Hosting your first dinner party is a big accomplishment — and with a little planning ahead, it can be fun for you as the host as well as your guests. Here are 12 tips to help your first dinner party go off without a hitch:
Set a date and time.
It is usually good to plan a dinner party three to four weeks in advance to give guests enough time to clear their schedules. Friday or Saturday nights are great options because most people do not have to get up for work the next day. Saturdays are a particularly great choice because it gives you all day to clean and cook, plus you can sleep in the next day if the dinner party turns into a late night.
Keep the guest list small.
You may have visions of hosting a huge party for all of your friends at once, but if you are new to hosting, it is better to start small — think six to eight people total, including you and any partners or roommates. Try to invite people who already know each other and have common interests so you will not have to stress about making instructions and ensuring that everyone is getting along. That way, you can focus on prepping the food and enjoying the party.
Make sure there is seating.
If you live in a small apartment, the number of chairs that you own may limit the number of guests you can invite. Make sure that you have enough seats for everyone around the table, on the couch or wherever you are planning on hosting your party. If you will need to acquire some extra folding chairs, do that well in advance of the party so you are not having to run out last minute.
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Choose a theme, if you want.
A theme is definitely optional, but if you are really at a loss for recipes and decor, selecting a dinner party theme can give you a direction to go in. Seasonal themes, such as throwing a pool party during the summer, are always a classic, but you can get more creative if you want.
Think about ambiance.
Even if you do not go with a theme, you still need to think about the ambiance of the party. Lighting should be bright, but not too bright, and you can never go wrong with some candles. Background music is a great way to cover conversational lulls, but make sure that it is not so loud that it makes it hard to hear. Keep in mind that having a lot of people crammed into a small space can raise the temperatures, so you may need to run some fans, open the windows or lower the AC temp.
Ask about dietary restrictions.
You do not want to discover that one of your guests is deathly allergic to peanuts as you are serving peanut butter cupcakes for dessert. Once your guests have accepted your dinner invitation, ask them about any dietary restrictions so that you do not accidentally serve them something that they cannot or will not eat.
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Select a favorite recipe.
When it comes to hosting your first dinner party (or any party), now is not the time to cook a brand new recipe that you have never made before. Instead, select some recipes that you have made before and know that you can pull off. If you have a new recipe that you absolutely must make, do a couple of test runs in the lead up to the party to iron out any wrinkles before the big day.
Cook ahead as much as possible.
If your recipes allow for it, make them at least a day ahead so that you are not totally exhausted by the time your guests arrive (and your home is not boiling hot from running the oven all day). If that is not possible, do not be afraid to get some pre-made stuff, or do no-cook courses. For example, for the appetizers, you can just set out some bread, cheese and extra virgin olive oil for dipping instead of making a separate dish that requires a bunch of prep work and cooking time.
Do not forget about drinks.
If you and your friends drink, it can be fun to mix together a special cocktail that you have chosen to complement the meal. If none of you are aspiring mixologists, then ask them to bring wine or beer to go with the meal so you do not have to worry about making drinks. Make sure that you have enough for everyone, and if someone refuses a drink, do not push them — they might be pregnant or newly sober.
Have activities ready.
Unless you are 100 percent sure that the food will be ready to go when all your friends arrive, it is a good idea to have some games or other activities on hand to help pass the time. In fact, following up dinner with a game is an excellent way to keep the party going without having to resort to small talk about the weather.
Clean up right away.
After successfully pulling off your first dinner party, probably the last thing you will want to do is clean. However, you should at least clear the table, put the food away and leave the dishes to soak before heading to bed. Trust us — the dishes will be much harder to clean in the morning if you let them get hard and crusty overnight.
Do not stress about everything being perfect.
Your dinner party probably will not match the ideal picture you have in your head, and that is totally okay! No first dinner party is perfect, so accept that fact and do not stress too much about it. Remember that your guests do not know exactly what you have planned, so they will never know if you put the wrong flavored vinegar in the salad dressing or mixed raw honey instead of agave nectar into the cocktails. Just focus on enjoying the party and congratulating yourself on your first hosting gig!
Follow these tips to host your first fun and stress-free dinner party for your friends.