Throwing a dinner party for friends and family is something that everyone should try at least once. Going out for meals and special occasions has its appeal and advantages. But with bad weather, overpriced taxis, and disappointing meals, a home event can be much more satisfying. If you have never thrown a dinner party before, you might initially consider the process a bit overwhelming. Even the word “dinner party” sounds intimidating.
It conjures images of opulent soirees and elegant gowns. Or elaborate food and sophisticated conversation. But it’s important to remember that dinner party is just a term. It can be whatever you want it to be! For most people, a contemporary dinner party is inviting, laid-back, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you choose friendly, positive guests and plan ahead of time, your dinner party will be a success. A few minor setbacks are more or less inevitable. Certain dishes might burn a little or someone may spill a drink. But if you stay relaxed and just enjoy the atmosphere and the effort rather than the result, everyone will have a great time.
If you’re planning a dinner party, a few helpful extra tips can be a great source of inspiration and encouragement.
Prep Ahead of Time
This tip doesn’t just involve the logistics of the event. It is important to make sure that you know who is coming, that you have enough dinner plates and so on. But any food preparation that can be done in advance of the event is also going to help things go smoothly. Many desserts can be prepared the night before, for example, as can marinades. Dips or drinks can be laid out well in advance such as in the afternoon of the party. Even adding a few store-bought snacks like crisps and crackers to the mix saves time on making everything freshly. The main event is the dinner, so don’t feel that you have to make everything from scratch. Remember not to get too carried away with appetisers though. Leave everyone enough room for the meal you’ve worked so hard on.
One Pot Meals
Serving a meal that can be cooked in one pot can be an excellent choice for your first attempt at a dinner party. There are incredibly convenient and flavoursome, save time, and also make a great centrepiece for the table. One pot meals help to create a relaxed, familiar atmosphere. They often smell inviting and comforting and remind everyone of wholesome home-cooked meals. Getting the guests to self-serve with a ladle also helps keep the conversation and sense of fun going. A couple of tasty, unusual salads alongside with some fresh bread and butter goes with every dish. Have enough dishes to create a sense of abundance and fun, but don’t feel that every inch has to be covered. There are many excellent, reliable recipes online for bakes, stews, and casseroles. Don’t be tempted to get too hung up on presentation either. Fussy food is quite old-fashioned and can inhibit your guests from feeling comfortable and relaxed. Better to go for cosy, wholesome and delicious.
Many cooks roll their eyes at the thought of dietary needs and preferences. But it is important to cater for all your guests and not to make them feel uncomfortable. If any of your guests have allergies or religious observations, do make sure to check in advance. A gentle email to all guests asking if they could quietly send you any details will suffice. Everyone will feel valued and involved. Never make anyone feel that they are a burden or the whole atmosphere of the night will become strained. If a few of your guests are vegetarian, for example, why not consider an entirely vegetarian night? The dietary choice is so common these days that many of the recipes and meals are exciting, filling, and delicious. They are healthy too, leaving you more room to indulge in the wine or dessert! Many vegan and vegetarian dishes are loved by everyone, including meat-eaters.
Double-Check Your Equipment
Make sure that you have equipment that you can rely on. Stainless steel cookware is durable and certain food processors and blenders are more reliable than others. Be sure that you’ve checked everything is clean and working a few days before the actual event. Being let down by an equipment malfunction can be bitterly disappointing. Disasters occasionally happen but don’t leave it to chance. Assemble your equipment, check utensils for faults, have plenty of plates, cutlery and chairs and all will go smoothly.
Don’t Be A Hero!If your guests arrive and you are running a bit behind schedule, don’t panic! Be honest, relax, and ask for a bit of help if you need it. Guests love to chop or set water to boil, pour extra drinks, and so on. It’s a relaxed way to make everyone feel welcome and get back on schedule at the same time. No-one minds eating a little later if there are canapes, drinks, and a good atmosphere. Always let your guests know if you are running a bit behind. It offers them the opportunity to offer to help, and reassures anyone who is feeling ravenous! Don’t be tempted to become despondent. Stay calm and relaxed, and you will work faster anyway.