When it comes to hosting a dinner party practice can certainly help to make perfect, however if you are indeed a hosting novice, your lack of experience needn’t put you off… Particularly when the upcoming lifting of lockdown restrictions means that with any luck dinner parties of any size and sort can once again become the norm. So, to help give confidence to the dinner party newbies, or refresh the minds of the out-of-practice experienced hosts, we have put together tips based on our own experience and advise picked up from other well-seasoned experts.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
Across the board, it seems unanimous that preparation is absolute key to a successful dinner party. The preparation spans from the decision to hold the dinner right up until the first guest’s arrival. To begin, the best way forward is to make a list of all the preparation that needs done. This list will include creating a guest list, invitations, your dinner party menu ideas, themes and/or tablescape and decoration, and finally, entertainment. Doing all of the latter ahead of time will seriously reduce potential for things to go awry and make the whole experience more relaxing and enjoyable for you and your guests.
Choosing the guestlist
Naturally, creating the guest list is the first major job of holding a dinner party. It will have the greatest impact on the decisions regarding all other aspects of the evening to follow. The desired size of the dinner party will of course also affect who you would like to invite. For example, for smaller dinner parties of less than six people, it is generally easier to stick to a group that are in some way familiar with each other or you are confident get along. The small chance that a group did not get along, or the conversation would not flow (albeit very unlikely if you are a well-prepared host and set the perfect ambience), can be tricky to recover from within a smaller group. Meanwhile, should you wish to invite more people, it can be fun to mix it up a bit. Often the most interesting and memorable dinner parties are those that mix people of different ages, or from different circles of friends.
How to invite
Once the guestlist has be chosen, you must decide on the tone you would like to set for the evening – will it be a casual or formal affair? Of course, this too will greatly impact the rest of the decisions to be made about your dinner party. When this decision is made the first barrier to cross is the invitations. If you’ve opted for a casual evening there is nothing wrong with inviting your guest via email or text. However, should the evening be more formal, a written or printed invitation will quickly indicate this to your guest. Similarly, a written invitation should give a sense of immediacy to RSVP. It also provides a better opportunity to give the guests an idea of what to expect from the evening – canapes, themes, whether it will be a sit-down meal etc.
The next obstacle to tackle will be the menu. The menu style will vary greatly depending on the tone of dinner party you have opted for. Where a formal tone has been set, you might want to pull the boat out providing welcome drinks, canapes, and a three-course meal perhaps followed by a selection of cheeses and tea and coffee. This sort of meal will however require more time and effort in terms of presentation. In which case where possible there is nothing wrong with outsourcing elements of the meal – such as by hiring caterers to prepare the food for you beforehand or to cook for you throughout the evening. Meanwhile, for a casual evening, sharing platters or batch-style cooking might be more appropriate with some snacks presented in nice bowls for those peckish before dinner. A ‘help-yourself’ style of meal can be a good way of making your guests feel extra comfortable, allowing them to choose their own portions and not feel rude if they choose not to have something. Whichever style of meal you go for, we highly recommend that you choose a meal you feel comfortable and confident in cooking to a high standard. It is much better to dazzle them with an old favourite than risking starvation if something new goes totally wrong!
Tablescape and decoration
The meal may very well help you decide on the ambience you want create when decorating the social areas or simply how you lay the table. Exotic aromas and brightly coloured food might entice you to spice up the area with bold decorations. A staple table decoration is a lovely arrangement of flowers but do make sure that they do not get in the way of your guests’ views of one another, or that their smell is so potent that it takes away from the meal. Aside from flowers you can play with the table decoration using smart or fun candles and candle sticks. Mixing up the shapes and colours of items on the table can give it a more interesting and dynamic appearance. You can also get creative with place names as personally a seating plan is a must to make sure people mingle outside of their immediate comfort zones. A useful and stylish addition to present this plan is the Noble Macmillan Table Planner pictured below.
Last but not least, the entertainment
Last but not least, you must think about how you plan to keep your guests entertained. Music is core to the entertainment and creating the desired atmosphere. The best way to avoid stressing over music choices on the night is to make a few playlists for different moods before the event. This way you have some lively but not intrusive music while your guests mingle and eat, while keeping your party music for some after dinner fun. Equally, as suppliers of a fine selections of luxury games, we have a wide variety of fabulous games to keep them entertained. You may wish to impress them with our gorgeous Luxury Leather Card Box Games when someone predictably suggests a cards-based game, or surprise them with a luxury version of the ever-popular game, Perudo. You can find out more about our games collection in our previous blog post, ‘Games to Save for a Rainy Day’.