In today’s fast-paced world, the classic dinner party may seem a bit out of step. After all, it requires guests to devote a full evening to sitting around a table — preferably with no smartphones in sight! — doing nothing but enjoying themselves. This is unrushed eating and unadulterated conversation at its best.
For the host, planning a dinner party takes a bit more effort than tossing together a potluck or gathering around the TV for the game. That doesn’t mean it has to be hard, though. Follow our step-by-step guide for planning the perfect evening — even if you’ve never hosted a dinner party before.
1. Make Your Guest List
A dinner party is more intimate than an open house or holiday bash, so you should choose the guest list with care. It’s fine to invite people who may not know each other already, but make sure that guests have something in common to smooth introductions and make it easier to keep up conversations. Consider the personalities involved to make sure that everyone feels comfortable with each other. In general, the size of your dining table dictates how many people you can invite!
2. Plan the Menu
Once you’ve nailed down your guest list and have your RSVPs in hand, it’s time to plan the menu. It’s a good idea to reach out to guests to see if anyone has a food allergy or dietary preference so you can ensure that everyone has something to eat. Knowing your menu in advance also helps you know what to say if guests ask what they can bring so all the food on the table blends harmoniously. If you want to be in charge of the food, just request a nice bottle of wine instead.
Pro Tip: Don’t try anything new the night of a dinner party! Stick to your favorite recipes for a foolproof evening.
3. Cook Ahead of Time
If there’s anything you can prepare ahead of time, do so! Choose a dessert that you can make the night before, and try for dishes that can be bubbling away in the oven while you mingle with guests. The easier the food is, the more fun you’ll have on the big night.
4. Decorate Your Table
Another task you can accomplish ahead of time? Your tablescape. Set the table with your favorite dishes and placemats; then plan a centerpiece that reflects the season and your style. Flowers are always in style, but keep vases low to encourage eye contact across the table. Consider adding seasonal produce and candles to round out the look.
5. Appeal to All Five Senses
While most of the focus will be on the flavor of your food and your pretty dining table, don’t forget that your guests also have noses and ears! Make your home a welcoming environment by adding a customized scent to surround your guests. Consider whether you want your party to be relaxing or high-energy and choose a fragrance to match. You should also cue up a playlist of dinner music that enhances this atmosphere as well. Be sure that you have enough music to last for several hours without repeats.
With your plan in place, all that remains is to cook your meal and welcome your guests into your home. Planning ahead allows you to relax and enjoy yourself with your friends, knowing that everything is taken care of.