How to host a dinner party - Throwing a dinner party

Mar 23, 2008 at 2:30 p.m. ET

If you have moved into your own place for the first time or have relocated recently, you should throw a dinner party to celebrate.

A dinner party is a terrific way to show off your new apartment or house, spend time with friends and meet new people.

The key to a successful dinner party is planning. A dinner party doesn't have to be elaborate or formal. In fact, more casual affairs are sometimes more fun. If you have never hosted a dinner party, don't worry. Our simple guide will tell you how to throw a dinner party with ease.

Dinner Party

Keep it simple

No theme parties. Sure it would be great to throw a luau, complete with a roasted pig, hula dancers and the limbo - but let's be realistic. This is your first dinner party. Save the themed events for another time.

Make the guest list

Figure out how many people can comfortably dine in your home. A nice number for a dinner party is eight or ten. Invite a mix of couples and single people, both male and female. Have your best friend invite two people that you don't know - it's good for you to meet new people as well. Call each guest and officially invite them. Don't email your invitations. It's a lot nicer and more personal to call each person directly. Keep a list of alternates in case someone cancels.

Choose your menu

Keep the menu simple. Serve a nice tossed salad. Choose a poultry, beef or seafood recipe that doesn't require a lot time slaving in the kitchen. Add potatoes or rice, and a vegetable on the side. To make it easier, you can make a delicious one-pot meal. Ask if any of your guests are vegetarian and plan accordingly.

Write your grocery list

Go through your refrigerator and pantry to figure out exactly what you need. Allow for 1/2 pound of meat for each guest. Don't forget the salad, bread and dessert. A store-bought dessert such as carrot cake or cheesecake is appropriate for a dinner party - you don't need to bake the dessert.

Get two types of wine - one red and one white to complement your meal, along with iced tea or other non-alcoholic beverages.

A few days in advance of your dinner party, re-confirm with each guest that they are coming. If someone can't make it, use your alternate list now. A day or two ahead of time, go grocery shopping for everything you need.

The night before

Clean your house, paying special attention to the bathroom. Vacuum and dust your living area. Be sure to set out clean towels and re-stock the toilet paper.

The night before, cook anything in advance that you can. If you are making appetizers or a dessert, you should be able to make them now and chill them until meal time.

If the wine is to be served cold, put it in the refrigerator now as well. Wash your table cloth and cloth napkins. Get loose stem flowers such as colorful daises or carnations from your grocery store - they don't need to be expensive. Arrange the flowers in a nice vase in the middle of your table to create a beautiful centerpiece.

Party day

Finish cooking the meal. Time it to be ready about 30 minutes after your guests arrive. Set the table with a clean white tablecloth, along with your best china and silverware. Use wine glasses and cloth napkins.

Choose light background music and keep the volume low. You want your guests to be able to talk without raising their voices.  Dress appropriately for the party in a chic outfit that is both classy and comfortable, such as a pantsuit or colorful dress.

Most importantly, relax and have fun. It's a party afterall. And even if your rice sticks and you forget to defrost the cheesecake, with good company you will have a great time anyway.

Dinner party recipes