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Throwing a dinner party is not hard but will still steal some of your valuable time my friends. Just to get things straight, we are not talking about inviting a friendly couple over to share a pizza. We are talking about organizing a more formal gathering among friends. And let me assure you that even party guru and event-planners need to devote a few extra hours to get organized.
What you need to do first?
Lists, lists, lists!!! You will need a list of practically everything. A guest list, a menu list, a groceries list, a home décor ideas list… – you name it.
So, let us get started
Who to invite?
Before you do anything else, you must set a date for your dinner party and think of the people you are going to invite.
One small advice: if you plan to invite many people, let them know at least a month earlier. You can’t call people the last minute and expect them to be free. And if 1/3 of them can’t make it, you will need to reschedule. Inviting only two or three friendly couples is a different story. You can talk with them to make arrangements on a date convenient to all. But you will still need to notify them at least a week earlier.
Now, it’s very important to mix & match the right company. You don’t want to invite your best man, the maid of honor, three people from your work, five people from your spouse’s work, and a couple of neighbors. It will most likely be a disaster unless you are absolutely sure they will all love each other. Still, people have limited free time and like to go to meetings to see friends. Not make new acquaintances. By all means, inviting one or two people who are not really part of your crowd is acceptable as long as they can blend in smoothly.
Home décor ideas
Is there a reason for celebrating? Your birthday? Your anniversary? Decide if there is a theme of your dinner party – or you like to make one up. If so, decorate accordingly.
Which parts of the home to decorate? Most certainly, the table. The main door. The patio. The guest bathroom. The living room. The hallway. Every part of the house your guests will most likely visit. It depends on the season too. If you plan a garden party, there is no need to decorate the entire house but only the bath.
One home décor idea is to let the season influence your decisions in regard to decorative items but also colors. During the winter, it’s nice to have lit candles and neutral colors to create a festive atmosphere. Orange is perhaps the best hue in the autumn. Spring is the best season. You can use flowers but also fruit as your centerpiece. In the summer, focus on light colors. Although white & blue is overused, you can’t go wrong with the nautical look.
And use the right lighting. You don’t want your guests entering a dark home but you don’t want to interrogate them for their crimes either. So make cozy corners with the help of floor lamps, recessed lighting, or candles.
Check the playlist to be on the right track
Finding the right music is very, very, very hard. Let me start with this: it depends on the age of your guests. The younger, the more intense music should be. But still, nobody can eat & drink with the heart dancing on the beat. As you probably know, the heart rate changes when we listen to the music. It will depend on the tempo whether it will beat faster or not. So, it’s nice to pick music that will accompany your dinner and not lead it.
If you want to dance (just saying) after dinner, that’s a different story. So choose a playlist that will be familiar to your guests, won’t bore them to death, and won’t bother them either.
Time to set the table
No, it’s not time yet. But you need to think which tablecloths you are stashing in your drawers. You can use or two (one on top of the other). Choose colors based on season, party theme, or your mood. But make sure they will be well ironed and fresh. You don’t want guests wondering where’s that bad smell comes from.
What’s for dinner?
Hmm, that’s the crucial time. Menu list. It will also depend on the season. You don’t want to serve heavy meals in the midst of August or cold plates in the midst of winter.
One tiny advice: don’t experiment with a recipe you have never tried before.
One more tip: always taste what you prepare – just to be sure.
Back to the menu. It’s nice to serve hors d’oeuvres first just to get your guests started. But don’t overdo it. You just need enough to make them hungrier and not to fill their stomachs. So how many plates you prepare depends on how many people are coming. And don’t forget that appetizers are usually prepared at the last minute. And your time will be limited.
Soooo, focus on the main dish. Whether you will provide one or more choices still depends on the guest number. The more guests, the more dish choices. One thing to remember is to match what you serve. If you want to serve fish, stick with similar dishes. If you are choosing meat, stick with meat. Always include a salad but not only a salad. Some pasta, potatoes, or rice match perfectly with either meat or fish.
Unless you have a really big dinner party and thus a buffet. In this case, you can blend all kinds of dishes – fish & meat – to please all appetites.
Don’t forget about dessert. Even if guests are full, they won’t say ‘no’ to a chocolate cake. Nobody does. Have at least one choice.
Of course, you all know that sausages, pickles, and other relishes must be preserved right. So, you need the right jars, recipes, and accessories.
Back to setting the table
When you set the table, set it right. Use the best dishes, glassware and cutlery you’ve got. Time to use them anyway. And set them right. The right fork at the right place. The tiny spoon above the plate ready to dive in the chocolate cake. And use the right glassware for either wine or beer. Not just water glasses. Speaking of water. No table setting is done if you don’t have water (and glasses for it) and napkins. Cloth napkins and paper ones.
Back to meal preparation
To make your life easier, try to find recipes that can be prepared ahead. You don’t want to spend the day of the dinner party in the kitchen or leave your guests to go cooking. You will need to spend some time in the kitchen anyhow but try to prepare most things earlier. For that day, choose ideas that will only need baking. When the oven alarm is off, you’ll be ready to serve. No sweating over the casserole.
Here’s where you will need to make a list again
A list of the groceries you will need. Make that list as detailed as possible. You don’t want to leave anything out and go to the groceries ten times. Include the wine, all ingredients for your recipes and dessert, or even decorative items.
Nobody loves cleaning, but here we go
You don’t need to clean the whole house. It will be a mess anyway once your guests leave. On the other hand, a sparkling house makes the environment fresher and more inviting. And it says something about you and your habits. So even if you don’t clean every single corner in the house, make sure the kitchen and guest bathroom are very, very clean.
And although what we are trying to do here is get organized for the future dinner party, it’s good to remember a few things for this particular evening.
What to do during the party
- Get some good sleep the night before and relax during the day. You need to be a sparkling hostess. If you have energy, you will transmit it to your guests. And although you should let your guests be the soul of the party, you will secretly inspire them. Everyone likes a beautiful hostess.
- Don’t drink too much. Don’t eat too much. First, you need to remain sober. And then, you need to focus on your guests. Still, nobody likes to eat and watch the hostess staring at what each guest is doing (or chewing for that matter). So be normal. Eat and drink, and have fun with your friends. That’s one reason for organizing the party anyway.
- Be ready ahead of time. Don’t wait till last minute in case some of your guests arrive a bit earlier.
- Don’t talk too much. Be joyful and start a conversation, but don’t monopolize it. And for God’s sake, don’t ever start an argument. Be polite with your guests. And if by any chance you have a guest of honor, honor him/her.
- Be there. Don’t disappear in the kitchen. Your guests have come for you. Not your food (well, for your food too). But don’t disappoint them with your absence. That’s key to your success and the secret to being there is to plan in the most strategic way from day one.
Now, that wasn’t so hard. Was it? All you need to do is to plan well and early. By creating small lists and writing everything down, it will be a piece of cake. Speaking of cakes, you don’t have it to make it yourself. Go buy one. One less task to scratch off your lists. And have fun, fun, fun…