) later.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 4:33PM
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I think whether you overreacted or not depends on how you treated your husband. I have seen similar situations and rather than focus on getting it cleaned up, they freak out on the one who made the mess and make them feel terrible about it. That's obviously not the right way to react. We never (as guests OR hostesses) want to make people feel badly about themselves. I'm sure you were more than gracious about it and didn't make your DH feel ackward for his little snafu.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 10:04PM
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I found this old post and it brought to mind a conversation I had recently with a friend. She said that if someone spilled red wine on her beige carpet she would have no qualms about getting out the carpet vac (one of the spot buster things) and cleaned it up right then and there. Her reason was that she wasn't about to ruin $2000 worth of carpet waiting till after the party. In one way I can see her point but at the same time I think the person who spilled it would be mortified.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2007 at 11:51PM
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I have friends with beige carpeting who don't even serve red wine anymore when they have parties.............
now that's radical.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 5:36AM
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I think the hostess who said she would get the carpet vac out is right on! As a guest who just might have been the one who spilled the wine...I would feel more comfortable knowing it was taken care of and the hostess wasn't waiting until everyone was gone....just to be polite.
Seems to me a little like spilling a glass on the tile floor and not wiping it up right away. Take care of the spill and go on with the party.
As to the hostess who doesn't serve red wine....I think that's a lot better than hyping out about a possible spill...however she likely doesn't know that a white wine spill will show up months or even years later as a brown spot...I would almost rather see the spill right away.
I have Oriental rugs! Red wine, white wine, coffee....nothing shows!!
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 8:19PM
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mitch, There was an article from the Barefoot Contessa, in a recent magazine, and she said she no longer serves red wine when entertaining at home, because of the possible damage to her rugs. Some of these rugs can be very expensive.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 4:23PM
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I am considering this issue right now. I am planning a New Year's Day open house and DH asked that I not service any "red" food (no tomato sauce, no chili, etc.). But do I serve red wine? I am considering having some on hand and not putting it out - just giving it to people who specifically request it.

I have time to think about it anyway. It's hard to balance. On the one hand, you want to be a good host/hostess. On the other hand, people can be pretty clumsy. We weren't in the house a week before someone rummaging through the fridge managed to cause a beer bottle to come tumbling out, putting a dent in the floor. It was no big deal, but ruining a $2000 chair is another matter.

I have a few wool Karastans. I am actually more worried about one piece of furniture in the great room that is a pale beige silk-like material (yes, impractical, I now know that). I would never get wine out of it. I cringe when DH sits in that chair with a glass.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 6:19PM
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I am glad this thread came up again. I posted a story above about a host who made me feel so much better when I spilled red wine.

He died this afternoon, at age 71. He was a very close friend for 25 years. We were law partners for years, and he was my daughter's godfather. He was one of a kind. We are all in shock.

So please go read that story about him again, have a glass of good wine in his memory (he was a wine expert), and instead of worrying about carpet and stains -- he never did -- follow his example and leave happy memories with your guests.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 7:07PM
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Cheers to him!!
People always come before carpets or funiture....if you are more worried about your carpets beine spilled on, why than don't have friends into your home!
Apparently you friend knew this. Sounds like ke was a true "people person" and that's why he is missed so very much.
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 10:36AM
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Sue, I can empathize with you. My first thoughts have always been to the comfort of my guests--making sure they feel welcomed and have whatever they need.

But that does not extend to red wine at large gatherings. Actually, DH and I just don't drink wine, but do serve it now and then. I have and will continue to serve red wine to close friends or at a small dinner party, but no way at a larger gathering.

I don't feel that it's a choice between risking costly accidents by serving it and being a bad hostess by not serving it. I'm not about to have an expensive silk rug or, like Sue,a $2,000 silk striped chair ruined because someone was careless.

Years ago I asked my boss to dinner; he got tipsy and was hanging over my grand piano with a drink--yes, I was nervous and yes, he dumped it on the hammers. Just this past holiday someone stood a toddler on the seat of my ivory striped silk chair and let the child throw candied sweet potatos on my wood floors.

So as much as I enjoy entertaining and accomodating my guests, and as much as I assume they will be as considerate of my home as I would be of theirs, some people just aren't. Some are very careful and accidents happen anyway.

So no red wine at my house and absolutely no guilt about it--I make up for it by having any other drink their heart desires and not being a person that asks people to remove their shoes!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 7:10PM
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