Have you ever been to a successful dinner party and wondered how the host is so relaxed? If you’ve ever tried hosting before, you know it can be very stressful and, depending on the crowd, you’ll feel some pressure to be successful. A lot can go wrong, but we’re here to quell any fears you may have. With these handy dandy tips, your friends will be the ones walking out wondering how you were so relaxed.
Plan, plan, plan
Any event’s success, big or small, hinges on planning. Make a timeline of when guests should arrive, when to serve the meal, dessert, and any post-party games you might have in mind. Other things to know:
- Figure out the atmosphere you’d like. Formal or informal? Establish the guest list.
- What will you serve? It’s normally safer to cook something you’re familiar with. Now’s not the time to go on culinary adventures into uncharted territory. Unless you’re a master chef, no one makes a dish perfectly the first time and you’re not looking to impress your guests with your lack of forethought.
- On the day of, lay out all ingredients you need so cooking is speedy and you’ll know if you need a last-minute trip to the store.
- Do all prep cooking and wash utensils beforehand to avoid tons of clean up later.
- Set up a separate table with appetizers and wine/cocktails away from the kitchen so there’s no foot traffic while you’re trying to cook.
- Pre-make dessert the day before (if possible) and refrigerate it so you don’t have to spend time in the kitchen as people converse and digest your incredible main course.
- If you want to go the extra mile, have safe transportation readily available in the area — especially if the wine/cocktails are flowing.
Ah, the “dinner” part of the dinner party. Figure out what you’ll be serving and get the ingredients a day or two before the party. Then you’ll have to time everything out on the day of. Pre-prepare as much as possible (remember the timeline you should have already created!) A few other things to note:
- Keep in mind any dietary restrictions your guests may have, and offer options for them.
- Start with appetizers, hors d’oeuvres and a lighter wine. This gives you a chance to start cooking the main course while your guests enjoy themselves for a half hour or so.
- Be sure to pair a good wine with whatever entree you choose. You can see our quick and easy wine and food pairing guide for more on this.
- If more than 5 or 6 people are attending, you can have them bring items or even appetizers so you can focus your attention on the main course.
You’ve planned the entire evening to a T and have selected your specialty as the main meal. Great! Now what about the rest of the house? Create the ideal atmosphere for your guests — welcoming and cozy.
- Make an appropriate playlist, but don’t blast it (unless it turns into a dance party later on). You don’t want to overpower the conversation.
- Clean up your house. No good dinner party has unfolded laundry all over the couch. Make the space tidy and pleasant.
- Empty your trash and make sure your dishwasher and sink are ready to rock. As soon as the party is over, get the pesky dishes out of the way and wash them before bed. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Light candles or turn on the fireplace to set a relaxed mood, if appropriate.
- Don’t spend the entire evening in the dining room. After dinner, move dessert and coffee/drinks into the living room where people can relax on a comfy couch, socialize and play games.
Remember that the ultimate goal of your party is to relax and have fun. And the same goes for you! There’s no reason you should be stressed all night — you should enjoy yourself as well, and it’ll be easier if you plan everything ahead of time. If this all really sounds like too much and is totally out of your wheelhouse, you can always have your party catered by La Buona Vita. We’ll guarantee a delicious meal without cooking and prep on your end.