Whether it’s for a special occasion or just a friendly get together, a dinner party can be a memorable occasion. Preparing for the party, on the other hand, can be exhausting and stressful. You want everyone to have a good time, but that also includes you! Planning ahead can ease your concerns and pave the way for a successful evening.
Set the Mood
The atmosphere of the party should match the occasion and the mix of guests. Good friends and family members won’t need much help getting into the party spirit, especially if it’s a celebration like a birthday or anniversary. But if you’re hosting new friends, acquaintances, or business associates, you can signal the desired mood through lighting and décor. Dim the lights to relax your guests and use candles to create soft shadows. Fairy lights or light strips are a fun touch and can be used indoors or outdoors. Choose a color scheme or seasonal theme to coordinate your decorations, not only on the table but throughout living areas and bathrooms.
Prepare a Pre-Dinner Relaxation Space
Before dinner is served, your guests will want to relax and enjoy a conversation. Create a special space for mingling, whether in a living room, family room, patio, or combination of the three. It’s important to have seating but if the room is small, you might want to clear out coffee tables or other items to make more standing room. If you don’t have a bar, prepare a beverage station on a table or countertop, stocked with wine, alcohol, or soft drinks. Rather than putting appetizers all in one place, consider scattering small bowls or trays throughout the room to prevent crowding and encourage guests to utilize the whole room.
Everyone loves music at a party, but the problem is, not everyone likes the same music. You won’t be able to please all your guests, nor should you indulge only in your own personal preferences, especially if you’re a metalhead or opera fan. Instead, it’s best to prepare a mix of styles that complement the occasion and theme of your party. Choose from a variety of genres and avoid extreme or unusual sounds. Some online music apps can make suggestions for you.
During the party, keep the volume low, especially while dinner is being served. After dinner, you may want to turn it up and encourage dancing, if you have room.
Set Up Your Table
Seating all your guests at your dining room table is the best option, so consider your space when making out your guest list. Adding extra chairs or another table might be an option, but there should be two or three feet around a dining room table to allow for greater movement.
In decorating the table, try to find the perfect balance between art and function. Your guests will appreciate a beautifully decorated table, but not if decorations get in the way of eating. Small floral arrangements and candles can set the mood while not overwhelming table space. Artful use of table linens—tablecloths, placemats, runners, and napkins—can also be attractive.
Add a Luxurious Touch
Even if you don’t have the finest china or crystal glasses, you can create a formal atmosphere by adding a touch of luxury. Fancy hors d’oeuvres, a signature cocktail, or a fine wine with dinner can elevate an otherwise modest menu. Special napkin rings and place card holders are relatively inexpensive but set a formal mood. You can add a creative napkin fold to enhance the look. Also think about making the guest bathroom a luxurious site. A flower arrangement will brighten the room and sweeten the air. For individual guest towels, roll up thick washcloths and arrange them in a basket by the sink. Provide a second basket on the floor to discard used cloths.
Do as Much in Advance as Possible
Casual get-togethers can be spontaneous, but the ultimate dinner party needs planning, and that means starting well in advance. Start by making lists—the guest list, the foods you will need, the decorations, and so on. Then make a timetable, prioritizing what needs to be done and when. Begin your home preparations a week in advance, including cleaning, rearranging furniture, and preparing the dining room table. Setting the table in advance will give you time to make sure you have enough silverware, glasses, and other necessary items. A few days before the party, shop for food. While some foods may need to be prepared at the last minute, do what you can the day before, such as chopping vegetables or preparing dishes ready to go into the oven.
Know Your Guests’ Special Food Needs
In planning your dinner menu, be sure to check with your guests to see if they have any allergies or special food needs. Don’t be shy about asking for specifics; people will appreciate giving input rather than being offered alternatives they don’t want or aren’t suitable. Some severe allergies may require you to alter the menu, but providing several food choices will usually resolve any other issues. Small, unobtrusive labels can inform guests whether a dish or appetizer is vegan, gluten-free, or may contain possible allergens. Fresh vegetables and fruits, served unadorned, will be appreciated by all.
Relax and Enjoy the Party
Don’t forget that the main purpose of a dinner party is socialization. Your guests can have dinner anywhere; they’re coming to your house because they want to enjoy the company, and that includes your company. While you want to be a good host and tend to your guests’ needs, avoid fussing in the kitchen or flitting around worrying. Mingle with your guests and spend quality time with them. You’ll have more fun, and so will they.
Finally, expect the unexpected. Your dinner party won’t be perfect, and that’s okay. Your guests will remember your party for the good feelings and pleasant company. With careful planning and a flexible attitude, you can pull off the ultimate dinner party.
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