Throwing a dinner party can be stressful. It may have sounded like a fantastic idea at first, but the more planning you do, the more stressed out you feel. When you start to think about food, beverages, music, and ambiance it gets overwhelming. But, there’s good news: it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to be Adriano Zumbo to impress your guests with a great dinner party. Before you let stress get to you, let us guide you through some tips to keep your planning on track.
Psst: If you struggle with hosting parties (like me) my article on how to host a party when you secretly hate hosting may be really helpful.
Whether you’re planning a sit-down event in the dining room or you have something more casual like an outdoor dinner in your backyard. Set the table, dress it completely. You can do the same for all your serving platters as well and just label them, so anyone helping knows exactly what is going where. It’s all about streamlining the process as much as you can.
Do not leave this to the last minute. You want to ensure you have catered for everyone which means asking your guests whether they have any dietary restrictions as soon as you send your invites out. In fact, make the question part of your invite. That way you have all the information you need in the planning process.
Signature cocktails have become quite a popular addition to every party. It’s almost an excuse to experiment with spirits to create a new cocktail. You can opt for a signature cocktail that is prepared in advance and in batches.
Or, you can create a DIY bar station. If you opt for the DIY station, don’t forget to include everything people will need. They’ll need the typical accouterment, as well as mixers, stirrers, and the right glassware. You can still mix up a batch of a popular beverage for guests who don’t want to create their own beverage. We always have our bar cart stocked. What do you keep on your bar cart?
Appetizers and Sides
The menu planning is the most fun and also the most challenging part of the process. Make life easier for yourself by choosing simple starts that you can make in advance. The ideal appetizers are easy to assemble and served cold. You cut down on cooking time for yourself and there’s less juggling to deal with over the oven. Grazing tables, crudités and dips, olives, and cheese platters are all great appetizer ideas.
Whereas sides are often treated as an afterthought, you should think deeply about how to complete your meal. Ideally, opt for three sides. They should pair well with your entree(s) and in a perfect world, one should be a salad because it’s easy to prepare. Only one of those sides should require immediate attention before you serve dinner. Make life easy for yourself. You can prepare all your ingredients in advance so that everything can be assembled as quickly as needed.
You want an entree that wows your guests, but you don’t want to miss your own event by spending your time in the kitchen with a complicated recipe. A dish that you can make in advance and cook fully assembled while you mingle is ideal. So, stews, lasagnas, braised meats, or even whole roasted chickens are a perfect option. The more complicated your recipe, the more room you make for mistakes. So, keep it simple for both your peace of mind and your tastebuds.
If you want to try something new, do not wait until the night to execute your recipe. Use your family as guinea pigs and try it in advance. This will give you plenty of time to tweak the recipe as needed.
Of course, you can’t throw a dinner party without dessert. Unless you are Adriano Zumbo, your best bet is to buy it. Opt for a fruit-based dessert and a chocolate-based dessert; that way everyone’s needs are catered to.
All that’s left to do now is enjoy yourself. Your event isn’t just for your guests, you should have fun too. So, take it easy, do as much prep in advance as possible, make great food choices, and enjoy the night.