See, there are two different dinner situations. In the first, you and your friends get together for a couple of pizzas and some drinks, slouch on your couch, and watch funny but pointless videos on YouTube. In the second, you put on your best dress, pray the napkin shapes don’t fall apart, and invite a handful of guests to sample your three-course menu, and some really good wine. It’s the latter we’re more interested in here. After all: everyone hosts a dinner party at least once in their lives.
It’s intimidating, though. Dinner parties represent a pinnacle of hosting success, and arriving there can sometimes be traumatic. However, if you plan properly, and follow our tips and tricks below, you’ll be able to sit down to dinner with your friends with not a hair out of place, and a shining smile.
Keep Your Guestlist Minimal And Even
It’s important to remember that you are not a restaurant. You’re hosting the dinner, which means you’re also doing the cooking and preparing. So keep your guestlist to a small number, and ensure that there are an even number of people so that you don’t have to worry about seating arrangements and that empty space at your table. Speaking of seating…
Everyone Needs Their Own Place
Dinner parties, while not necessarily a fine dining experience, are nevertheless somewhat elevated about the informal gatherings that everyone is used to. This means that things have to be a bit more organised and a bit more precise. It’s important that all your guests can fit around the table, and everyone has enough space to eat (since that is the central theme of the party) in comfort, without feeling squashed.
Lay That Table
Being that it’s a dinner party, and a little bit more formal, you have a prime opportunity to put a little more effort and pizzazz into laying your table. Try a simple centerpiece, something uncomplicated but pretty, that will make your table more compelling. Set up a place for each guest as well, with all the dining accessories, including glassware and cutlery. Decant condiments into little bowls to give your table an elegant feeling, and don’t forget to top it all off with a few bottles of wine.
Give Yourself Ample Time To Cook
Preparing the food is perhaps one of the most demanding and stressful elements of hosting a dinner party. The key here is to give yourself plenty of time beforehand. Select your menu a couple of weeks before the party and put it through its paces, doing a trial run of each dish so you are sure you know what you’re doing, and how long it takes to do it. In the days leading up to the dinner, make sure you have all of your ingredients, and do as much preparation the day before as you can, just to give yourself breathing room on the night. And while you’re whipping up everything, make sure your guests have some snacks so that hunger doesn’t spoil the atmosphere.
There Should, And Shouldn’t, Be A Theme
Dinner parties are difficult to theme in the truest sense of the word. You can’t exactly expect everyone to dress up in costumes, or play themed games, whilst they’re eating. At the same time, there should be some sort of theme that you are aware of, which dictates the menu you decide on, what drinks are available, and how you should set everything up. Your theme should be subtle, but recognisable enough to give a cohesive and collected air to your party, where all the pieces and elements are complementary.
If you really feel like going all the way, then set a dress code for your dinner party, and fully embrace the elegant festivities. Try to aim for good lighting, something that is a bit softer and more relaxing than the harsh overhead lighting that a bulb can sometimes give. If you’re the type to play a bit of background music, ensure that it is something that is not too distracting so that it doesn’t take away from good food, good company, and good conversation. Which leads us to our final tip: have a couple of talking points, not so that you can guide the conversation or anything like that, but rather as backup, just in case it slows and staggers a little bit — something that can happen when one is full of good food!