Do you get really stressed when you know you are having guests to dinner? Do you spend hours and days trying to figure out what to cook for people, whether people will like what you cook, whether you will cook the food well and it will taste ok? Do you worry what your house looks like, and worry about whether you will have time to prepare and cook for those guests?
Dinner parties are lovely, but can be just so stressful on the host and hostess. Many of us avoid having people over to dinner because there is just too much work and time involved. But planning and organizing ahead can really make all the difference. Follow these tips to plan the best dinner party ever!
Organize and Plan your menu
I know that sounds really obvious, but you would be surprised at how many people don’t organize and plan their menu well. It helps to write everything down and refer to it often. Why plan your menu? Because you may have people coming over with food allergies and special diets, you may accidentally serve two similar foods in the appetizer and main courses, and you may plan a huge dessert to follow a huge entree, that just can’t possibly be eaten by your guests. Planning and organizing ahead will save a lot of grief later on. Planning in advance will also help you get your shopping list in order, and you can plan more time to do the shopping for what you need.
When organizing and planning your menu you should take note of the following:
- Ask your guests if they have any food allergies or special diets. It is polite for guests to let you know if they have allergies or are on a special diet, but guests don’t always do that. Reach out to your guests beforehand and ask them.
- Don’t ever cook a meal that you have never made before. If there is something you really really want to make your guests do a trial run first.
- Figure out what in your meal plan can be prepared ahead of time, and take advantage of doing whatever you can ahead of time.
- Make out a detailed shopping list with every ingredient that you will need.
- Keep things simple. Don’t get too elaborate. Simple food and dishes can be just as tasty and enjoyable.
- Choose a dessert that you can always prepare ahead. The last thing you will want to do after serving other courses is have to assemble together an elaborate dessert for people to eat. Make or buy it beforehand and have it ready to serve.
- Consider buying and not cooking certain parts of your menu. Appetizers and desserts are great things to buy and not make yourself.
- Remember what time you will have on the day/evening of your dinner party. Perhaps your son has a 3pm soccer game that you absolutely have to pick him up from and your guests are arriving at 6, therefore you don’t want to have to spend hours and hours that you don’t have preparing certain parts of the meal.
- Remember that not all your guests will drink the dinner wine, or drink alcohol at all. Make sure you have soft drinks available for those guests.
When seated at the table
A dinner party is a social occasion which requires a lot of input from the host and hostess. Your guests will want to see you and interact with you at the table, not just see the back of you as you enter and leave the room constantly to prepare and serve. Obviously, your guests expect that you will be spending some time in the kitchen, but not the entire evening. Preparing ahead will definately help here, as will perhaps buying the desert course or making it ahead of time.
- Set the dinner table ahead of the dinner party, so that everything is in place and ready to go on time.
- Select any wine you will serve with the meal ahead of time and have it out ready.
- Plan ahead as to whether you will have assigned seating, or guests can choose to sit where they want. If you want some control put out place cards.
When your guests first arrive
Plan what your guests will do when they first arrive. Will they be sitting around waiting for the first course to start? Plan on having some “nibbles” and appetizers perhaps set out ready for them, and have some drink selections ready for them when they first arrive. Introduce your guests to each other if they don’t know each other, therefore they can ‘entertain’ themselves to a certain extent getting to know each other whilst you do your final prep.
- You may want to plan on having your appetizers set out as ‘nibbles’ as your guests are waiting for dinner to be served, to avoid serving a first course at the dinner table.
- Allocate an area for your guests coats and bags to be placed.
- If guests bring wine or other gifts, try to remember who brought what.
Getting your house prepared
Unless you are planning on giving a house tour, you probably only need to focus on the main floor that the dinner party will be held on to tidy up and clean. Getting the house ready for guests can be one of the most stressful things, so plan on just getting just the rooms ready that will be seen. I say this with experience – once when we threw a dinner party I asked my husband for help in getting the house ready, and he promptly went downstairs to the basement and cleaned up his work bench!
Your guests will need to use the bathroom somewhere, so allocate a bathroom for your guests to use during the dinner party. Make sure there are fresh towels laid out and there is enough hand soap and toilet roll in that particular bathroom.
Put all pets away if possible. Your guests may be dog lovers, but do they really want your dog nudging them and sitting by them begging for food during dinner?
Above all else however, just remember that your guests are not likely to be coming over to judge you, your cooking and your home. They are coming over for a nice meal and good conversation with friends. So try to enjoy it!