How to Prepare for Your Next Dinner Party

Gatherings are back on, and with the holiday season ramping up, so are the dinner parties. Those who have hosted plenty of dinner parties before are already aware of how much of a difference proper preparation and planning can make in the success of the event. For those who are newer to hosting, trust us—adequate preparation is crucial. So what should you be doing to prepare for your next event?

Make and Send Invitations

One of the first things you’ll need to do in order to prepare for your party is to make and send out invitations. That may sound simple, but there’s a decent amount of planning that goes into this first step. To start with, you’ll need to choose a date and time for your dinner party. You’ll also need to put together a guest list. Think about the different personalities of the people on your list and how they are likely to interact with one another. It’s always a good idea to make sure that everyone knows at least one or two other people aside from you. 

Once you have your guest list finalized, it’s time to make and send out your invites. You have a few options here. There’s the traditional mailed invitation, email invites, and social media invites. Those are all well and good, but you also have the option of using an invitation app to send out your invitations through your smartphone. Since everyone has their phones on them pretty much all the time, that can be a really good option. Just don’t leave it until the last minute. It’s a good idea to send out invitations for a dinner party at least three weeks in advance.

Make the Menu

Once you’ve figured out when you’re going to have your party, it’s time to start planning what you’re going to serve. Again, you have multiple options. Depending on the size of your party, you may be able to order catering from a favorite local restaurant. That can take care of a lot of the prep work you would otherwise have to do. If you love to cook, however, there’s nothing wrong with preparing the meal yourself. Do yourself a favor and practice preparing the dishes you intend to serve in advance. That way you know how long everything takes and how to get it just right. You’ll be way less stressed when it’s time to actually prepare the food for your dinner party.

Set Your Table

It’s always a good idea to set the table before your guests arrive. How you set the table will depend on the style of dinner you intend to have. If you’re going for a casual buffet style dinner, setting the table is quite simple. You probably won’t need more than a plate, a set of eating utensils, a napkin, and one or two glasses (one for water and one for any other drink you might be serving). If you’re holding a more formal event, you’ll want to set the table using a formal place setting.

Dress Up

In the hours before your guests arrive, you’ll need to take some time to get yourself dressed up for the event. How dressy you get will depend on the level of formality you decided to have for your dinner party (which, by the way, is definitely something you should include on your invitations). For instance, denim skirts make you feel confident and stylish in front of guests in your home. 

Cocktail dresses offer a slightly more elevated appearance, while more formal dinners require semi formal or formal dresses. Take away some of the stress that comes with getting ready by having your outfit planned out and laid out so it’s ready for you. 

Straighten Up Key Rooms

The appearance of your home is going to make a difference in the atmosphere at your dinner party. Get off to a good start with a clean home. Shortly before your guests arrive, take some time to straighten up the rooms your guests will spend their time in. The bathroom, kitchen, dining room, living room, and entry way should all be clean, neat, and tidy, free from clutter and garbage.

Set the Mood

What kind of atmosphere do you want for your party? If it’s meant to be a laid back, more intimate affair, setting out things like scented candles and dimming the lighting may be a good idea. If you’re hosting a big birthday party, however, the decorations should reflect that instead. People have dinner parties for a whole host of reasons, but whatever your reason is, the ambience of your main rooms should reflect that.

Have Pre-Dinner Entertainment

Even though you have a start time on your invitations, chances are that your guests won’t all arrive at the same time. Expect a couple to be a little early, some to be right on time, and a few to be running a bit behind. Starting dinner without everyone there can feel a little awkward, but you don’t want to leave the guests who have already arrived sitting or standing there awkwardly with nothing to do. Have some simple pre-dinner entertainment planned to pass any time you might spend waiting. A place to sit with music or ice breaker games can help your guests get comfortable and better acquainted with one another.

Prepare for Dinner Conversation

As the host, one of your duties is to initiate and monitor the conversation at the dinner table. This can be a stressful responsibility for some people, but if you have a strategy in mind you’ll have an easier time of it. Make sure you know each person you’re inviting and something about them that can be a topic of conversation. You might have a question or two you can ask them to spark a conversation. Make sure any questions you ask are open ended questions. It’s not going to do you any good if they answer with a simple “yes” or “no” and leave it at that. It’s also a good idea to have a plan in place for how to deal with uncomfortable topics that may be brought up.

Getting everything planned out well in advance of your dinner party can go such a long way in making sure everything goes smoothly. No one has to know how many dinner parties you’ve played the host for before this one. With the right planning and preparation, they’ll never know the difference between your second and twenty-second dinner party.

Read this next: How to Get Better at Giving Gifts

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