The weather is warmer, the night are getting longer - so why not make the most of it! That is, by having a dinner party:
Food, drink, friends, music, and a good conversation, throwing a dinner party is, in the end, a simple and charming blend of "directions" and "ingredients" that make for a marvelous occasion by what hosts and guests instill within the evening. A dinner party doesn't have to be something of the past, done by your grandparents to charm their neighbors with fancy recipes that don't seem to exist anymore. They can be an event to simply bring people together under a common concept - food! So to help you achieve a more flawless and possibly a Clinton Kelly approved, "freakin' fabulous" gathering, here are a set of guidelines with everything you need to know about throwing your best dinner party, stress free:
Plan In Advanced - Schedule Ahead
If there was one piece of advice I beg you to keep and practice at the end of this read is to plan - plan, plan, plan! Advanced planning will ultimately make a dinner party that much easier to pull off - how many times have you attempted to make a family dinner, holiday gathering, or party and tried to wing it at the last minute. Something is always forgotten, burned, messed up, or seemingly uncooked. Making accurate lists and giving yourself plenty of time for each task will minimize chaos and help you tackle the inevitable issues that may arise when the event draws nearer.
When attempting your dinner party, I urge you to create a schedule at least two weeks in advanced. I say this because: one, people have work schedules, and in promising that everyone will be at the party, you need to figure out when everyone is available; and two, it will ensure you that you have the supplies, food, drinks, wine, water, and whatever else you need to make sure your party runs smoothly. If you are unsure of where to start, we made things simple with this example schedule:
Two weeks Before Dinner Party
- Create your guest list, making sure you have enough dishes to serve everyone. Buy cheap but nice looking plates to accommodate if needed - you may surprised what you might find at a Goodwill or Thrift Store.
- Send out your invitations.
- Think about the atmosphere and aesthetic you’d like for the evening. Are you looking for something more classy and sophisticated? Or do you want something more laid back and rustic? Figure out what you’ll need for décor and make a list.
One week before
- Take note of all confirmations from guests
- Plan your menu, keeping in mind what ingredients are in season and what can be prepared a day before the party. Also be sure to check on the guests dietary restrictions and plan alternative meals in preparation.
- Pick up candles and any other décor (except flowers) you’ll want for the evening.
Two days before
- Pick up all the ingredients for the dinner.
- Purchase wine and any other beverages you’ll be serving, and make sure you have a good corkscrew.
- Be sure to have enough ice for all guests and any beverages to be made.
- Make a playlist (or several) to fit the mood and aesthetic of the party. If going more elegant, think of making a playlist of jazz singers like Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, or Chet Baker. If more rustic, think of going more folk or indie with singers like Joni Mitchell, Bon Iver, The Civil Wars, or even Linda Ronstadt.
The day before
- Prepare as much of the food as possible, including dessert - refrigerate anything in advanced.
- Clean up your home, especially areas where guests will be (the dining room, living room, and bathroom) and be sure the trash and the dishwasher are empty for the next day. If eating outside, remove any leaves and dirt from the space and wipe down any chairs and tables.
- Pick up flowers or other natural touches and put them in vases.
The day of
- Take it from pro chefs and prepare a mise en place, setting out all of the ingredients, sauces and garnishes you’ll need to finish your dishes. Line up small bowls and fill them with everything you’ll need. Place them on a cutting board for easier prep.
- Prepare any last dishes.
- Set up the table and any décor. All linens, table settings, glasses, place cards, and candles should be laid out at this point. If eating outside, keep everything covered if possible with another linen to prevent bugs or anything else getting onto the table setting. Remove it before guests arrive.
Two hours before
- Arrange all the food you cooked previously on the counter and pull out any pots and pans you’ll need to prepare them.
- Set up a drink and snack station for guests’ arrival with wine or an appetizer and something small to nibble on.
- Put pitchers or bottles of water on the table.
- Get dressed for the evening.
- Light candles and put on your first playlist.
- Have a glass of wine or take a moment for yourself so you’re relaxed when your guests arrive - do not stress and just have fun. That's what everything comes down to.
How to Craft a Guest List
In having another tip for crafting a dinner party, consider your guest list before you send the invitations. How many people can fit comfortably in your space? Can you prepare enough food for the number of guests you’re inviting? It is also critical to think if there anyone on your list who won’t get along with others, as you do not want any drama at your party (or maybe you do, we won't judge!). Having people who are easy-going, are good at creating conversation, and can get help out during the party can also be helpful in considering as they can help with those moments there might be an awkward silence or two.
Imagine the group you’re assembling and think about how you might seat them together as well. It might be best to break up friend groups to keep the conversation alive, but be sure to pair people with those who you think will get along easy. Be sure to get your R.S.V.P.s as soon as possible, so if some of your guests are unable to attend, you can fill the empty seats by inviting other guests with at least some notice.
The Table Setting
Look at the above photo. Take a minute to process it: open first glance, it is just a simple table setting. But with it, there is an emotion that goes behind every choice that was made into picking the decor. The stoneware plates break up the elegance of the table, giving it a more bohemian chic feel that creates a rather lovely balance. The gold silverware complements the warm tones of the plate, elevating a sense of style that promotes a chicness but in a very nontraditional way, creating a nice pop! The rosemary and flowers then bring out an added touch of color while still complementing the earth tones of the plates and silverware creating an environment that is lighthearted yet sophisticated.
I say this to you has it is important to think of your tablescape as more than just serving accouterments for food and drinks — it is, in fact, the scenery and aesthetic for the dinner that you are crafting. Your table linens, plates, silverware, glasses and decorations are visual clues to your guests. Traditional styles create a refined ambiance; a colorful mix will create a more lighthearted one.
The table is the source of environment and feel for your guest, if they see it is made with love, they will respond accordingly. It is recommended by stylists and decorators to mix styles freely, but with some common elements between place settings — no perfect sets of dishware necessary, just an artful blend of what you like and have on hand. When everything is different, it creates a certain unity. Nothing has to perfectly match, but as long as the colors blend, their is a common theme to the dishware, it can work.
For inspiration, search for images of table settings online, on Pinterest and on Instagram — there are endless ways to use dishes, napkins, place cards, candelabras, centerpieces, tablecloths and decorations to create a unique and striking tablescape.
With these tips, you can be the master of dinner parties in no time!
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