Great Dinner Party Ideas
Dinner Parties 101
Hosting a dinner party is challenging and can be pressure-filled, but the rewards are worth it. As the organizer of the event, you get to choose the guests and control the food, atmosphere and timing. You can also save money for your guests and even yourself by hosting a dinner party in your home instead of dining at an expensive restaurant. Another advantage of dinner parties is their intimacy. Because the invitation list is usually quite small compared to a house party, you can spend more quality time with each of your guests.
Determine the Guest List
Your party will be more lively and interesting if you invite people with an interesting mix of personalities and backgrounds. When drawing up your guest invitation list, you should keep in mind the potential for conflicts between guests, as you want your event to go smoothly and be enjoyable for all. It's also a good idea to invite a specific number of guests and request responses to your invitations. This is because you'll want to ensure you have enough seating for everyone, as well as the right amount of food, drink and entertainment.
Choosing a Theme
A great way to set the mood at your party is to give it a theme. If your party is centered on a special occasion, such as a holiday, birthday or an engagement, you could choose a theme related to the occasion. For parties thrown simply for the fun of it, any theme will do. Options include specific eras such as the Roaring Twenties, geographic regions such as the Sun Belt and popular Hollywood movies. Once you've chosen your theme, you can bring it to life in numerous ways, including your décor, music, menu and requested guest attire.
When choosing the date and time of your party, you'll need to consider the schedules of the people you plan to invite. Weekdays and holidays tend to be poor times to hold a party because people are busy. For formal events and for parties occurring on holidays, you should send out the invitations about a month in advance to give people plenty of time to respond. Include the location, date and time of the party and specify whether dinner will be served. For a casual party, a phone call or email close to the date is acceptable.
Choosing the Menu
Choose a menu that you’re comfortable preparing and that will allow you time for socializing. You don't want to be nervous about the food or find yourself stuck in the kitchen. If you're stumped for menu ideas, you can always choose foods tied to the party occasion or theme. Plan to serve appetizers first, follow up with an entrée and side dishes, and conclude with dessert accompanied by tea and coffee. A roast, casserole, lasagna or dish cooked in a slow cooker are options you can prepare beforehand, giving you more time to enjoy yourself with your guests.
A few days before the party, you should shop for party supplies such as tableware, tablecloths, napkins, centrepieces and decorations. You could also buy the food, but hold off until nearer to the event to pick up items that could spoil. The day before the party, clean the house, especially the kitchen, bathroom, dining room and living room. Also, inspect and polish, if necessary, your special flatware. The morning of the party prepare as much food as possible and decorate your home. Shortly before your guests arrive, your final preparation step is to set out appetizers and drinks.
A perk of hosting a dinner party is you get to encourage new friendships and even play matchmaker through your control of the seating arrangements. A fun, not to mention practical, approach is to place name cards on the table designating where people should sit. With a bit of creativity, you can easily make interesting cards that tie in to your party theme. If you're serving dinner in a casual style such as a buffet, you might want to let your guests pick their own seats.
Music helps create ambiance at a dinner party, but be sure to keep the volume low. It's best to create a playlist ahead of time that matches the party theme. For example, Hawaiian music would create a fun vibe at a beach-themed party, while Christmas music might suit a party held during the winter holiday season. Jazz and classical music are two flexible options that can be used for almost any party at any time of the year.
Relax & Enjoy
Dinner parties are meant to be fun not just for the guests but also for the hosts. However, there's no denying the pressures involved during planning and also during the event itself. Sometimes it's difficult to do, but you should get out of the kitchen, relax and interact with people. After your guests have left, it’s your choice whether to clean up right away or leave it for the next day. If a friend offers to help wash up, say “yes”!
Dinner Party Tips:
- Rather than sending your invitations by regular email, use an online service to create a free, attractive invitation that matches your theme
- If any of your guests are slow to warm up socially, invite them into the kitchen to help with any small prep work, setting out food, etc.
- If your party doesn’t have a special theme, you could go with a classic table setting such as a white tablecloth, white dishes and one or two accent colours
- Flowers and other centerpieces should be tall enough to talk under or short enough to talk over so that guests can see one another’s faces
- Make use of sideboards during dinner by turning them into stations for food, beverages and dessert
- If you set out the food family style on the table, you won't have to keep running into the kitchen to refill plates
- Towards the end of the party, consider serving something sweet, such as cake, cupcakes, pie or cookies
- Ask guests to notify you about allergies in their response to your invitation.
- Provide a selection of pop, juice and other mixers for people drinking mixed alcoholic beverages, and make sure to have plenty of ice in the freezer
- To keep alcoholic beverages simple, offer wine (red and white), beer and one signature cocktail
- White wine should be chilled for two hours before the party
- To maintain a clear path between your stove and fridge as you're putting the final touches on your meal, set up bar or beverage station away from the kitchen. You can hire a bartender or allow guests to serve themselves.
- If your party has a themed drink, buy lots of the ingredients necessary for making it
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