Throwing a dinner party may sound intimidating if your idea of throwing a party is to buy chips and a couple cases of beer and invite friends over to watch a football game. However, by following a few simple tips and doing a little bit of planning, your dinner parties can be stress-free for you and entertaining for your friends and family.
Types of Dinner Parties
The first step to planning a dinner party is to decide what type of dinner party you want to throw. Dinner parties can run the gamut, from gourmet, multi-course meals to casual cookouts. You can choose a theme for the food, such as a serving only Chinese or Indian cuisine, or you can serve a variety of dishes.While you might do all of the cooking for your dinner party, you might also consider purchasing some or all of the food. Another option is to host a potluck dinner party, where you provide the main course and guests bring side dishes and desserts.When hosting a dinner party, another possibility is to team up with a few friends to host a progressive dinner party. With these parties, one host provides appetizers at his or her house. After enjoying the first course, guests move to the next host”s house, where the next course is served. After that, guests move to the third host”s house, where the third course is served, and so on.Progressive dinner parties are best if the hosts live close enough to each other so that it isn”t an inconvenience for guests to go from one house to the next. The hosts might want to consider renting a couple of vans and hiring drivers, especially if alcohol will be served.
Making the Guest List
Unlike cocktail parties, where guests stand around and mingle, the number of guests you can invite to a dinner party is dependent on the number of chairs and tables you have at your disposal. Six to eight guests is a good number for the average dinner party, although you can invite more guests to a backyard cookout. Keep your guests” personalities in mind when deciding whom to invite. Dinner parties can quickly become awkward if two or more of the guests have acrimonious relationships. As a general rule, you”ll want to invite people who have common interests and who get along well.Invite guests at least two weeks prior to the date of the dinner party. You can do this by phone, in person, through mail or by e-mail. Give them a date by which to RSVP and also follow up with an e-mail to remind them of the date and time. When inviting guests, be sure to ask if they have any food allergies or other dietary restrictions.
Choosing the Menu
Prior to hosting or planning your dinner party, you need to assess your cooking skills. Can you successfully cook a meal for six or more people? If not, don”t despair: You can always have the meal catered, order the appetizers from the local deli or buy desserts from a bakery. Next, consider how much time you have to shop and cook. If your time is limited, consider hosting a cookout or a potluck party. Both types of dinner parties are more informal than a sit-down dinner party, but they will still be fun and will allow you to spend time with your guests.If you are a beginning cook, choose a main dish that you have made before and that is easy to serve. You can accompany the entre with store-bought items or dishes provided by guests. Prepare as much of the food as you can ahead of time. Most fresh fruits and vegetables can be washed and cut hours before you start cooking. If you”re ordering food, especially during the holiday season, do so in advance. Don”t wait until the day before to order the deli platter or personalized birthday cake.
Serving the Dinner
Keep the following tips in mind when serving dinner at your dinner party:
- Food can be served buffet style if you are hosting a larger party and don”t have enough room on the dinner table or don”t want to prepare individual plates for each guest.
- Have a back-up plan in mind if things go wrong, such as ordering pizza or whipping up a quick pasta dish.
- Hire someone to serve guests or to assist in the kitchen. You might also want to hire a cleaning service to help you clean up after the party.
- If you”re serving cocktails, don”t wait more than an hour before serving dinner. Guests will be hungry and will need food to counter the alcohol they”ve ingested.
- Make sure your guests have all the necessary utensils, such as soup spoons or steak knives.
- Relax! A mistake or two is bound to occur. Rolls might burn or a deli may misplace your order. Your guests will understand. After all, the very same things might have happened to them at dinner parties they”ve hosted.