Hosting a dinner party isn't as hard as you might think and definitely isn't something to stress too much over! As the holidays approach, so many of us are thinking of entertaining guests with a dinner or cocktail party. Today, I'm giving you some practical tips on how to have a fabulous party without breaking the bank and also have as much fun as your guests!
Don't take yourself too seriously! Having a dinner party is about doing something nice for your guests. It's all about having a fun night, delicious food (and some great wine) with people that you care about! Your guests will have a good time if you are having a good time!
Emergency snacks are a must! Keep emergency snacks and a stack of unusual small bowls in a cabinet for easy hors'doeuvres as well as a few kinds of cheese, olives and spreads in the refrigerator. Emergency snacks could include dried apricots, Gold Fish crackers (a favorite of Julia Child) , wasabi peas and assorted nuts. If you've gone to a lot of trouble for dinner, you want your guests to be hungry when they sit down. This is a great snack mix recipe to keep on hand!
Make your house smell divine! A great trick is to bake store bought refrigerated cookies just as guests arrive! Put them out with dessert if you are serving a buffet. Otherwise, send everyone home with a small bag of cookies. Another way to create an inviting scent is to simmer apple cider on the stove with cloves and cinnamon sticks. This is perfect during the holidays and also makes a great party drink with a little bourbon! Click here for a great recipe.
Image from Last of Home
Make sure to know if your guests have food restrictions. It's important to be sensitive to food allergies, and dietary preferences. If you know that one of your guests has a gluten sensitivity or is a vegetarian, then plan to serve a gluten free or vegetarian meal. Your other guests will never know the difference.
Do your prep in advance. Make sure you've done all of your shopping the day before the party and plan to do anything in advance that you can. Vegetables can be washed and chopped and dressings can be made in advance. The table can also be set the night before. This way you'll be able to relax the day of the party. Things usually take a little longer than you think, so give yourself plenty of time to get it all done.
Know what you're going to wear the night before! There is nothing worse than rushing to get dressed and feeling like you don't look your best!
Allow for 4 ounces of meat or fish per person. If you're worried about having enough food, serve more veggies and grains.
Start the party with a signature cocktail. Have a signature cocktail to serve your guests as they arrive and have one yourself. After that, simply serve beer and wine with dinner. Allow at least one bottle of wine per person. Try this recipe for a Manhattan from Lulu Powers and this recipe for a Christmas Campfire Martini from Yummily.
Try having Sunday brunch or early dinner. Having a get together on Sunday allows the weekend to shop and prepare. Saturday nights are usually busy and expectations are high. Sunday is easy and relaxed.
Photo from Lulu Powers
Don't overlook the music. Music is an important and often overlooked factor to making any party great. Try making a Spotify playlist or ask one of your friends who always has great music playing.
Serve dishes of varying temperatures. It can be a challenge to get all of the food on the table at once if everything is served hot. Serving dishes at varying temperatures can make the dinner party come together more easily. Plan on a room temperature dish and or, a big salad with the main dish. This recipe for Grilled Potato and Cannellini Bean Salad would be a perfect accompaniment to roasted salmon or chicken and can be made ahead and served slightly warm or at room temperature.
Image from Basil Genovese
Set the scene with flowers and candlelight. A big arrangement isn't necessary to make a bold statement. Small, simple arrangements that sit low on the table to encourage conversation are usually best. You want to be able to see the person seated in front of you. Seasonal fruit or citrus in pretty bowls with greenery is also a lovely and inexpensive arrangement. For lighting, sprinkle votive candles throughout and make sure they are unscented.
Cloth napkins are a must. Cloth napkins feel so much more special than paper. If you are having a very large group, consider renting napkins, that way you don't have to wash them.
After dinner is important. Try serving a cheese course after dinner along with a simple cookie or special piece of chocolate. Coffee is a nice addition and encourages guests to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. After dinner drinks are a special touch.
Make the cleanup as easy as possible, but don't let your guests do the cleaning up. Be organized so that most everything but the dishes are clean when the party starts. If your budget allows, you could also hire someone to do the cleaning up.
Try this recipe for Creamy Pumpkin Pasta from Jar of Lemons
Light the candles, put the music on and most of all, enjoy your guests and have fun!
The weekend has flown by and I'm excited to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes coming up this week on the blog! Enjoy what's left of the weekend and follow me on Instagram @crazyblondelifeblog!