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10 Tips for Hosting a Dinner Party

It’s one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday night… gathering with friends and family around my dinner table, enjoying good food and good company.

Hosting a dinner party can feel a little overwhelming at times, though, which is the last thing anyone wants to feel on a special night. A little advanced planning makes all the difference. Follow my 10 tips to smooth the way for an enjoyable night from start to finish.

1. First, get the low down

After your guests have accepted your invitation, the first thing to do is ask about any food aversions or allergies. It would be quite the sticky situation if you’re ready to sit down to dinner and your friend, Jackie, mentions she has just gone gluten-free… and you’re about to serve her lasagna and crusty bread! It’s easy to work around most dietary restrictions with advanced knowledge, and of course your goal is to offer something they will thoroughly enjoy.

2. Plan your menu

Once you have a handle on any restrictions, decide on a meal. Your guests may ask what they can contribute, so this is the time you should mull whether you will take them up on their offer. This is completely up to you… Would you like them to bring a dish, a bottle of wine or nothing at all? My only stipulation is that the host is absolutely responsible for the main course. It’s a no-no for invited guests to do the heavy lifting.

3. Tidy up

Make sure all areas of your house that guests will see or be in are picked up. No need to do a full house clean from top to bottom, however your floors should be vacuumed, and the bathroom should be spick-and-span, including a fresh hand towel.

4. Start with a clean slate

Make your life easier later by taking the trash out before the party starts, and making sure the dishwasher is cleaned and emptied. Not only will this ensure you have enough plates and utensils for the evening’s meal, but cleanup will run more smoothly if these two tasks are taken care of.

5. Set the table

This is something so easy to do ahead, yet I’ve seen it not attended to countless times. When it’s time to eat, the last thing you’ll want to be distracted with is scrambling to get napkins, forks, knives, glasses and water on the table. Set it in the afternoon, or even the night before! And then check it off your list.

6. Tick tock, knock knock

Expect that guests could show up at the time for which they are invited. Some may show up “casually late” for dinner, however it’s best to be prepared. Plan on being out of the shower, dressed and have beverages ready and hors d’oeuvres out at the designated time. If you’ve asked someone to bring the hors d’oeuvres, make sure they are punctual guests. Don’t give this responsibility to someone that you know to be perpetually late.

7. Offer your guests a drink as soon as they arrive

Throughout the evening, offer to refill their glass if you notice it is empty, but don’t be pushy about it. Guests may feel uncomfortable asking for another glass of wine… but will feel equally uncomfortable turning down multiple offers for a top off. Make sure water is readily available.

8. Do ahead, do ahead!

Don’t spend the whole evening in the kitchen. My favorite dinner party dishes are ones that I can assemble ahead of time, and can pop in the oven or keep at a low simmer while we are enjoying snacks and cocktails. Many recipes will instruct you on how to prep them in advance, and dessert is always one that can and should be made in advance.

9. Don’t make ‘em wait

Serve dinner roughly 45 minutes from when your guests arrive, and no more than an hour.

10. Do it your way

You’ll find your own style and approach to hosting dinner parties. These tips will help make it seamless, but add your own flair or special touches.

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