Tips for hosting a dinner party at home

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Dinner Party Tips - By Linda Davis  

Do you enjoy entertaining and hosting dinner parties, love to be the perfect host, or do you dread the thought of planning a dinner party?   The magic of any type of party is to have a good plan to follow.  With a little planning on your part, you will be hosting a party  or gathering to remember.  Before I go on, there is one thing I would like to suggest... keep things simple so that you too can enjoy your own dinner party. This could include hiring a hostess helper. 

Who should you invite to this dinner party?

If there is no set reason for the dinner party such as a wedding rehearsal dinner, this could be the hardest part of hosting a dinner party.  You want to make sure to have an eclectic mix people that can all get along and easily interact with each other.  If this is your first party, I would suggest starting with your close friends that already know each other.  Who would want drama during their dinner party, especially the first one?  Not me, that's for sure.  

Who not to invite as a guest:

You can't always be in complete control of who comes as a dinner guest, ie: a boyfriend or girlfriend of your dinner guest, but if you can help it, I would put last on my list of potential guests.... , the drama queen, the gossiper, the one that talks over others, or someone that is just plain mean or rude.  That said, if that person is truly a friend, take a deep breath and make your own judgment call. A dinner party is not worth losing a good friend over.

How many dinner guests should you invite?

I like to suggest that you limit the amount of dinner guests to the number of chairs that comfortably fit around your dinner table.  No one wants to hit elbows, have someone so close that if they turn to talk them they feel uncomfortable (some people really like their personal space).  You might also want to take into consideration the size of your table. If you can seat 12, that's fine, but make sure your seating arrangement allows a good mix of guests.  You don't want to place all of the shy guests at one end and the conversation starters on the other end. 

Setting the Table for your dinner party:

If possible, set your table as early as possible.  First, this will lessen your stress knowing it is done.   It will allow you time to think of creative table decor ideas and work on them.  Think about your dinner party and the style.  Is it going to be formal where a white tablecloth, silver, and an elegant flower arrangement with candles sets the stage or is it going to be informal and casual.  Just keep in mind what will be on your table and how you will protect it from steam or water stains on the wood. 

Dinner Menu and Dinner Recipes:

Once again, if you can take care of things in advance, such as coming up with a dinner menu, buying food for the dinner recipes, and then prepare as much of the meal as possible in advance.   This will allow you more time to socialize and enjoy mingling with your guests.

Not a good cook?  There are some amazing places that sell prepared meals, such as a caterer or restaurant. You could even consider hiring a private chef to prepare the meal in your kitchen or bring somewhat ready-made to heat and serve. 

Here is a party plan timeline you might want to try.

No less than one week beforehand:

Choose your dinner party menu - don't forget to find out if any of your guests have food allergies, especially if you are going to be serving anything with nuts, milk products, gluten, shell fish. Speaking of shellfish, get specific with your guest. Not all shellfish allergies, or allergies in general, are the same.  I myself am allergic to lobster (I know! A New Englander who is allergic to lobster is almost like a curse! Especially when you liked it upon first tryI), but I am not allergic to crab or shrimp. Cross contamination is also a factor, so please keep your guests in mind when serving utensils or shared plates are involved. 

Create your dinner party shopping list.

A few days before the dinner party:

Purchase all of the products for your recipe that will keep well and be fresh for the dinner party. If you are serving fish or something that should be fresh, make time and plan to pick up the items the morning of your party.  

Call your butcher, fish market, or bakery, to request your dinner food is ready and waiting for you.

For beverages, select a wine that works well with your dinner menu.  If you are unsure, most high end liquor stores have someone, on staff, that can help you, but you can do a Google search very easily; type in your questions as if you were asking someone "what wine goes with.................."

If you are using special silver, china or glassware, polish them up and set them out.

The day before the dinner party:

Tidy the house.

Make any dishes that can be made the night before.

Set your table - If possible, I like to do this a couple of days in advance.

The Day of the Party:

Revisit the rooms of your house for a final cleaning or touch up, especially the restroom.

Buy any last minute ingredients.

Check for any items missing on your dinner table.

Start cooking the final items for your dinner recipes.

The night of the Dinner Party:

Tackle any last minute tidying up like pillow fluffing and a quick sweep

Get yourself all dressed

Light the candles

Turn on the music.

And most important, if you can, give yourself at least ten minutes where you can sit and relax.  You deserve it!