You Can Do It: Host a Dinner Party, Part 1

My friend, Joy, blogs about photography, cooking, and living “in the maybes” over at Living in the Shades of Grey. She had so many good tips for hosting a dinner party that we’ve made it a two-part series within the You Can Do It series! Today is part one. I’m so glad Joy decided to write about this topic. When I approached my blogging friends with the idea of doing a guest blogger series, I told them the theme was “You Can Do It” and then let them decide what they felt led to share for that theme. When Joy brought up this idea, I was thrilled! She’s a wonderful party planner and pays incredible attention to detail. She’s a pro!

{Image: Joy}

I love to throw and host parties. It’s true! I love big events and have thought that if I didn’t have bills to worry about, I would love to become a party planner… but that’s another blog post for another day. As much as I love to plan a shebang of a party, my favorite party to throw is a dinner party. There is something so wonderful about a small intimate dinner with friends and something so exceptionally rewarding when you see everything come together.

What’s that? You want to throw a successful dinner party! I don’t blame you at all! Here are a few things to think about first:

1. Don’t invite a lot of people – I know you’ll want to. You obviously have a lot of friends and they are all equally deserving of a lovely dinner party. Have a second (third, fourth…) dinner party some other time. Keep your numbers small. 8-10 is a nice sized group, and 10 is definitely big enough (take it from the girl who overwhelmingly threw one for 23!) I promise if you keep it smaller, you’ll enjoy yourself more! You’ll get more of a chance to really talk to people and there’s a better chance for a great table wide conversation. If you invite more people, there’s a good chance that conversations will splinter into smaller groups of people, and you’ll probably end up feeling like you didn’t talk enough with some of your invited friends.

2. How will you invite people? Phone calls, mailed invitations, facebook … it’s your decision! Whatever will be easier for you, but do everything you can to get an RSVP! You’ll want/need to know how many people you’re cooking for! I have been known to make phone calls a week before the party to get an answer from friends!

3. Ambiance – Just a fancy word for music and decorations. As in do you want them? I love some light breezy background music (see this week’s post about making a playlist!) and maybe a small bunch of flowers on the table. I like to use a tablecloth… Do you want overhead lighting or candles? Both can be nice… just keep in mind your table space and what you might need room for which brings up to…

*imaginary drumroll*

4. Food – What? Thinking about food for a dinner party? Stop being so obvious, Joy! Ina Garten in her The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook said:

“Food is not about impressing people. It’s about making them feel comfortable.”

Here are four other things to think about when planning food:

a) Are you going to have a theme? Italian, French, Greek… Southern, Northern, West Coast…    There are a lot of options out there, be creative and take risks! I love cooking new things and sometimes I like to make my friends be the guinea pigs!

b)  Are you going to have 1 main meal, or are you going to do courses? Honestly, I’m a meal and then dessert kind of dinner party girl, but someday I want to do a 5 or 6 course meal with my friends. If this is your first dinner party, I’d recommend appetizer, meal, & dessert at most just to get a feel for it. Next time you’ll have more experience and you can go for more. I stand by the rule of thumb that you should be comfortable with what you’re doing.

c) Plated or family style? Take into consideration how much room you’ll have on your table and what your friends will be comfortable with. Are they picky eaters? Family style might be better; they can pick and choose what they want. Are they adventurous? Pre-plate away!

d)  Don’t stress! I mean it. You’re not a professional chef (and if you are, you should know this stuff). Please remember that nothing has to be perfect. I promise! Do what you can to time your food so it all gets done at the same time, but know that ovens and stove tops and microwaves all have warm up settings.

Here are my only cooking rules: LOVE whatever it is you’re cooking & have FUN cooking it!

If you’re looking for new recipes, these are a few of my favorite cookbooks and blogs:

Betty Crocker Everyday Vegetarian – I used to be one and love this cookbook
The Joy of Cooking – I have my Grandpa’s copy from 1931, but there are dozens of updated versions.
The Pioneer Woman –her recipes are very basic – check out her soups!
I Am Baker – her desserts are fabulous and honestly simple to make.

Are you ready to host a Dinner Party yet!! I hope you’re so excited!! Come back tomorrow for some of my “week of” planning tips!

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3 Comments

Filed under Food, Life

3 responses to “You Can Do It: Host a Dinner Party, Part 1

  1. Some great tips. I’m hosting my first dinner party in two days time and I’m trying to remain calm, so your suggestions are definitely helping with that. Luckily, Im only cooking for 9 and doing a starter, main and dessert so hopefully it should be plain sailing

  2. Great tips! It can definitely be overwhelming to plan a dinner party and figure out everything from tabletop accessories to what beverages to serve but your simple steps make it seem manageable.

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