How to Throw a Dinner Party to Impress
Throwing a great dinner party is a lot like hosting a business or social dinner at a restaurant; the small things can make or break your success. And while most people have the best of intentions, they just don’t know the little, thoughtful things that will elevate their parties from OK to outstanding— the things that create a lovely and comfortable experience, and a lasting impression of graciousness and thoughtfulness.
Do you want your guests to be impressed and have a lovely time at your dinner party? Follow these simple tips to make your next dinner party a success!
- Prepare in advance. Your guests come to your party to spend time with you, not to entertain themselves while you clatter in the kitchen. If your dinner dishes are elaborate, prepare early so you will have minimal work to conclude during the party. Otherwise, choose an easy yet delicious menu that can be put together in advance and finish in the oven.
- Greet your guests on arrival. Many hosts skip this seemingly obvious step, especially if they are busy in the kitchen or with other guests. But don’t let anyone else tend the front door! Answering the door yourself is a small, personalized gesture that sets the right environment for your guests. Take hostess gifts and coats, and converse slightly to ensure your guests feel welcome and connected with someone they know.
A quick note about pets: The doorbell and fresh faces can excite many pets, but ensure your furry friends do not bombard arriving guests! If your dog is like mine (a little too excited to see who’s coming to “play”), best to keep Fido in a safe place and consider bringing him out after things settle down.
- Set a gorgeous table. I have never been the best cook, so my mom taught me to set a pretty table. I also learned that “pretty” is not necessarily “expensive,” and that the most beautiful or interesting presentation pieces are often things you already have. For instance, make use of glass jars with colorfully wrapped candies, or set a basket of lemons and limes or a row of simple, single-stemmed flowers in bud vases. Beyond decorations, place cards play a practical and aesthetic purpose. For an extra touch, provide a menu for the dinner on a printout or even on a chalkboard. Your guests will find this very helpful and impressive, plus you can gracefully address any dietary restrictions.
- Build music and mood. A fun way to break the ice and get your guests involved is to ask ahead of time for a couple of their favorite songs. Including these songs in your party playlist adds an extra touch to connect people through music. Just ensure your music adds to the atmosphere of the party and does not detract because it is so loud!
- Show the loo some love. Most guests will visit the restroom at least once during your party, so don’t forget about this room! Paper hand towels add a special touch and are so much more sanitary for your guests. Check in now and then to refill your paper products. And always ensure a nice candle is burning or that room spray is available.
- Offer signature cocktails and beverages. After taking your guests’ coats and handbags (or directing them where they may safely stow these), start the party with a beverage right away! Don’t hesitate to ask your guests ahead of time what their “drink of choice” is, and have this available. This will ensure they feel special and have an even more enjoyable time. In addition to alcoholic beverages, you should also offer a nonalcoholic option, and as an extra touch, try offering a signature cocktail.
- Consider special dietary needs. Speaking of asking guests their drink preferences, also ask if they have dietary restrictions. You do not want to serve lasagna and bread to a gluten-sensitive guest! This article can help you accommodate guests with dietary restrictions.
Note to guests: If you are invited to a party and have special dietary needs, it is your responsibility to tell the hosts (if they haven’t read this and don’t know to ask). It is gracious to offer to bring a dish that you can eat.
- Serve up appetizers. It is always best to offer appetizers when guests are drinking and you are putting the last-minute touches on dinner. Remember, many guests have rushed to your event and are starving, and cocktails plus an empty stomach does not make for a good party guest! Ensure your appetizers are bite size and easy to eat, and that small napkins and plates are available.
- Prepare plenty of food. Nothing is worse than when a host does not have enough food, or it appears you do not have enough food. You want your guests to feel comfortable to partake with an ample serving. If there doesn’t seem to be enough food, guests will feel uncomfortable.
- Offer dessert. The last and most memorable course is dessert, so ensure you round off the occasion nicely. Always offer coffee with dessert, alongside a variety of sweeteners and creamers.
- Wind down. An ideal party has a beginning, a middle, and an end—I hope guests are reading this, as you do not want to overstay your welcome, especially when the host has all that cleaning to do! At this point in the evening, you (the host) might mellow out the music as a cue you are winding down the party and it is time to say good-bye. It is a gracious gesture to give your guests a small gift to take home, depending on the formality of your party. I love to dip pretzels in white and dark chocolate, and wrap them up in a simple container with a ribbon that matches the party’s color scheme. Whatever you do, make it memorable!
As we enter into the biggest entertaining time of the year, these tips will ensure you have a great time, and your guests have a great time and feel special and impressed!