How to host your first dinner party like a pro
It can be stressful to plan a dinner party, especially if you have never hosted a party at your home. How do you decorate the dining room? What do you serve? You want to make sure your guests have a fun time, but it’s important not to make the hosting experience too stressful. Luckily, we have compiled five easy, simple tips for how to prepare the best dinner party your friends will ever attend.
Make your guest list
It’s your first dinner party, so go easy on yourself. Inviting four to six guests is a good starting point. Keep in mind that you have to feed your guests, so you don’t want to invite more people than you can cook for. But who should you invite? Generally, a dinner party is considered more intimate than a regular party. It allows for more conversation, so invite friends who are familiar with each other. They don’t have to be best friends but make sure they know each other. You don’t want the party to be awkward.
Make sure you invite your guests about three weeks to a month in advance to the party’s date. That’s enough time for invitees to clear their schedules, but it’s also not too far away for people to forget about the party. When you invite them, ask for any dietary restrictions as you plan the menu.
Get creative with the menu
The menu is perhaps the most important thing to plan for your dinner party. You don’t need to panic over the menu. Cook meals you’ve tried before so you’re familiar with what you’re preparing for your guests. You can test the food a week in advance, timing how long it takes to prepare the food, so you’ll know how much time you’ll spend in the kitchen on the day of your party.
Plan to serve an appetizer to make a good first impression. While you can prepare any appetizer you prefer, holistic nutritionist Brittany Mullins recommends offering a simple veggie tray. Your guests can casually snack on the vegetables as soon as they arrive. It’s not a filling appetizer, but it’s still a good snack before dinner.
“Veggie trays are super easy, and everyone loves to have a healthy snack to munch on before dinner,” Mullins said. “I keep the veggie platters exciting by finding unique, seasonal produce, like endive lettuce or watermelon radishes.” Mullins also offers a guacamole dip to pair with the veggie tray.
Reviewing the dinner menu, be creative. People love pasta and nothing is better than classic spaghetti and marinara, but why not offer a new pasta your guests have never seen before? Blogger and cookbook author Erin Gleeson recommends incorporating color and fresh produce in your dinner party dishes.
For example, she recommends a snap pea pasta that combines roasted sugar snap peas and asparagus in a warm pot of al dente penne pasta. She adds freshly chopped basil and cilantro, olive oil, and shaved Parmesan. Not only will the dish look great on your dinner table, but your guests will simply devour the satisfying flavors.
Set the right mood
Don’t only focus on the dinner menu, but also the table decorations. A few simple spruces make a difference in how your guests feel at your party. Decorate the dinner table with fresh flowers. You can also add light-scented candles or a string of fairy lights across the wall or ceiling to help set the mood. In addition, dim the lamps to help your guests feel relaxed.
Don’t forget about the music you might want to play during the dinner party. You can use your laptop to play music. Make a song playlist that is appropriate for every guest. Keep the volume low and in the background. The music shouldn’t overpower the mood of the dinner party.
Plan in advance
No one wants to feel stressed on the day of a party. Start preparing early, focusing on three key areas: kitchen prep, house prep, and mental prep. For kitchen and food preparation, make a list of the ingredients you need for the meal. Give yourself enough time in advance to the party to make possibly two trips to the store (in case you forget something after the first grocery shopping trip). In addition, set aside one day of your schedule to prepare the food for the party. If there is anything you can prepare the night before the party, specifically the dessert, go ahead and do that. It will save you some time and stress on the day of the party.
To prepare your house for the party, all you have to do is clean. Take one evening to clean your home. While you don’t have to clean every room, make sure your living space, kitchen, and guest bathroom are clean. You want your guests to feel welcome in your home. A clean home is the best way to be inviting.
Last but not least, don’t forget about your mental preparation. If you’re feeling nervous about hosting your first dinner party, be aware of those feelings. Take time to get calm (whether it’s meditation, reading a book, or listening to a Podcast), ground yourself, and remember that your guests are your friends. They aren’t strangers.
Remember to have fun
Your friends are attending your dinner party because they want to spend time with you. If you have good friends (and you should), they aren’t going to judge you. As long as you have a nicely decorated dinner table, a well-planned dinner meal, and delicious food, your guests are going to have a good time at the party. Don’t forget to have fun with them. It’s your party. It should be fun!