The idea of throwing a dinner party can be daunting, from deciding who to invite to creating a menu to stocking up on wine. But hosting a dinner party doesn't have to be stressful. Whether it's a sophisticated multi-course meal or an impromptu group gathering — or any party style in between — here are a few tips to ensure your dinner party is a success.
Whether it's friends, family or a mix of both, the first step in throwing a dinner party is figuring out who you want around the table. Decide how many people you can accommodate, then invite guests who will bring enthusiasm and joy to the evening — without complicated drama — and will enjoy spending time together.
A creative table doesn't have to be magazine-worthy. Small, thoughtful details like cloth napkins, place cards, flowers or fun centerpieces set the stage for a special night. Pro tip: Lay out the table the night before the event to ensure a more manageable to-do list the day of the party.
Set a dinner party backdrop with lighting that goes beyond everyday settings. Add candles, string up little white lights or opt for table lamps instead of overhead lights. Even dimming existing lighting makes the room more festive and invites friends to settle in for a fun night.
Think about music your guests like, and create a soundtrack they'll enjoy. Play upbeat songs during cocktail hour, then turn to more intimate and laid-back music for dinner — and don't forget to keep dance tunes on hand in case the party goes late. Just remember to keep an eye on your guests, and as the energy of the party changes, adjust the music to follow suit.
As the host, it's up to you to properly welcome your guests. So whether it's during cocktail hour or while digging in to dinner, raise your glass and propose a toast. No need to be nervous — just be enthusiastic, grateful and joyful. After all, you're sitting at a table filled with food and drinks and surrounded by special people. Cheers to that!
Unless you work as a chef, no guests are going to expect a professional-level spread. So when planning the menu, prioritize sanity over showmanship. Select dishes that you've prepared before, so you know what to expect, and include a few options that can be at least partly prepped a day or two in advance. You'll be grateful for the extra time — and exude an air of culinary confidence.
Food might take center stage, but drinks should hardly be an afterthought. Whether it's a batched cocktail, unique craft beers or a wide variety of wines — or all of the above — a creative beverage selection will set your dinner party apart. When it comes to quantity, experts recommend planning for one bottle of wine per person (or the equivalent) in order to avoid the ultimate dinner party faux pas — running out of drinks.
Even the most perfectly planned party can go awry. But the ability to adapt is the difference between success and disaster. Still cooking when guests arrive? Hand them an apron and enlist their help. Burned the main course? Order pizza. What guests will remember most is the way the evening made them feel, so keep things joyful, enthusiastic and low-stress, no matter what the situation, and your guests will follow.
From the first moment of meal prep to the last dry dish, throwing a dinner party should be fun. So take time to enjoy the process. Remember to connect with your guests, enjoy the food and drinks and savor the well-crafted ambiance. After all the hard work you've put in, you've earned it.
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