Hosting a dinner party doesn't have to be a huge and intimidating undertaking. With the right preparation and attitude, even the least experienced cook can host a fantastic event. Here are a few tips that will help give you confidence to pull off a fun dinner party with gusto!
Figure out your budget
Nearly all of your decisions surrounding the dinner party will come back to how much you are willing to spend. So, figure that out first. Then set a budget and stick to it. It’s very easy to let your costs spin out of control if you don’t pay attention. A tablecloth here, a cut of meat there all adds up!
Chances are, the guests you have invited to your home are looking forward to spending time with you and eating good food. Everything else is secondary, so don’t break the bank to host a dinner party. If you find you can’t do or make all the things you really want to on the budget you've set down, consider ways to cut costs so you can spend your money on the things you've prioritized:
- Use decorations you already have like vases or wine corks.
- Inexpensive flowers are great centerpieces.
- Try electronic invitations.
- Ask friends to contribute dishes.
- Make dishes using some ingredients you already have.
Create the right mix of people
Nothing kills a party faster than guests who are uncomfortable with each other. If your guests do not know each other, be sure to make proper introductions. Consider place cards, or a fun game for people to get to know each other. Appetizers and wine can serve as a great get-to-know-you time as well. Of course, if you invite friends or family who know each other well already, this should be no problem.
Stick with what you know
For a dinner party, it can be risky to make dishes you have never tried before. In general, it’s best to test the dishes prior to the party or stick with tried-and-true dishes you've made before to minimize surprises. This is a major point covered in food writer Adam Roberts’ blog The Amateur Gourmet in his post “10 Things That You’re Doing Wrong Hosting a Dinner Party.”
Make-ahead dishes are key
When you plan your menu, make sure to include things that you can make ahead of time. The less you have to prepare while guests are there, the better. This saves you time and stress and gives you the opportunity to hang out and enjoy all your hard work. Use your slow-cooker. Sauces and dips can be made beforehand and reheated if necessary. Bake cakes, cookies and pies the night before or morning of the event. Food blogs like at the red table have several recipes dedicated to the wonders of the slow-cooker as well as appetizers and make-ahead desserts.
Formulate a theme
If you’re not sure what to make, try formulating a theme for your party. A Greek or Mediterranean themed party could feature Greek food and drinks as well as crisp white and blue decorations to mimic the Greek Islands. Try a make-your-own pizza party for a fun and individualized twist on a classic party food. A theme could be as simple as focusing all dishes and drinks on one ingredient, like peanut butter.
Consider special dietary needs
Whatever you make, don’t forget to account for any special dietary needs your guests may have. If you have vegetarian/vegan guests or guests with food allergies, make sure you take adequate measures to make sure they have plenty of appropriate food to eat. If you’re in doubt, it’s perfectly okay to ask if anyone has special dietary considerations in your invitation.
Everyone loves a potluck
Offer to host a potluck. Everyone contributes with minimal stress for the host. Plus, this is a great way to serve quite a few people on a limited budget and have a great time doing it.
Roll with the punches
Even the best-laid plans can be foiled. The evening may not go as planned. Your appetizer might not turn out, the chicken might burn, someone might spill or break something, your grill could run out of propane. These things happen, and when they do, just improvise.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
If hosting a dinner party still seems like a daunting task to take on, start small. Ask just a few other people to come over so you’re cooking for three or four other people. Or consider asking your guests to jump in on the preparation fun. Make it part of the party. Crack open a bottle of wine or two, give out some aprons and whisks and have a ball!