Hosting a Memorable Dinner Party
Dinner parties can be difficult to get absolutely right, but it’s never for want of trying. When you throw one, you want your guests to enjoy themselves and relax, but there is no doubt that as the host, the chances are that you could become fairly stressed during the run-up.
There are plenty of ways to reduce that tension, if not do away with it pretty much altogether, and the main way is to plan your event carefully and leave yourself enough time so that everything doesn’t become rushed. Great dinner parties don’t just happen; the best are crafted so that guests will enjoy all aspects of them and, when they get home, will talk with partners and friends about how memorable the evening was.
Here are a few tips to help you host a memorable dinner party:
Pay attention to the guest list
You may be comfortable just inviting a few close friends, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t, but if you are more adventurous, you could combine a dinner party with them and some of your newer friends or people that you would like to know better. Most people enjoy chatting to people that they haven’t met before, and when good food and drink is part of that social gathering, it helps break down inhibitions. Whether or not business relationships or new social friendships develop, guests will appreciate the effort that you have taken to make things interesting.
Unless you want to be really formal, you can use your food platters as décor for the table. A linen tablecloth adds class, as do linen napkins – not paper, though, as it lowers the tone that you are trying to create. Think about putting tea lights down the middle of the table, but don’t use scented candles as they could set off someone’s allergy as well as becoming somewhat overpowering. Scatter a few leaves and flowers around, perhaps with some unexpected items such as rose hips and acorns, to create an attractive addition to the look of your table.
Plan the seating
When you have more than six guests, you should put place cards down. It means that you can seat your guests strategically and give those who don’t know each other a chance to strike up conversation. Splitting up couples gives them an opportunity to get to know new people, and who knows what friendships might develop?
In a way, it is not necessarily what you serve for drinks but what you serve them in. High-quality glassware is a sign that you take seriously the types of glasses in which you want your guests to enjoy their drinks. Whether it is cocktails or bubbly for hors-d’oeuvres, wine for the dinner itself or port glasses at the end of the meal, guests will appreciate the quality of the glasses they hold. Champagne flute glasses that are elegant and comfortable to grasp are one of the many options when choosing what you will serve.
When it comes to wine, though decanters may look very attractive on the table, some people like to know what they are drinking. You can tell them, of course, but sometimes seeing the bottles of quality wine adds to the enjoyment of the evening as a whole. Of course, you can use decanters if you want your guests to guess what the wine is, but beware of using them to pass off cheap options for those whose palates are quite sophisticated!
You should always provide non-alcoholic drinks options, especially for guests who may be driving home later in the evening.
The secret to reducing any stress is not to make things too complicated on the food front. You aren’t trying to be a three-starred Michelin chef (unless, of course, you are). Simple bite-sized hors d’oeuvres always go down well with a cocktail or a glass of champagne at the beginning of the evening, and think more of a family-style menu than “fine dining.” A tasty one-pot dish such as beef bourguignon or a delicious fish stew with warm crusty bread or baked potatoes will give you less time in the kitchen and more time to spend with your guests. Also, check dietary requirements; it’s standard in restaurants, and you don’t want anyone to feel excluded.
Take your time
Dinner parties shouldn’t be rushed, either for the preparation or the event itself. Give yourself time to plan and think through the food, drink, glassware and plates to give your guests a memorable dinner party.
Article by Lee Ralph