You decide to host a dinner party at your home and several guests have RSVP’d that they’re coming. While you’re excited, you also know this means that they’ll be judging you. The idea of hosting sounded fun weeks ago, but now you’re panicking because, “A” you’ve never thrown a dinner party, “B” you’ve thrown a dinner party but it flopped, or “C” you’re ready to party but your house is not.
Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to make sure you’re prepared the next time you decide to host a dinner party in your home. In this article, I cover entertaining and hosting tips for creating the perfect dining room for you and your guests. I’ll also review the one thing that most people either struggle with or dread, displaying proper etiquette.
Entertain with Elegance
Be classy. We’ve all heard this at one time or another, but how exactly do you do it and not come off as awkward or insincere. When you’re entertaining in your home the main focus is your guests. Your primary job as a hostess is to serve your guests and make sure they’re happy. Be generous and show that you care. Remember to be visible at all times, greet your guests and be on your best behavior.
So, what makes a good party? There are four things that you can guarantee people will notice if they’re not done correctly. To ensure you’re prepared, ask yourself these four questions as you start to plan:
- Is there adequate space to mingle and move around?
- Is there enough food to make sure your guests are well fed?
- Is there a well-stocked bar and do your guests have easy access to the drinks?
- Are you prepared with appropriate topics to spark conversation (Hint: No politics or religion)?
Start preparing checklists around these questions and you’re sure to feel more at ease. Remember it’s not just about impressing your guests, it’s also about the host family creating a friendly, relaxing and inviting atmosphere to spend the evening.
Create an Inviting Environment
There are many factors to take into account as you think about what environment you want to create at your next dinner party. The first thing you need to do is be ready when guests start arriving at your door. Greet them with a genuine hello, a big smile and verbally welcome them into your home. Make them feel special and appreciated that they’re taking time out of their day to spend time with you.
It’s usually a good idea to have some soft, tasteful music playing in the background to help minimize any awkward silence as guests arrive and meet each other. Candles are always a nice touch for creating a comfortable and relaxing setting. No need to rush around, but do make sure at some point you talk to everyone you’ve invited and introduce those who don’t know each other to one another.
Once again, make sure your food and drinks are accessible and timely. This means the appetizers are out (or being passed) when guests arrive, dinner is served shortly after some initial cocktails and dessert is distributed at an appropriate time so everyone can enjoy it. I can’t emphasize enough how imperative it is to have enough food and drink available throughout the party.
There are a lot of different ways you can go about your décor, but since it’s a dinner party I would suggest focusing on the centerpieces at the table. What season is it? What’s the location of the party? What are your colors? How many do you need to fill your table? How tall, wide and plush do you want the centerpieces? Are you celebrating a special occasion? These are all questions you should be asking yourself as you prepare. Also, be mindful to have tasteful decorations near any other bar or food tables. Sometimes we forget that lighting plays a big role at any event. You want lighting that’s going to help you set the mood. Check out Etsy or Pinterest for inspiration.
Set the Table in Style
She might not be your cup of tea, but Martha Stewart does know best when it comes to entertaining. If you’re unsure or need help setting your formal dining room table then get it. Do not guess. Your table setting adds to the quality of a meal as much as the food and wine.
Below are general guidelines to consider:
Food & Drink
What food and drink are you serving and what are you serving it in? Get organized by creating a detailed shopping list and cooking schedule. The time of day dictates what type of meal to serve. Go online and search for meal ideas. There are endless possibilities. Now’s not the time to experiment with a new and difficult recipe. If you’re cooking the meal, go with what you know or practice the dish ahead of time.
Some general rules of thumb:
- Let guests add any extra sauces themselves
- Always serve a meat and vegetarian option
- Consider the weather and season
- Follow your theme
- Keep it simple
- Presentation matters
If you’re catering in food make sure you calculate how much food you’ll need and place the order well ahead of time. Real Simple suggests you calculate three bottles of wine for every four guests. 30 minutes before arrival you should light any necessary candles, turn on the background music, unveil any appetizers and uncork the wine. Then take a deep breath and relax, because you’re ready for your guests to arrive!
Mind Your Manners
We’re taught please and thank you at a young age, but proper etiquette goes much deeper. It’s important that as a host you’re up to speed with behavior that’s socially acceptable at a dinner party. Not only is there dinner etiquette, but as the host you have your own set of proper etiquette responsibilities. There are eight key factors to keep in mind as you manage your dinner party and guests,
- Be Reliable
- A Catalyst
- A Leader
If you prefer to assign seating, don’t be afraid to mix together people who aren’t familiar with one another. If you’re big on seat assignments, be sure to set out place cards so there’s no confusion when guests go to sit down.
Be the hostess with the mostest, instead of the hostess who panics and begs for mercy. Review the suggestions above and take one step at a time. Appropriate planning and preparation will yield positive results. And remember, at the end of the day, have fun with it and enjoy your creation.
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