Planning ahead is the secret to a successful and stress-free dinner party

Hosting a dinner party can be great fun with proper preparation.  Reduce your anxiety and enjoy the get together by planning ahead. Here are some great tips to help you host a successful gathering.


Planning is the key.  You’ll eliminate stress by getting organized for your event.  The experts at AllRecipes offer some great advice for planning and preparation.  Here is a basic timeline to help guide you.

Four weeks ahead.  If your party is formal, requires equipment rentals, or falls around major holidays begin your planning a full four weeks in advance.

  • Make your budget.
  • Create your guest list and send your invitations.
  • Reserve any rental items.
  • Create your menu.
  • Create a timeline for your foods and make as much in advance as possible.
  • If you are hosting a potluck arrange who will bring which dish.
  • Order any special baked goods such as a birthday or anniversary cake.

Two weeks ahead.  

  • Check your serving dishes and utensils.
  • Assemble any party favors and decide on entertainment and activities, such as party games and music.  

One week ahead.  

  • Review your menu and food preparation timelines.  Make sure you are on schedule.
  • Purchase nonperishable foods and other items, such as candles, banners, firewood, etc.  
  • Finalize the responses to your invitations.

Two days ahead.  

  • Clean your house.  
  • Purchase perishable foods such as dairy products and produce.
  • Wash glassware and polish silver.

One day ahead.  

  • Clean and press table linens.  
  • Set tables, decorate, and set up serving areas such as buffets and bars.
  • Purchase fresh flower arrangements.

The day of your event.

  • Chill beverages and prepare punch.  
  • Grab a light meal before your guests arrive.
  • Put on music.
  • Relax and enjoy your party.

Planning a surprise?  If you are planning a surprise party, you need to make that clear on your invitations.  Request your guests arrive ahead of your guest of honor. Some experts advise allowing a half hour window.  

Emergency kit.  Some experts advise you’ll have more peace of mind by planning for the unexpected.  Prepare a basket with club soda, stain remover, toothpicks, bandages and breath mints.  

Menu ideas.  It’s important to decide on your menu well in advance, but it may seem like a daunting task.  Here are some great tips.

Keep it simple.  One great way to put together your menu and feel less stressed is with simple but impressive foods.  The professionals at Real Simple suggest serving finger foods.  Selecting appetizer-style foods with great presentation means minimal prep and cleanup.  Some great dips, a meat tray with breads and spreads, cupcakes and some finger foods will pack a wallop but minimize your efforts.

Special diets.  Things can feel complicated when guests have special dietary restrictions, whether due to personal beliefs, culture or health concerns.  Here is some expert advice for managing the situation:

  • Communicate.  Once you have a tentative meal plan, ask your guest how that person’s concerns can be accommodated.
  • Inspect labels.  Gluten, dairy and animal products are often listed on packaged foods.  If you check the label and still aren’t sure, verify with your guest whether the food is appropriate.
  • Don’t contaminate.  Have different serving utensils for every dish.  Do your food preparations on different surfaces and use different mixing bowls, use separate baking sheets, and wash items carefully between foods.
  • Leave toppings on the side.  Allowing your guests to select their own salad or dessert toppings will eliminate many issues.  Similarly, offering a meal such as a buffet-style taco bar with lots of options and sides can accommodate a wide variety of interests.  
  • Identify foods.  Rather than leave guests guessing, identify foods with a chalkboard menu or with cards on the table.

It’s party time!  Employ these special guidelines and tips to ensure your party is a stress-free, smashing success.  Plan ahead so you stay on schedule. Make special arrangements if you are hosting a surprise party.  Be sure to have an emergency kit so you are ready for the unexpected. Make menu choices that present nicely and meet your guests’ needs.  And most of all have fun!

Written by Natalie Jones, more great articles are available at

Image via Pexels.

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