10 Tips for Hosting the Perfect Dinner Party
Making memories with friends and family, especially over phenomenal food and an excellent bottle of wine, is one of life’s greatest treasures. Warm summer evenings, laughter, games, tons of fun, treats and sweets to nibble on, and plenty of heartfelt hugs are reasons enough to plan at least one dinner party per season. Preparing for such an event, however, can be a lot of work, involves a lot of planning, and usually includes a healthy helping of stress for the host. With that in mind, here are ten tips for hosting the perfect dinner party, all of which should help reduce stress and free up your evening to enjoy your guests.
1) Shop Well in Advance
There is nothing worse than making 5 last-minute trips to the grocery store for forgotten items. We recommend shopping for everything you’ll need for the party 5 to 7 days in advance, that way you have the rest of the week to make those runs if necessary. Write down everything you’ll need, including paper goods, ingredients for appetizers, dinner, and dessert, serving platters or utensils, beverages, alcohol, space heaters or fans, candles, lights, etc. and pick it all up in one or two days.
2) Be Thoughtful
Some invitees may have special needs, food allergies, or dietary restrictions. Be sure to ask well in advance if there are any foods or beverages that guests should avoid, or if you can supply something specific to make those guests feel more comfortable. This may involve shopping for and cooking a separate meal, so we recommend completing this step before you spend a day grocery shopping.
3) Go with What You Know
Attempting to cook a brand-new recipe just before an event can result in disaster, the very thing you want to avoid while preparing for your party. Stick to simple recipes that you know are successful crowd-pleasers, easy to prepare, and won’t consume a ton of your time on the day of. In fact, preparing recipes a day or two in advance means you’ll have more time to socialize on the day of the party.
4) Buy More Than You Need
The perfect host always has ‘too much’ rather than ‘not enough’, so as you shop, make sure you purchase about 20% more of everything than you think you need. When it comes to alcohol, the breakdown should look like this: 50% beer, 25% wine, and 25% liquor. Standard pantry staples for liquor include vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, and tequila. In addition, use an online wine calculator to guarantee you purchase enough bottles to keep the vino freely flowing. Want to go the extra mile? Grab some cheap plastic food containers to send leftovers home with guests.
5) Keep it Clean
It’s no secret that guests feel most comfortable in clean, spacious environments. We recommend that you complete all of your house chores two or three days before your event,
including putting away any items that may ‘clutter up’ your space. If you’re hosting your party in the backyard, make sure to complete any landscaping maintenance, patio/outdoor furniture cleaning tasks, and window washing as well. When the day of the party arrives, all you will need to do are touch-ups, which reduces the amount of time spent preparing your home. Bonus hint: On the day of the party, wash dishes as you cook and keep the kitchen clean as you go, that way they don’t pile up in your sink and create clutter you just cleared.
6) It’s All About the Prep
The more you prepare in advance, the easier the day of the party will be for you. As we mentioned earlier, making and storing your party food 1-2 days in advance is an excellent idea, meaning less time in the kitchen and more time with your guests. Just in case, however, budget an extra hour or two for cooking on the day of, in case of mishaps. The night before your party, set the table(s), decorate, and arrange furniture to create more space and a welcoming atmosphere. Little things like emptying the garbage cans, running and emptying the dishwasher, and double-checking the restrooms are great tasks to complete shortly before your party starts.
7) Don’t Keep It All in One Place
To encourage your guests to mix and mingle, set up multiple stations around your party area(s) for food and drinks. A table or two for appetizers, a drink station, and a bar for preparing alcoholic beverages, all set up in separate locations, means your guests will wander and make conversation with others. Another tip for fostering a social environment include providing less seating than there are guests, so that they walk around and socialize.
8) Set The Mood
Lighting is everything, and music is the party. Ambiance is created and encouraged by these two necessities in a big way, so they absolutely cannot be skipped. Light candles on all the tables, hang patio lights, and make sure all of your dead light bulbs are replaced with fresh ones. Use your iPod, smart phone, computer, or smart TV to play music, either utilizing apps like Pandora or Spotify, or create a playlist yourself beforehand. If you have additional speakers, or a Bluetooth-compatible sound box you can use, set those up around the room or backyard as well.
9) Have a Backup Plan
You will want to prepare for all of your “just in case” scenarios. If the guests aren’t mingling like you want them to, have a few games set out or planned that you can suggest or start. If one appetizer is wildly popular and runs out, prepare enough of the other options to fill its place on the table. If your candles burn quickly, make sure you have plenty to replace them. Take some time a few days before your party to think through all of the scenarios you think may happen, and plan early for them.
10) Let it Go
At the end of the day, your party is meant to be an enjoyable, relaxing event that you experience with the people you love most. If something goes wrong, laugh it off with your guests, and don’t let it affect the memories you’re making. Don’t be afraid to ask your closest friends or family for help if you need it, and most importantly, have fun!
Do you have any parties planned this summer? What are your survival tips? We’d love to hear from you!