Dinner parties are an excellent opportunity to gather family and friends around the table to enjoy one another’s company. You don’t have to wait for an event like Thanksgiving to host a memorable meal. Use these tips to plan a dinner party any time of the year.
Choose Your Dinner Party Theme
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While not all dinner parties feature a detailed theme, having some idea as to the style and ambiance you want will help immeasurably with the planning. If you enjoy the immersive experience of a highly themed party, consider a playful pick like:
- Nights in Morocco
- Farm-to-Table Dining
- New England Crab Boil
- Breakfast for Dinner
- Mediterranean Feast
- Tropical Luau
- Sushi Party
- Mexican Fiesta
Having a dinner party theme clearly define the type of menu you’ll have and offer some inspiration for little extras like centerpieces, invitations, or activities you might include in the evening.
Set the Menu
The menu is the focal point of your dinner party, so you should select your dishes carefully. This is where themes come in handy. If you’re hosting a Moroccan dinner party, you’ll want to include dishes like harira soup, lamb or chicken tagine, and couscous with b’stilla for dessert. If you’re having a luau, fill your menu with fresh island-inspired flavors like baked mahi-mahi, roast pork, coconut shrimp, and tropical fruit salad.
Consider how you want your guests to dine. Are you setting up a buffet? Will you pass your dishes around the table family-style? Are you serving a plated meal one course at a time? Perhaps you’ll set up a prep bar that enables guests to customize their dishes, such as a taco bar at a Mexican fiesta or a waffle bar if you’re serving breakfast for dinner.
Choose at least a main dish, two sides, and a dessert for a well-rounded meal. Adding a soup or salad is an easy way to transform a simple dinner into a three-course feast. While you want to offer a well-rounded selection of dishes, don’t overcomplicate your menu or you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed on the night of your party.
Prepare the Table
You don’t need to decorate your entire home, but you should pay careful attention to your table when planning a dinner party. Cloth napkins and napkin rings will go a long way toward enhancing your table settings. Your choice of dinnerware will set a certain tone for your meal as well. Colorful plastic water glasses add a playful air to your table, while cut-glass goblets make the same beverage undeniably elegant.
Make sure your table has some form of centerpiece, no matter how simple. A few candles will add a dim, intimate glow to the setting. Small potted succulents are a natural choice that will enhance your farm-to-table dinner. Keep your centerpiece low so guests can easily see over it to converse throughout the meal.
Perk Up the Home
Add a few special touches around your home to perk things up for your dinner party. If you have a small apartment with minimal space to mingle, consider moving a few items out and into a storage unit temporarily for the party. Keeping a small personal storage space available can be a lifesaver when you want to expand your entertaining space.
Dress up your home for the party with small touches like a special soundtrack catered to the dinner. Stick to instrumental pieces that will fade easily into the background. A soundtrack of Hawaiian steel guitar music is perfect for your luau, while a mariachi band will lend the appropriate air to a fiesta. Give your entertaining space a quick once-over to make sure carpets are vacuumed, surfaces are dusted, and clutter is put away. Check the bathroom for extra toilet paper and soap to ensure everyone’s comfort.
Dinner Party Tips: Plan Your Timeline
Chart out a timeline for the day of your dinner party. Work backward from the time you want your guests to sit down to the meal. Figure out when you should begin preparation for each dish, accounting for the time it will take to dice vegetables, carve meats, cook rice, bake casseroles, and allow each item to cool to a comfortable eating temperature.
Setting your prep times down on paper will also help you coordinate items that need to go into the oven together or simmer at the same time. Working out these details ahead of time will save you from last-minute disasters where half of your dinner is getting cold while the rest continues to heat up.
With a few smart planning strategies and dinner party tips, you can flawlessly host a dinner party that will leave your guests feeling satisfied. Once your planning is complete, remember to settle down to the table and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Don’t stress through the feast – bask in the glow of your hard work.