How to Host a Perfect Dinner Party

A guide to being a perfect host

Some sources claim that dinner parties are so rare nowadays, they are “endangered”. If you are one of those people who rarely gets invited to the one you might agree with this. You might be reading this because you have decided to take matters into your own hands and host one yourself. Hosting at home can be simple and fuss-free, especially if you start the planning well in advance and don’t sweat the small stuff.  We love dinner parties and would love for more people to enjoy them. What’s more fun than inviting a bunch of people over for good food, drinks, and conversation? In addition, studies show that sharing a meal together can make us happier and healthier. Your dinner party could serve many purposes. It could be a way to say thank you to friends or family, to celebrate a special occasion or to network and make new social connections. Whatever it is, you need help to make this all happen with as little stress as possible.  So if you want to find out how to host a relaxed dinner party and how to make sure you and your guests have a great time you’re in the right place!

Who to Invite & When

For your first dinner party starting small is a good idea, four to six people. Try not to bring together personalities that are too opposite. A group who share a common interest might be a good start unless you already know who to invite. This will allow you to focus on the cooking, serving the food and leaving space to entertain. As for when to invite them, make sure your calendar allows time for planning, shopping and making preparations in advance of the guest’s arrival. And this probably goes without saying: Fridays and Saturdays are the best nights to host for most people, but it entirely depends on your guests and your own schedule.

Menu Planning

The whole point of the dinner party is to show off your culinary skills, so your menu should be the focal point of the dinner party. Spend some time developing your menu and making sure you can get all the ingredients easily.

Look at using local ingredients and see what is in season. Spend time researching the recipes and see what ingredients are on-trend right now. Or stick to what you cook best. If you’re stuck for time, this is the best option – stay firmly in your comfort zone. That way you won’t have any surprises or mishaps on the day. If you are not confident about your choices, you can always ask foodie friends or family for advice.

Ask for allergies in advance if you are cooking for someone you have not cooked for before. Also, ask if they are on any special diets. You will be surprised to learn how many people have food allergies and how many are on a special diet and then there are those who just fussy eaters. You may have to just accept the fact that no matter how good the menu will be, it will not be a hit with everyone. Avoid dishes that require constant attention such as risotto. If you have never hosted a party before, make it easy on yourself and check out a list of one-pot meals here. Stay positive and trust your cooking abilities!

Drinks

You can opt for guests bringing their own drinks or you can choose to provide drinks yourself. Either way, make sure you still have drinks available as back up. It is always a good idea to welcome guests with cocktails on arrival. For a list of easy to make cocktails click here.

If you are looking to learn how to pair wine with food, you can always ask a salesperson at the local wine shop, otherwise, check out this guide.

Unless you are hosting a very high-end dinner party, don’t let the drinks break the bank. The money is better spent on food.

Preparation

Preparation means food prep, prepping your home and mental prep to make sure you’re ready for the big night!

For food prep, make a list of ingredients based on your finalised menu. Make sure the list includes everything and drinks, whether you decide to provide those or stock as a back-up. Unless you like doing the shopping yourself, it is a good idea to save time and money and get the groceries delivered the night before. This may mean you need to book a slot for up to five days in advance depending on the time of the year. Supermarkets get very busy especially towards weekends and festive season/occasions and often charge a premium for delivery on popular time slots.  You can save by opting for a 4-hour flexi saver slot delivery with Tesco for £1 instead of 1-hour slot (rates for which vary). If the one thing you stress about is cooking, make it easier on yourself and choose a dessert or a starter than can be cooked in advance. Here is a list of make-ahead desserts from Food & Wine Magazine.

Cleaning your place for a dinner party does not have to be a KonMari affair, but it is good to have a clean table, dust-free and stain-free chairs, clean floors, shelves and surfaces. It is also a good idea to have a clean bathroom that your guests might be using.

Last, but far from least, is mental prep. Maybe you’re stressed after a long week. Maybe you’re nervous. Or maybe you’re just plain excited. Whatever you’re feeling, take a second to become aware of it, get calm, and ground yourself.

Setting Up

It is a good idea to set up the table in advance. That way you have more time to cook and relax before everyone’s arrival.

However, it is a good idea to make sure you have enough cutlery, plates and glasses at least a day in advance. Make sure all of those are clean.

Having a centrepiece can tie the whole table together. Fresh flowers in a vase or mixed arrangement will work as well as a simple bouquet. Other centrepieces might feature candles in candle holders or other decorative pieces. If you like to use flowers for your central piece, but can’t get fresh flowers, consider using artificial flowers, especially if you or some of your guests suffer from hay fever. This might be the safest option and long-lasting one.

Ambience

Make sure to air the place after cooking and before the guest’s arrival to eliminate any smells. If you like and don’t have allergies, you may decide to light candles or use some scents. Not everybody likes scents so if you are not sure, go with some neutral candle scents. Practice safety when using anything that can cause a fire.  Consider playing some soft music. You can make a playlist on Spotify or put on a radio station to match the occasion.

A few simple spruces make all the difference. Go for paper napkins if you don’t have any good quality fabric napkins.

A Few Extras

If you have a dishwasher, make sure that your dishwasher is completely empty before the guests arrive and the party begins. This way, you can load it as you go along and just put it on once the guests leave.

Make sure your bin is empty and all the rubbish is taken out. There is nothing worse than dealing with a full bin when you have guests in the house.

If you are hosting in the summer and especially if it is a garden dinner party, make sure you have plenty of ice for drinks. If you can’t freeze lots of ice, then make sure you get a bag and store it in the freezer. If you don’t have a large freezer, then fill your bath with cold water and make sure to have some bottle resting there about 2-3 hours before the party. Nobody likes to drink room temperature Pinot Grigio in the heat of the summer and you want to have enough space in the fridge for food, especially if you are storing starters or desserts overnight before the party and especially if you want to store some leftovers after the party.

Cleaning Up

Be your own future friend and clean up straight after the party. That way you will not wake up to a pile of dishes the next morning.

Last, but not least…

There is nothing better than gathering together for a fun night! Sit back, relax and enjoy the moments around the dinner table!

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