The Ultimate Dinner Party Guest List

The ideal dinner party offers guests a night to remember. It’s also a who’s who, with every guest putting their best foot forward. Raconteur presents our ultimate guest list, as voted for by over 400 readers, friends, authors, journalists, and politicians

The perfect dinner party is something you can hear with your eyes closed. The hum of conversation, the sparkle of ladies’ laughter, the low rumble of good-natured debate, the clink of champagne glasses, the whisper of napkins and dresses. It’s something you can sense – the fragrances, the dimness of the light, the warmth. But the cornerstone of any ideal dinner party is, without a doubt, its guest list.

Marilyn Monroe and Winston Churchill sit at the heads of our dream dinner table – charming, smart and bold in spades. Of all our 1,200+ votes (each voter got 3 votes), it was this ultimate American female icon and ultimate British male icon of the 20th century who made it to the top.

But our top table of twenty is littered with greats – literary luminaries like J. K. Rowling, political figures including Barack Obama, Mohandas Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, and icons of strength like Malala Yousafzai. We also had numerous votes for scientists like Marie Curie and Albert Einstein and even world-famous entertainers such as Beyoncé made the list of our ideal dinner guests.

Surprised by some? Not as surprised as we were by some controversial entries – we’re not sure we’d fancy sitting next to Pablo Escobar or Donald Trump over turkey or pudding, but they were certainly interesting enough food for thought that we compiled a shortlist of most controversial dinner guest options.

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Looking back, why did so many individuals vote, and for such a range of fantasy dinner party guests? There’s something exciting about picturing our ideal dinner guests – it allows us to play make-believe, and also to conjure up what we enjoy the most – beauty, wit, debate, intelligence, accomplishment, or something else entirely.

An entrant’s three votes are, if you look closely, a reflection of that individual’s tastes and talents. But perhaps the perfect dinner party has, like ours, a mix. After all, the balance between diplomacy and provocation (the ultimate dinner guest skill) can really only be achieved by the host’s careful consideration. Regardless of who your guest list would feature, we hope you enjoy ours.

VIPs: tips for the host

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Mohandas Gandhi

Create a diversion

The activist kept a set of false teeth in his loincloth, which he would put in to eat, then return to the loincloth at the end of the meal. This could be a good time to lead guests to marvel at a recently-restored chandelier while the transition occurs.

J. K. Rowling

Beware of recipe recommendations

The author conjured up many unpredictable concoctions for the Harry Potter series, from exploding bonbons, real-life chocolate frogs and Butterbeer. And don’t get us started on Ron’s corned beef sandwiches.

Winston Churchill

Don’t expect a glowing review

The former PM once remarked “Dinner would have been splendid…if the wine had been as cold as the soup, the beef as rare as the service, the brandy as old as the fish, and the maid as willing as the Duchess.”

Marilyn Monroe

Ask her to bring a dish

Behind the Hollywood glamour, Norma Jean was an excellent cook. Her recipe for stuffing, scrawled on a letterhead from an insurance company, was recreated by The New York Times - a “complicated” affair that takes 2 hours to make.

Barack Obama

Update the drinks cabinet

Hosts planning on serving wine followed by coffee at dinner should think again for Mr President. Only occasionally drinking alcohol and never coffee, his favourite tipple is black forest berry iced tea.

Beyoncé

Bring on the beef

Despite launching a vegan meal delivery service earlier this year, Queen Bey does still eat meat. She has dabbled with veganism before but there’s no need to dig out that lentil loaf recipe just for her.

See other Raconteur surveys: 

The World’s Most Inspirational People
The World’s Greatest Storytellers 
The Greatest Inventions of all Time