Host a Great Dinner Without the Headaches!

There’s no better way to welcome a selection of friends into your home than to host a dinner party. You can show off your home to close friends, while mixing up different social circles you’re invested in. While these events can be fun, they can also be stressful, as you have to mix between being present for your guests while also organizing and hosting the party.

If you’re eager to host a dinner party but find the whole thing overwhelming–and it can be!–check out these tips for hosting with as little stress as possible.

Before Dinner

Often, a guest or two may arrive when you still have things to prepare. While you might want to shoo everyone to the living room, guests can still feel as though they should help with your preparations. It will be less stress for you to set up some drinks and snacks in the kitchen, so you can casually talk to early guests while working on the meal. Don’t shoo away guests; let them help if they want to. Let the preparation be the party! If someone wants a job, let them serve hors d’oeuvres, drinks or appetizers to other guests.

Also, in case a whole group that has arrived before you are finished with the meal, have some hors d’oeuvres and drinks ready and within view of the entrance so guests know from the start where to go, and immediately have something to do. By establishing a place and activity early on–whether that be mingling with snacks in the living room or helping with the meal in the kitchen–your guests will be directed where you want or need them.

Getting Everyone Seated

Once the food is complete, direct everyone to the dining room to eat. Guests typically arrive to a dinner party ready to eat, so you don’t want to keep them waiting longer than necessary.

Assigned seats takes some pressure and stress off of guests who may not know each other, and do not know where to sit. By assigning seats, you will save some time spent shuffling around. Place cards may seem formal, but they can also make for a fun souvenir or memento, so feel free to break some out for your guests.

There are a few tricks to seating your guests to ensure everyone has a place in the conversation. Your most sociable guests–or the one or two whom everyone at the table already knows–are best placed in the middle of the table. Leave the quieter guests sit beside you. You may want to break up couples so they don’t cling to one another, forgetting other guests.

Tips for a Smooth Dinner

Keep a side table somewhere in the dining room where you can keep extra utensils, napkins, drinks or anything you might need to restock. It can be stressful to you and alienating to guests to have to jump up and travel from the dining room to the kitchen–so have everything within reach that may require replenishing.

Unfortunately, not all dinners are perfect! If you have made a mistake in the meal and a dish isn’t quite up to snuff, don’t make a big deal about it or stress in front of your guests. It’s better for everyone to simply acknowledge the mistake lightheartedly and move along.

While having dinner, make sure there’s a space for kids (if there are or will be any) to be out of the way, with activities they can do for fun. Conversely, you may assign them jobs to help with hosting, or hire a sitter instead.

After Dinner

Once dinner is done, move everyone to the living room so you can keep the dirty dishes out of sight and out of mind. Guests may feel guilty about your having to wash dishes later, but you can take attention away from the dishes by hiding them in the dishwasher.

With the mess out of sight, you can serve coffee and dessert to your guests. Small desserts–small pastries or cookies as opposed to a big cake–are more approachable for those whom may be full from dinner or dieting.

Final Tips

  • When inviting your guests, pick one friend and plan your other guests around them.
  • Pick all the music you will play at the party well ahead of time, so you don’t have to get up to DJ and break the flow of conversation.
  • Don’t know what drinks to serve? Tell a local liquor or wine store your menu and they can suggest drinks to pair.
  • Finish cooking your main course before the others, so it doesn’t become a point of stress when preparing.

Want more dinner party tips? Check out the original segment on the April 19, 2014 episode of the Home Wizards show below:

This post is adapted from the April 19, 2014 episode of Home Wizards that was released on iTunes April 19, 2014. You can find this segment during Hour Two of the podcast.