Individually, awesome people and food are both pretty great. If you want to have a truly magnificent time, why not combine them for a good old-fashioned dinner party? (Jesus approves.)
I know, I know. You’re probably thinking that dinner parties are for Sex and the City characters or rich old people with nothing better to do. If you agree with that sentiment, I am here to tell you simply that dinner parties can be absolutely lovely.
Yet, hosting a party can be a stressful affair for anyone! Even for someone like myself, who loves playing hostess, things always seem a little more complicated than one would like. Hopefully these tips help you become a confident and prepared host(ess) so you can spend more time enjoying the company of your friends than fanning the smoke off of a burning quiche. Which is something that definitely has never happened to me.
First and foremost, select a date and time. Duh. Seems obvious, right? But as a weird old ghost once told Indiana Jones, “Choose wisely!” For optimal attendance, I would select a Saturday night at least two weeks in advance. Weeknights are usually reserved for unwinding after work. Even on a Friday night, getting all gussied up for a dinner can seem like a chore first thing after a long week. As for a time, invite people over approximately 30 minutes before you intend on serving dinner. This will give people time to mingle, give latecomers time to make it, and everyone to ask what that delicious smell is wafting from the kitchen.
No, I am not suggesting you have a Spongebob Squarepants-themed dinner party complete with coordinating cups and paper plates from Wal-Mart (though, for the record, I would totally attend). But it is important for you to consider if you want this to be a cocktail-dress kind of affair, or just a t-shirt and jeans sort of thing. Personally, I am a proponent of using any occasion I can as an excuse to dress up. Why not have the ladies break out their finest and the gents don their sport coats? I promise, it will feel less like an office party and more like dress up. If that’s not your thing, though, wear what suits you!
The theme, a.k.a. the classiness level, of your party determines how you should invite people over. If it’s a simple get-together with a few close friends, an e-mail should do the trick. If you have a bit of a larger group, consider creating a Facebook event so you can keep track of who is and isn’t attending. If you really want to go all out, consider sending invitations. Yeah, it’s a little bit old-school, but who doesn’t love getting a fancy-shmansy card and feeling like they are in second grade again? Tip: If you do choose to send out invitations, make sure you stay on top of attendance. Not everyone will R.S.V.P., even if they plan on showing up. Shoot your friends a text or give them a call so you can make sure there is a place set for them. However you choose to invite people, make sure they know the exact time, date, location, how to reach you, and especially what to wear!
When it comes to decor, I go by the rule that it’s best to work with what you have. Don’t stress yourself out by making repeated trips to Bed Bath & Beyond for a centerpiece or a table runner that you really don’t need, but are trying to convince yourself will change the entire outcome of your get-together. Whether you are going all-out or hosting a simple affair, be resourceful! There’s nothing wrong with using a folded-in-half index card as a place marker, as long as you take the time to make it look special. If you need some creative inspiration, check out the DIY section of Design*Sponge and let the snazzy-ess commence.
So now that everyone is there, enjoying cocktails or admiring your hand-crafted crochet place mats, it’s time for you to officially enter Host(ess) Mode. Even if your party is simply close friends who all know each other, still make sure you make your way from group to group and do a quick catch-up. If your party is a mix of people who aren’t necessarily familiar with each other, make introductions! It can seem a little uncomfortable at first, but if you have a close friend and a co-worker who have never met, but both have a huge obsession with Lord of the Rings, I highly doubt they will mind a quick introduction so they can enjoy a discussion of Gondorian battle strategies in Two Towers vs. Return of the King.
This is what it all comes down to, right? After all, these people aren’t here just to stand around and make small talk for a few hours…they want to EAT. Plan a menu that includes an appetizer, a main course, a side dish, and a dessert. Tip: Have a vegetarian friendly option. This can be something as simple as serving the chicken and the pasta on separate plates in the case of chicken alfredo. My people will be forever grateful! Most importantly, make sure the meal is something you are comfortable cooking and know you can cook well. If you want to try a new recipe, don’t make it the main course. Not that you all aren’t five-star chefs, but on top of everything else, do you really need to worry about learning how to prepare baked Alaska?
With all of this in mind, you should be pretty well equipped to pull off a kick-ass dinner party for the books. Is there anything I forgot? Anything that has or hasn’t worked for you in the past? Most importantly…what’s your go-to dish to serve?