Winter is the perfect time to throw a dinner party. When the weather outside is cold and dreary, there’s something so cheerful and cozy about getting together with friends or family, opening a bottle of wine, sharing a meal and a few laughs. But if we don’t take the steps to be prepared, hosting a dinner party or any special occasion gathering can turn into a stressful ordeal before too long. But the good news is, you can still learn how to be the host with the most! Here are some helpful suggestions for home entertaining do’s, dont’s and dinner party tips.
First, let’s tackle the food.
Do – Plan your menu at least three to five days in advance. From appetizers to desserts, avoid “cook’s block” – you know the feeling – that “what’s for dinner” blank stare? Don’t wait until the last minute! Have each part of the meal planned: appetizers, dinner (sides and main entreé), dessert and beverages. Consider your guests’ dietary restrictions, appetites and palates here, too.
Do – Stick with what you know how to cook and cook well – or if you really want to branch out, explore your favorite entertaining cookbooks (like the ones from Ina Garten), check out YouTube channels, entertaining blogs and find easy recipes. Above all, keep the food simple! People prefer simple food, and it’s easier to make.
Do – Select a menu that won’t take up all your time. Don’t miss your own party by overloading yourself with complicated recipes or dishes that require a lot of prep-time and a lot of hovering over.
Don’t – Stress out! Seriously, try not to stress out. It’s a party, after all! Your guests will pick up on your anxiety and they won’t have fun, either. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a moment, breathe deeply and slow down. If you followed the steps above and chose dishes that you’re really comfortable making, this should hopefully be no problem!
Now, for the drinks.
Don’t – Fall for the complicated cocktail trend. The whole “themed-cocktail” idea, while cute, can be pretty laborious, especially for the host. Unless you’re really into mixology, avoid this potential stress!
Do – Designate a drink station! While it’s really nice of you, the host does not have to fill everyone’s drink for them. You’re there to have fun too! Choose a spot on a table or counter to put out some great bottles of wine, or load your bar cart with spirits and mixers and make ice easily accessible. It’s a great way to make your job less laborious and count on the self-sufficiency of your guests!
Last, let’s take a look at the atmosphere.
Do – Play music! Have some great music playing when your guests come into the house. A silent party can be a pretty awkward one, but so can a party that has the wrong music playing. Select music that isn’t too complicated and is well liked by most, and play it at a comfortable volume. (We love Stevie Wonder.)
Do – Decorate! Some small flower arrangements, folded cloth napkins and fancy name placecards can do wonders for a table, as well as candlelight. Keep your lights on the dim side and set the table before your guests arrive. It will look so inviting and welcoming to everyone that arrives!
Don’t – Go overboard with the decorations. Just like the menu, know that planning too much is going to stress you out. Before you dive into that adorable homemade chandelier from the YouTube tutorial you saw, take a quick step back and really consider whether or not you’re spending your limited party-prep-time wisely.
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What are your best tips for entertaining and dinner party hosting?