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» How to Throw a Great Dinner Party

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Little details such as this guest check will make your dinner party one to remember.
Little details such as this guest check will make your dinner party one to remember.
So what makes a dinner party memorable? You know; the one that people are still talking about years later like “You remember that dinner party the Wilsons threw when everybody showed up and we had the blind wine tasting? That was SOOooo much fun!”

Choosing a Dinner Party Theme

The first thing is to pick a great theme for your party. You might like to try a Hawaiian luau or a French gourmet dinner party or even something like a progressive dinner party, where several neighbors each host one course of the meal and you walk from house to house!

You might like to try a formal dinner party, with several courses and wine to go with each. Or, you could do something fun and informal like a potluck or outdoor barbeque, which helps cut down on the amount of work that goes into a more formal dinner party. Either can be fun and depend on your taste, what you think your guests would prefer and also the space and other aspects of your dinner party setting.

So, picking a theme might mean a food theme, or it could be more intricate and involve games, costumes and decorations that set the mood and tone of your dinner party.

Having a theme will make your dinner party one to remember and gives your guests a more open and inviting party experience. Getting people to loosen up and mingle is the most critical aspect of throwing a great dinner party.

Dinner Party Planning

Careful attention should be given to floral arrangements, plate ware and decorations when planning a dinner party.
Careful attention should be given to floral arrangements, plate ware and decorations when planning a dinner party.
In planning your dinner party, first decide whether you are going to make it intimate, with just a few close friends and/or family. Or, perhaps you want to try throwing a really big dinner party with lots of guests who don’t all know each other as a way of introducing friends from different circles in your life to each other.

The bigger the party, the more planning and advance preparation you’ll need to do, so be sure to allow enough time to make all the arrangements. If you are having more than about ten guests, you might consider having it catered or enlisting several friends to help with the planning and arrangements.

A dinner party involves a lot of planning if you aim for perfection. The presentation of it is what influences your guests so a lasting good impression is achieved through a great presentation and it shows the effort and planning you included into the preparation to create an ideal dinner party for your guests.

When planning, don’t jump into the deep end and get overly concerned with the table settings and food. First of all decide on a time for your guests to arrive. I suggest choosing a time after 5 o’clock to ensure you have enough time to do everything that needs to be done. Secondly, you need to know what food you will be serving. In order to do this you will need to know what your guests favor.

You need to check if your guests are allergic to any foods, if so avoid choosing a meal that involves these ingredients for example if one of your guests has a nut allergy it wouldn’t be wise to present a peanut based cake. Also, be sure to find out if any of your guests are vegetarians, if any of them are choose a vegetarian meal or provide a vegetarian dish specified for your vegetarian guest(s).

Consider if you will be providing a starter, a main meal and a dessert or just a main meal and a dessert. If you do plan to provide a starter course choose a small and simple food as you should focus specifically on the main meal. Consider what drinks you will offer, for example wine, beer, champagne, tea, coffee, juice.

Setting a Proper Dinner Table

Now for the table settings; start by choosing a color scheme for the dinner as it shows how well thought out the meal has been. Decide the color of the napkins and tablecloth ensuring they suit the color scheme. It is also good to provide napkin rings because they make your table setting look neat and tidy.

Using a decorative centre piece for the table is a good idea because it makes the table look posh and breaks down the amount of table wear present e.g. plates. The centre piece shouldn’t be too overpowering or exceptionally large. A single flower or small bunch of flowers placed in a vase should do.

Place a couple of candles around the table to create a warm and comforting atmosphere. The gentle flickering of the candle will make a peaceful surrounding.

All of the table wear (cutlery, plates and bowls) should be the same style and color for each guest. Provide a different knife, folk and spoon for the starter and main meal. Provide a tablespoon and teaspoon for the dessert so that your guests have a choice of size. If you present meat then provide your guests with a meat knife. Provide glasses suitable for the drinks you will be offering. For example if you are offering champagne then set champagne flutes out for each guest.

