Dinner parties can be elegant, memorable affairs or total disasters depending on the preparation beforehand. Your ability to plan and host a great dinner party says a lot about your personality, and it leaves a long-term impression on your guests, for good or bad.
If you, like many other dinner hosts, are feeling the pressure to host a great party, here are some tips for making it memorable.
1. Set the Table
You might think that people will talk most about the food at your party, but your decorations (or lack thereof) are often the objects of discussion for weeks following. As the centerpiece of the event, make time to create a beautiful table.
There are many options for themes and décor, but if you’d like a fail-proof, elegant design, go with French-inspired. French décor has assimilated into English culture so much that it’s a classic.
French-themed décor is particularly appropriate for dinner parties because food and dining are a huge part of the country’s culture. They use gorgeous table linens, French tablecloths, useful and decorative Laguiole cutlery, candles, and more to create the perfect table for your meal.
2. Check the Menu
Delicious food is probably at the top of your priority list, but it’s not easy to please everyone. Guests have different tastes and needs, and while you’ll never make everyone completely happy, you can be proactive to avoid a complete disaster.
Start by asking about food allergies. Some people are so allergic that even skin contact with a food will close their windpipes. Be sensitive to these needs and have options for those who need them.
As a general rule of thumb, stick with food that you know is good. This is not the time to choose a new dish, especially if you’re cooking it yourself. If you’re set on a new dish, do a test run ahead of time. Just remember that ingredients and volume may differ for large companies, and it might not turn out as well when made in bulk.
Once you’ve nailed down the food, choose your drink. Wine is a popular dinner pairing, but some wines don’t go well with some foods. Learn more about pairing the right drink, and have plain, non-alcoholic options available for all guests.
3. Choose the Right Date and Time
Attendance is generally measured by a person’s priorities and their ability to attend. Most invitees who have no other obligations are happy to attend a great dinner party if you plan it on the right night.
Weeknights are typically difficult for those who work and those who have children, so weekends after 7 p.m. are usually better. Friday or Sunday nights are the most popular for dinner parties because those who are going out of town either won’t have left yet or they’ll be back for the next work week.
Try to avoid scheduling dinners around holidays because families tend to be busier at this time of year. Unless you’re hosting a Christmas or Thanksgiving-themed dinner, it’s often better to choose a less busy time of year.
If you want to guarantee good attendance, send out a save-the-date card early and follow it up a couple weeks later with an official invitation. Not only is this good party etiquette, but it also lets guests mark their calendars to avoid conflicting events.
4. Prepare Your Kitchen
A dinner party is often only as good as the kitchen. That’s where the action happens behind the scenes, and if it’s well-planned, it should run smoothly and without incident.
Start by hiring or getting volunteer kitchen help. Having a few people carrying trays, refilling empty glasses, and running to the store for ice allows you to be the host of the party, enjoying yourself and seeing to the emotional well-being of each of your guests.
A few days before the party, make a checklist of ingredients and supplies you’ll need. Stock your kitchen with more than you think is necessary. It’s always better to have more food than less. In casual affairs, send the leftovers home with your guests or donate them to a soup kitchen.
These steps are few, but they can make all the difference in a great dinner party. Having a smooth operation with delicious food and beautiful decorations is the making of a successful event.