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Always A Lady: Hosting A Dinner Party

always a lady hosting a dinner partyOne of my favorite things is hosting dinner parties – it’s one of the signs that you are officially an adult.  I’ve definitely come a long way in my dinner party skills.  When I first started, I’d start cooking when people got there, dinner would last forever, I was in the kitchen the whole night and my guests would leave in a food coma.  Now, my guests still leave with a food coma but I’ve become way more efficient with my prep and my time and I get to enjoy the company of my guests.  Here are a few tips to consider when hosting a dinner party…

The Invitation

  • The formality and occasion for the dinner party will dictate the type of invitation.  Casual dinner among friends? A phone call or email is ok?  A formal gathering?  Something in writing would be nice.  This is your party and you set the tone of the dinner from the start with the way the invite is sent.
  • Be clear about who is invited – is this an adults only event? Or are the kids invited?  Make sure it’s clear on the invite.  If kids are allowed the words “and family” are included, ie, “Joe & Jenn and family”.  If the invite just says “Joe and Jenn” then the kids are probably not invited.
  • When you decide who you are inviting make sure you have a good mix of people.  Is it a group of close friends? Are you trying to connect people together? Don’t invite arch enemies unless you want a food fight!

The Guests

  • Seating is important!  As the host you should try to steer guests to their seats to promote maximum conversation and enjoyment.  If you really want to be fancy you can make place cards but just letting people know verbally where to sit is also fine.
  • As the hostess, it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone’s glass is full,  keep the conversation going and make sure no one is left out.

The Meal

  • When people RSVP (and make sure if you are invited you RSVP!) ask your guests if they have any food allergies or food restrictions.  The last thing you want to do is serve prawns when one of your guests has a shellfish allergy or serve pork to someone who keeps halal or kosher.
  • It’s always nice to cook the meal yourself or have a potluck but if cooking isn’t your thing that doesn’t mean you can’t have a dinner party.  You can have it catered, order in, or purchase prepared food.  Ultimately, the source of the food doesn’t matter – it’s the company enjoying a meal together.
  • More expensive does not always equal better.  You could put together a fabulous meal on a budget.  Pasta is always a great choice – I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t like pasta, it’s inexpensive and it goes a long way.
  • Whether you cook or you buy – always make at least 1-2 servings extra.  You don’t want to run out of food!  Some people have big appetites.
  • Make sure you time the meal correctly.  Usually guests come and you offer drinks and appetizers.  Dinner should soon follow and then dessert/coffee.  Dessert time is when you can really draw it out if your guests are inclined to hang out longer.  But give guests the option.  You don’t want to have dinner last five hours if your guests are expecting something along the lines of 2-3 hours.
  • If you are cooking the food, do everything that you can in advance.  Try to choose recipes that you can do most of the preparation in advance and just add finishing touches or reheating before serving.

These tips should help you host a great dinner party.  It’s a bit of work, but with planning and preparation, it should go smoothly.  Just don’t forget to enjoy yourself too!

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