For an extra preparation play calm music quietly in the background during the dinner to create a tranquil setting.

By following these steps of planning your guests will be overwhelmed by the presentation and it will leave a positive influence on them and you will have achieved the perfect dinner party.

The Little Touches Make a Big Difference

If you really want your dinner party to be memorable, then you need to add some little touches that make it unique. Things like invitations, having a menu for the evening, planning games to play after the meal or some exotic recipes will help make your dinner party a success.

Also, decide whether guests will eat at one table, with each course being served at the table or if they will serve themselves at a buffet. One way to break your dinner party up a little is to serve appetizers and drinks outdoors, then have the main meal in your dining room and desert in the living or family room.

Tips and Ideas for a Dinner Party Everyone Will Remember

  • If possible, have a reason to celebrate as the impetus for your dinner party; getting your guests engaged in a celebratory mood helps them feel more at ease and ready to mingle.
  • Set a date, checking with people you really hope to have attending to be sure they will be available. Give yourself enough time to prepare, based on the size, complexity of your theme and menu and the number of guests you intend to invite.
  • Decide on the theme and style of dinner party you will throw; how many people, indoor or outdoor setting, type of menu you want to plan, etc.
  • Make a guest list and send invitations to your dinner party. If you are throwing a casual dinner party for a few close friends, you might just call or email them a few days ahead. But if you are throwing a large dinner affair, be sure to send formal invitations well ahead of time and ask guests to RSVP.
  • Ambience is everything in throwing a memorable dinner party! The simple things like decorations, candles and other decorative lighting, music, table settings and food selection all add up to create a dinner party people will remember.

One Week Prior to Your Dinner Party

  • Set your menu and be realistic about the time you will need to shop and prepare dishes and whether or not you can pull everything off. If you are unsure about a recipe, you might want to test it ahead of time!
  • Plan your seating arrangements, decorations and other details of the theme and style you have selected for your dinner party.
  • Visit your local party supply store to purchase or rent items you don’t already have available. If you need things like plate ware, linens, etc. to accompany the theme of your party, you can typically rent them.
  • Consider if you need help with catering or bartending on the evening of your dinner party.

Two Days before the Dinner Party

  • Get all your dinner party accoutrements together and check to be sure the silverware is polished, the linens are clean, and that you have enough of everything to match the number of guests you expect.
  • Prepare your decorations, floral arrangements and centerpieces, name cards and other party details; you probably won’t have much time to do these things on the day of your dinner party.
  • Make selections for the music you will play, any games or activities before or after the meal and drink and wine selection. You might also ask a few guests who are close friends to bring a few items themselves like special music to play, wine that matches the menu, extra stem ware, etc.

The Evening of Your Dinner Party

  • Remember to try relaxing and having fun yourself! The mood and enjoyment your guests experience will be largely determined by your own demeanor. If you are having a great time, your guests are more likely to also have fun and enjoy the evening.
  • Try to set an intimate feeling that encourages mingling. Arrange seating and other areas so that people can be comfortable and together. Often times, people may want to gather in the kitchen area where the action takes place, so if possible, leave these areas clear so that people can mingle.
  • Enlist guests to help with making drinks, food preparation and other small tasks only if they volunteer; some people will enjoy themselves more if they are involved in helping, while others may prefer to mingle and have fun without being involved. You have to know who does and who doesn’t want to assist.
  • Look for signs that people are ready to wind down the evening; if they are talking about having to wake up early the next morning, haven’t touched their wineglass in a while or yawning, you’ll know it’s about time to let people get going.
  • On the other hand, your party may be so enjoyable that you have trouble getting people to leave! If so, try dropping hints like “Who wants to finish the last of the desert (or coffee, aperitifs, etc.)?” Be sure to thank each guest as they leave.
  • When your guests have all gone and the dishwasher is loaded, you will want to wind down the evening with your partner or co-host for a final glass of wine and talk about the evening’s events and what a great time was had by all.

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