Throwing a dinner party sounds like a daunting task, it sounds stressful, and if you are new to the idea, it may even sound scary.
Don’t you worry, I have tips and tricks that will help you throw a wonderful dinner party.
For a formal dinner, I recommend 3-6 weeks between the time the invitations go out and the date of the party. If it is informal, a few days to three weeks is sufficient.
For a casual dinner party, e-mail and phone calls are acceptable ways to invite people. However, if this is a formal event, for the love of all things holy, send out paper invites! Now, if this party is VERY, VERY formal, present your invites in 3rd person.
Be very clear on a start and end time. If It is a black tie affair, please say so. If you have any special requests, be sure to include on the invite. (Example: Bring a bottle of wine to share.)
First thing that comes to mind for most people is the menu. I have seen and made a very huge mistake before during one of my first dinner parties, and so I am here to warn you…with BOLD letters. DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT TRY NEW DISHES OR DISHES THAT REQUIRE SURGICAL PRECISION FOR IT TO COME OUT DECENT. If you ruin the dish, what the heck will you feed your guests? There are plenty of impressive dishes that don’t take Martha Stewart skill to pull off.
At a causal dinner party you can serve three courses. The more formal, the more courses. Personally, even at a fancy to do, in my home, 5 is as far as I will take the courses. I am only one person. Besides, 5 is usually impressive to the guests. Any more seems to be over kill.
- Main course
Make as much ahead as possible. Choose dishes that have a good shelf life. Remember, you probably only have one oven! Don’t choose too much that will compete with your kitchen appliances. You certainly don’t want any of your dishes to be served late!
I recommend serving a cocktail, enough so every one can have at least 2 drinks. Better to have some left over than the guests not have enough. Even invite the guests to bring wine or drinks.
Set the Mood
Setting the mood is very important when it comes to a perfect dinner party. You might not have thought about it, but a nice playlist is essential. I recommend something soft, maybe Sinatra type music. He is my go to guy!
Even things such as lighting are a big deal. Do not have bright, harsh lighting. It ought to be soft and charming, VERY much of a “make yourself at home” feel. So, plan ahead for that too. Candles are a nice help.
It is often nice to center the evening around some sort of activity. Maybe game night, maybe wine tasting. You control the evening. If your guests see you having fun, they will too!
Here you can see the proper way to set the table. Do not put out anything you will not be using.
Speaking of table setting, we must discuss seating your guests. I like to think about my guests personalities, write down some leading traits (good or bad) and pair them up with others that make sense. Seating is a big deal for a good fun evening. Check out this article for more help on seating personalities.
Too Early…Too late?
We all have people that show up too late or too early. That is always a difficult situation. Still doing makeup and some one shows up. A good rule of thumb is to invite a close friend early. That way, they can help if anyone shows up early.
What if some one shows up late? It is acceptable to begin the other courses, however, ettiquete states that one can delay the dinner course by 15 minutes. Once the guest does arrive, start them on the course that the table is on at the present time.
If some one offers help, take it. Believe it or not, your guests like being part of the process. (I have a hard time with this one, to be perfectly honest.)
Place general, easy to manage food on the table. The dishes that require putting together or artistic flare, have pre-plated and serve it to your guests.
At an incredibly formal party, it is acceptable to serve women and children (oldest to youngest) and then the men (oldest to youngest.) I find that for nearly all gatherings it is acceptable to move around the table in a clockwise manner.
Pass from the left.
Don’t have too much lag between courses. It becomes awkward. Also, don’t clear people’s plates away too quickly, they will feel rushed.
Clear only two plates at a time, from the right. Don’t interfere with their eating.
Remove the main course before bringing out dessert. It gives the guests a chance to let the food settle. Plus, nobody wants to still smell dinner with a delicious dessert before them.
Serve yourself last, host!!!
When it is time for your guests to leave, be clear. “Well, everyone, thank you so much for coming it was a lovely evening. Please drive safe.”
Dinner Parties don’t have to be scary. You can pull a wonderful party off with no stress if you plan ahead!