Gatherings shouldn’t be just for holidays like Friendsgiving, Super Bowl Sunday, or Christmas. Sometimes you need a good old-fashioned dinner party. The kind of party where the music is playing softly in the background, dim lighting extends throughout your home, and people are standing around laughing and talking while sipping on cocktails and having hors d’oeuvres.
We’ve put together some steps you can take to throw that dinner party and be able to enjoy it. Since we’re only in the planning stage, we’re going to use the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, Why (and How) problem-solving technique.
You can’t very well have a dinner party without knowing who is going to be able to make it. Not only is it a who do you invite, but also a how many should you invite. You want to make sure whoever you invite will get along and you want to make sure you have room for everyone.
Are they all going to sit at the table? Will they sit at the counter? Will they sit in the living room on pillows, picnic-style? Confirm you can accommodate everyone you invite.
You’ve been thinking about hosting this dinner party so you probably have a pretty good idea of what recipes you would like to cook. After you figure out who you would like to invite, think about what each person eats. Find out if they have dietary restrictions such as allergies, who is vegan, who is vegetarian, and so forth.
The last thing you want to do is throw a party where someone with a dairy allergy can’t have the dip or the salad dressing, or worse yet, they can’t have the crème brûlée!
You definitely don’t want to have a party on Sunday because, well, it’s Sunday. You and your guests may have to work Monday morning. Tuesday, you’re still trying to get a grip on the week.
Wednesday or Thursday may be happy hour dates (and discussing throwing a dinner party). Friday, people want to just finish the work week and start their weekend which makes Saturday an ideal time for a dinner party. It will also give you time to grocery shop, prep, decorate, and do last-minute tasks.
Depending on your space, you could have it outside, like a garden party, or inside at the dining table. You may need to move furniture around and do a little rearranging. Do a practice run of where to place furniture and check the flow of people, food, and drinks. The last thing you need is that couple stuck in the corner who can’t reach the food, or need a refill, or need to use the bathroom and everyone has to shift to let them out.
You’re throwing this party because you want to be around good friends, inspire laughter, and celebrate life in general. Unless of course, you also have a special occasion you would like to celebrate. Either way, it’s great to have people over and share your home, your food, and enjoy each other’s company.
You have some rough ideas on the party including who will attend, what you’re having, when it is tentatively scheduled, where it will be, and why. Now comes the time for list-making!
- Plan out the menu. Create a rough draft of what you would like to make. This will change slightly once you confirm guests. Do you want specific cocktails, drinks, or wine? Do you want everyone to bring something? We’re creating the rough draft menu now because guests will inevitably ask what’s for dinner.
- Send out invitations or announcements. Not everyone will be receptive to the same invite. You know those ones that don’t RSVP or don’t open their emails…Make your list of guests and determine how they will receive their invite. You can send text messages, emails, you can set up Evites, and you can even set up a Facebook Event.
- Confirm any food restrictions or allergies
- Confirm the date, time, and location
- Let them know in the invitation whether you would like them to contribute a dish or beverage.
- Discuss dress code, if any.
- Ask for help from a guest or two for the day of the event. They can help prep and decorate.
- Create your lists. You are going to need a few To-Do lists to help you be organized and stay on track.
- Refine your grocery list
- Double-check your beverage list, including having plenty of ice on hand
- Plot out a seating chart
- Decide on a theme, decorations, when to pick them up, or if you need to rent any items.
- Shopping. You don’t want to do everything the day of the party because that is when you’ll be busy putting the final touches on everything. Instead, plan to purchase your grocery and beverage items 2 to 3 days in advance. Be mindful of items that will perish, those you may want or need to pick up the morning of your event. If some of your food will hold a day or two, now would be a good time to cook those dishes and set them aside so all you have to do is reheat it.
- Clean your space. Over the course of the days leading up to the event, clean. If you clean now, you won’t be doing it last minute. Now would be a good time to test out any furniture moving to make sure the flow works. Decide what dishes you are going to use. Set aside any decorations, candles, napkins, and glassware.
- What to wear. Pick out your clothes the night before, make sure everything is clean, ironed, and ready to wear.
- The big event. The day is going to be filled with various tasks. Luckily you have your lists, and hopefully some assistance.
- Put anything that requires to be cold on ice first thing.
- Begin prepping the food. You can plate just as the party begins.
- While you are waiting for the food to cook, bake, roast, or cool, you can decorate the space. It’s a good time to lay everything out.
- Clean your home as you go. You don’t want to prepare everything then at the last minute have to clean all the dishes, sweep, vacuum, or mop right before everyone shows up. It will save you time, and it will ensure you don’t have a huge mess at the end of the night.
- Grab any last-minute items such as perishables or missing items.
- Empty the trash bin and place a couple of extra bins around the room.
- After everything is prepped, now is the time to shower, shave, and get dressed. Roughly an hour before guests arrive.
- Once you are presentable, you can lay out your appetizers and any other foods not requiring to be cold or hot, prepare the cocktails, and open wine to breathe.
- Be a good host. Being a good host means that you make sure you show your hospitality to everyone.
- Mingle with each of your guests
- Make introductions to people that don’t know each other
- Because you prepped and decorated ahead of time, all you have to worry about is replenishing food and drinks.
- Throughout the night, place dishes in the dishwasher, the sink filled with soapy water, or a tub filled with soapy water. This will make dish duty a flash.
- Ending the night. As you bid farewell to your guests, thank them for attending. If they brought anything, thank them for their contribution.
- Decide whether to clean at the end of the night or let it wait until morning.
- Any leftover food should be put into storage containers and placed in the refrigerator or pantry.
- Run the dishwasher as you clean up the bigger items.
- Empty the trash so it doesn’t smell overnight.
- Leave the sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping to the morning.
It was a lot of work but it paid off. You just had a successful dinner party. Now is the perfect time to change into your loungers, relax before going to bed, and maybe have a nightcap. You deserve it. Job well done.
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