There is arguably no greater feeling in the world than pulling off a flawlessly executed dinner party that your friends never stop talking about. The most important key to hosting a great dinner party is to be prepared so that ultimately, you get to enjoy the best thing about these parties: your guests. Check out our tips for setting yourself up for success and planning the best dinner party of your life. When it’s over? Rinse, wash, and repeat. These timeless hacks are intended to be recycled.
Create the ultimate guest list for your party
Have you ever had the classic nightmare that nobody shows up to your party? Let’s avoid making that a reality. Get your guest list in motion and feel around for a date that all (or at least most) of your favorites are available. If you fail to give your guests enough of a heads up, you may run the risk of dining solo and nobody wants that.
A guest list for a dinner party is an intentionally exclusive thing, assuming you don’t live in a place that has square footage comparable to the Taj Mahal. You want to create a comfortable environment for your guests, but also invite an exciting mix of people for good conversation. You certainly don’t want to pack your guests inside a small space like sardines. Find a realistic number for the head count that can be accommodated in your living situation and stick with it, always planning for someone to drop off at the last minute or someone bringing an impromptu plus one.
Don’t forget to find out if anyone on your guest list has a food allergy and be sure you make a note to either have an alternative readily available for each serving that they can enjoy, or even use recipes that everyone can enjoy.
Design a delicious menu
Once you have secured the list of your most interesting friends who you just know are going to hit it off in a big way, it’s time to ensure you have all the modern kitchen accessories to create divine dishes for your guests to eat, because next, you’ll need to plan your menu.
This step is going to be entirely dependent on your skill level in the kitchen. Do not bite off more than you can chew. If you are notorious for burning cereal, set reasonable expectations about the kind of food you can confidently make well. There are tons of resources for easy and delicious recipes online. The best thing you can do is try a practice round or two prior to the event. Make the identical meal you plan to serve for your partner or best friend before your dinner party.
Pro tip: It’s also not cheating to hire help! Depending on your budget, there are incredible chefs who would be over the moon to help you pull off the food side of this endeavor. Hosting a dinner party goes way beyond the menu and sometimes success means asking for expert help.
Organization is key
Be specific and organized about what you’ll be serving. Perhaps you’ll be making everything from scratch because you are culinarily inclined. Amazing! Others may struggle in the kitchen or have time constraints and may choose to outsource the bread and the dessert portion of the menu. Give yourself plenty of time to figure out these important details and don’t forget to schedule your order ahead of time if you do decide to partner up with a local bakery this time around. We also recommend grocery shopping the day before your party so that your meat and produce is extra fresh, but if your go-to grocery store is out of a critical ingredient you still have time to head to a back up store and grab the crucial ingredient.
Make your home sparkle
Next, you’ll want to set your home up for success. Throwing a dinner party in a house that isn’t immaculately clean will only serve to distract you from the joy you’re supposed to be experiencing. Don’t add extra stress to your life. Carve out several hours a few days before your party to deep clean your home. If you have the resources and lack a certain motivation when it comes to cleaning, hire a cleaning service! Your true friends won’t care if your home is a mess, but again, it will only detract from your joy and the hard work you’ve put into planning this event. Make sure your house sparkles the day of, paying careful attention to bathrooms and even rooms a guest may curiously peek inside between courses.
Be sure you have your aesthetics right before your dinner party. It can be nice to deck your dining room (or tiny kitchen) table out with candles, flowers, and tablecloths. Another nice touch to think about is having some fun glassware. You can splurge on these items of course, but don’t count out the Goodwill. No one said you had to be loaded to throw a great dinner party.
Start off on the right foot
On the big day, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to prepare any food in the morning so you’re not running around ten minutes before your guests arrive (even though doing so is a totally normal and acceptable symptom of hosting a dinner party at your home). Make sure everything that can be done food and decorating-wise is already completed in the morning, ensuring you have several hours for yourself to shower, decompress, and put on your favorite party outfit.
When your guests start to arrive, remember to offer them a beverage and a safe place to put their belongings, maybe in a coat closet or in a nearby bedroom. As far as drinks go, it’s helpful to have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options at the ready since not everyone chooses to drink. If someone asks for something you don’t have, try to improvise and never let them feel like they’ve put you out by asking.
Don’t forget to enjoy yourself!
Once your guests are seated, the conversation will likely have a life of its own. Resist any urges to control the conversation and try to let it flow naturally. Have faith in the fact that you deliberately brought these folks together and don’t stress yourself out about making sure everyone is having a good time—they are being wined and dined in your beautiful home with lovely people, chances are, they’re feeling wonderful!
Depending on your specific hosting style, you can choose to have a formal or more informal vibe. However, people tend to feel comfortable and are more able to let loose and open up when they’re surrounded by laidback energy. Always feel free to ask your friends to help with clearing or serving or even washing dishes! Just keep in mind how if the roles were reversed, you’d be offering your help to a friend, especially if they looked a bit stressed out!
Don’t put too much pressure on perfection. Parties are more fun when there’s a faux pas, something that gets messed up and lovingly discussed for the next several months. People are not searching for perfection, only to share delicious food with great people, and you are well on your way to providing this and so much more for your friends.