Want to show off your new pad or simply want to spend time with your closest friends or colleagues? Then a dinner party seems like the obvious choice. It’s easy to feel anxious though after the invites have gone out. What if people don’t get on? What if they don’t like the food? Save yourself a major headache and follow these helpful tips for a stress-free, fabulous dining event hosted by you:
#1 Guest List
Don’t rush this stage as inviting the right people and the right number of people can make or break your evening. Don’t invite too many as if you’re cooking then you’ll be overwhelmed and unable to relax. Too few though and the atmosphere could become stilted and awkward when it comes to conversation. If you all know each other, that’s great but if not, try to invite people with similar interests. Pick a good group and your night will be a huge success.
#2 Plan Effectively
Require RSVPs from everyone and be sure to ask your guests about special dietary needs or allergies before working out what you’re going to cook. It will be easier to pick a couple dishes for each course once you have numbers and needs taken care of. Think smartly about dishes that cover most, if not all, dietary requirements to limit the amount of time you need to spend in the kitchen. You’ll want to relax and socialise too remember!
#3 Seating Arrangements
Avoid that awkward moment when people don’t know where they’re expected to sit by having place cards set up on the table. If you’re all close friends then this isn’t so important but if people don’t know others well then, it’s nice to have some direction. Think about your placement and try to match people with shared interests to keep the conversation flowing.
#4 Decorating the Table
A well-dressed table can be a thing of beauty so don’t underestimate what some candles and fresh flowers can do for your dinner party. If you have a theme for your event then co-ordinate colors and depending on your budget, make your own homemade table pieces or order a few small arrangements from a local florist. Don’t go too tall though or your guests won’t be able to communicate properly!
#5 When Guests Arrive
Don’t leave your guests hanging around while you disappear back into the kitchen. Put out some canapes just before they arrive and put bottles on ice about an hour beforehand so they are chilled perfectly. Try to plan ahead in the kitchen so that you can spend this important time with your guests and not have to dash off the moment they’ve been welcomed into your home. This will also make you feel much less stressed and able enjoy the moment.
#6 Menu Choices
A couple choices for each course is ideally all you should be offering, unless you’re hiring in a professional chef that is! For those who choose to cook, try serving something that you’ve cooked before a few times and are comfortable with. The night of the dinner party is not the time for brand new, experimental recipes! Simple, tasty meals are often appreciated the most. Also avoid cooking anything ‘to order’ which involves constant attention for flipping or stirring.
#7 Check your Kitchen
Do you have everything you need in terms of cutlery, glasses, serving dishes and plates? Have a look a few days before the party so you’re not rushing around on the day trying to find matching plates or glasses. Do the same with your recipe ingredients at least the day before the big event. Make sure everything is present and correct, and clean of course!
If you know your guests well then don’t think you have to do it all. There is no point in being a martyr so ask for help. Guests often enjoy having something useful to do so get them slicing lemon and lime for the drinks, refilling drinks or you can even ask them to supply a side dish or dessert for the evening. There is no harm in delegating the odd easy task and they’ll be happy to help.
We’ve already mentioned candles which are perfect for setting up an ambience and you’ll want to dim any bright overhead lighting too. Dimming the lights makes everyone look better, feel more relaxed and sets an intimate tone for the evening. Fairy lights are another fun option to hang around the room to make things feel even more special.
#10 Background Music
Choosing some great tunes is another easy way to set the right mood for your dinner party. Try to pick music that’s not too heavy but light, relaxing and of course, not so loud as to stifle conversation! Some tunes from the classic crooners or a bit of light jazz or classical depending on the group of people.
#11 Do the Dishes As You Go
It might not sound like fun but cleaning up as you go is far easier than dealing with a mountain of crusty pots and pans at the end of the evening or the next morning! Cleaning items as you use them is doing your future self a huge favor. Alternatively, if you have a dishwasher then load it up and run a cycle before your guests arrive so you have much less to do when they’ve gone.
#12 Remember to Laugh
Most importantly, it’s your night so don’t let anything upset you. If people are being fed, plied with booze and enjoying interesting conversation then nobody will care if you slightly burnt something or something didn’t go exactly as you imagined it. Remember to not take yourself too seriously, enjoy the moment and laugh off any mistakes or mishaps. Chances are nobody will have noticed them anyway if they’re too busy having a good time!