Dinner Party Planning Tips

More and more people are staying home and inviting friends and family over for an evening's entertainment. Hosting a dinner can be fun and gives you a way to show off your creative side. The basic rule in planning these events is the simpler the better, but all include some basic elements.

Dinner Party HostInvitations

Invitations set the tone for an event and can range from the quick phone call or email to a beautifully printed or engraved card, depending on the occasion.

Bar

The basic essentials of an entertaining bar includes flat and sparkling water, regular and diet sodas, lemons and limes. Stock up on a few general styles of glassware (in equal numbers) that are appropriate for a variety of drinks.

Food

Food is in the spotlight at almost every party, whether it's a cheese tray with wine or a Thanksgiving feast.

  • Plan your menu by deciding how your guests will eat (buffet or sit down)
  • Prepare by shopping early and saving simple tasks for last (dressing and tossing the salad, warming bread in the oven, slicing meat and transferring food to serving platters)
  • Have a party-ready pantry for when friends drop by unexpectedly. Stock your pantry with a variety of high-quality dried, canned and jarred goods such as: smoked or spiced nuts, crackers, sliced baguettes (you can freeze them), dried fruits (serve with cheese and nuts), wasabi peas or frozen edamame

Table

It's the center of the action, the place where guests and hosts convene for the main event. It just needs to be pretty, inviting, not too busy and a clear reflection of your personal style or theme. Set your table according to the serving style you have chosen:

  • Family-style: food is brought out in large serving dishes and placed on the table. Guests pass them around and serve themselves
  • Plated: Food is arranged on individual plates in the kitchen and brought out to guests
  • Seated buffet: Guests serve themselves from a table that it laid out and sit down to eat at a fully set table
  • Standing buffet: Guests serve themselves from a buffet then stand or sit wherever they want, including sofas and side chairs

Décor

The way you decorate depends entirely on the size and mood of the party you're throwing and the amount of effort you're willing to make. Regardless of the final look of your space, the general elements to consider are furniture placement, lighting, music and flowers.

  • Remove all clutter from your party space
  • Cleanliness in the restroom is important, but so is easy access. Remove all personal items from the sinks and counters
  • Protect furniture and rugs
  • Designate a convenient place for coats
  • Make plans for pets and children

Host/Hostess

Dress the part: you deserve to be the star of the show -- wear an outfit that complements your style and occasion. Hostess tips for taking care of your guests:

  • Get a drink into their hands right away
  • Keep an eye on the door so that as guests arrive they feel welcome
  • Try to spend the majority of the meal at the table with the guests
  • Introduce the guests by mentioning something they have in common

Entertaining doesn't have to be intimidating, stressful or exhausting. With the right attitude and some savvy planning, it can be fun, exhilarating and, well, entertaining!

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