Dinner parties. They’re fun, right? Fun to get your friends together, catch up on life, eat good food and drink too much wine.
Trying to plan one, making sure your house is up to par and getting all of the food and drinks ready in time can be a stressful task as a host or hostess, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few simple tips, tricks and ideas to make your next dinner party a little more stress-free.
First things first, set your date and invite your guests
For informal get-togethers and smaller parties I like to keep it simple and do something like a Facebook group invite. Formal invitations are good for birthday parties, and more noteworthy occasions – but if you’re just having friends over for dinner there’s no need to add the extra stress. Go digital. This way, when the event gets closer you can remind people and get a more real-time RSVP list.
Next up, the menu
Are you planning on doing the cooking, getting it catered, or asking your guests to bring things? Make your choice and stick with it. People don’t mind bringing something (in fact more often than not, they expect it) – so make sure to call that out in your digital invitation. If you’re doing the cooking, pick your menu – whether it’s tapas or a formal Thanksgiving feast. If you're hiring a caterer, find your company and get your food ordered.
Choose your booze
If you’re past your mid-20s and hosting a party – it’s generally expected that at the very least you’ll be providing beer and wine for your guests. You shouldn’t expect that your guests are going to haul over their 1.75L bottle of Vodka to drink like it’s college days. Plan on serving beer and wine. Do you have a guest who's expecting? Make sure to get them some alcohol-free sparking wine, or something to show them a little love.
Add a little décor
Whether it’s fancy plates and cutlery, or making sure you have flowers for your table – make a list of the things you’ll need to purchase so you are all ready for the big shopping trip. I LOVE setting the table, I think that’s something I get from my Mom - but if you’re planning on formal seating – it’s fun to jazz it up with some flowers, candles and other décor. Call me weird, but I also like seating arrangements - sometimes finding your seat can be the most stressful part of attending an event.
Make your playlist
Make a playlist catered to your guests. Create one that’s for pre and during dinner, and one that’s a bit more upbeat for post dinner. Music changes the mood 100% and in my opinion, is an absolute must-have for any event, no matter how big or small. If you don't feel like making a playlist, Spotify has millions of awesome playlists you can choose from. Bookmark them so they're ready for the night.
Plan your shopping trip
Lists are your friend. Make your list for the grocery store, bottle shop and wherever you get your party supplies. Plan the day you’ll set out to do your shopping, and make sure to give yourself enough time. Plan on forgetting something – because you will, and plan time for one final trip.
Give yourself enough time for cleaning and setting-up. For food, make whatever you can in advance. If you can chop all of your veggies, or bake your brownies – do it ahead. Many things freeze nicely so you can just thaw them on the day of your party. The more you do ahead, the more you can relax and enjoy when your guests arrive.
If you read my previous blog post, you’ll know how important I think documenting your event is. If you know you’ll have enough time to take photos, great! If you think you’re going to be running around like crazy, assign one of your friends the task, or hire someone to do it. It’s so fun to relive the night, so make sure you’re able to.
If you’ve been able to do everything above, you should be able to actually enjoy your party, which many times can be the hardest part. Dinner parties don’t have to be stressful, as long as you do a little pre-planning.
Other tips and tricks to jazz up your parties
- Lighting is key! Make sure you don’t have your lights on full blast during your party. Even if you don’t have a dimmer, put on some lamps or lots of candles. Candles add a great ambiance at parties.
- Depending on the theme of your party (fiesta, holiday, summertime, etc.) you could offer a themed drink, which is a fun treat for guests. Don’t do something too off the rails, or too sweet so guests won’t drink it – but something like margaritas or a champagne spritzer could be a good treat.
- Add a photo booth. There are tons of great and easy photo booth apps for your iphone / ipad. If you have a tripod around, set up your device, make sure the passcode is off – and have it set by a backdrop for guests to use. It’s a fun way to make sure there are photos of the night. Master Tip: For a quick, easy and inexpensive backdrop, try some wrapping paper! Make sure it's matte, so the flash doesn't catch the background.
- Have a dessert bar. People often don’t love having a full piece of cake / pie for desserts. Put together a dessert bar so guests can snack after dinner.
- Think people are going to stay late? Plan on ordering pizzas, or have some snacks on hand to put out when guests are accidentally still around at 2:00 am.
- Have some games around. Whether its bean bag toss for an outdoor BBQ or a deck of cards, sometimes guests (especially male guests) like to partake in an activity. Have something around to keep them occupied.
- Hide your TV remotes! Watching TV at parties = lame. It’s time for people to catch up and talk to each other. Keep your TV’s off.
If you skimmed through this post, and don’t remember anything, I ask you to remember ONE thing. Make sure your party has food, booze and music – and it’s sure to be a smashing success.