A dinner party should be a time for good food, drink, laughter, and conversation rather than culinary disaster or arguments, so how can you avoid these and other problems? Simply follow these eight tips to ensure a successful evening.
Send out invitations.
You might think sending out invitations is rather old fashioned, but in this electronic age, there's no need to write them out by hand and post them; it's easy to invite people by text or email. Include an RSVP, so you'll be certain everyone has received and read their invitation. You'll know how many to cater for too.
Be precise on your invitation.
Specify a day and date. A vague statement, such as next Wednesday or the Friday after next, could be misinterpreted. Always provide a preferred time for arrival too, to avoid being caught at a critical step in food preparation by an early guest. Send out a quick reminder to all guests nearer your dinner party date.
Check whether any of your guests have special dietary requirements.
Some people are picky eaters, and others may follow special diets for medical, ethical, or religious reasons. A good host accommodates these needs. Ask about special diets on your invitations.
Aim to be a good host, but don't be a martyr.
For small groups, you'll probably be able to cope with meal preparation, but don't try to cater for a large group all on your own. If you're catering for many guests, don't be afraid to buy in some pre-prepared food, or perhaps ask guests to bring a dish with them. You could provide a main course, for instance, and guests bring starters and desserts. If you opt for a bring-a-dish style meal, it's worth setting a theme so you don't end up with foods that don't complement each other.
Keep your menu simple.
Don't be tempted to try out new recipes, there's too much risk of disaster. Instead, prepare simple but tasty dishes that you've made successfully before. Meals that can be made in advance and won't be ruined by rewarming are a good idea. One-pot meals work well; bring out your slow cooker.
Don't skimp on drinks.
Offer red wine, and both sweet and dry white wines, properly chilled. If you're celebrating, a bottle or two of something sparkling always goes down well too. Don't forget to cater for guests who prefer beer, and for those who don't drink or are driving. Offer one or two soft drinks options, and always provide jugs of water on the table. If you're not sure what to buy, it's quite acceptable to ask guests to bring a bottle of what they like, so be sure to put a request on the invitation. To complete your evening, serve coffee after dinner, or if you're feeling extra generous, liqueurs.
Put some effort into presentation.
It's said that people eat with their eyes first, so food presentation is an important factor in a successful dinner party. Decorate your table, even if you're having a buffet. Use your best dinner service. Polish cutlery and glasses and provide napkins and placemats. Flowers or candles make for a perfect centerpiece for your table.
Devise a seating plan.
To encourage varied conversation and keep the peace, strategically arrange your guests around the dinner table. Alternating the sexes is one simple way to do this, making sure you keep people who tend to quarrel as far apart as possible. Use place cards so everyone knows where to sit.
A dinner party is meant to be an enjoyable event, so don't mar the experience by making avoidable mistakes, such as serving meat to a vegetarian or running out of wine. Follow the simple aforementioned tips to make your dinner party an occasion to remember.