No matter how skilled you are in the kitchen, throwing open the doors of your home (or humble apartment) and hosting a dinner party for the first time can feel like a daunting experience. Here’s a checklist to consider when planning to entertain for the first time. I found most of these out through trial and (major) error, so jotting it down for those attempting their ‘first ever’… you might also find some tips handy if you’ve done a few dinner parties but not yet ‘rocked’ them 🙂
Invite Well In Advance
If it’s a casual affair, give your friends a ring or text to invite them a few weeks in advance so you can lock in the date and have a solid idea of numbers. If it’s more formal, send out written invites and include a clear RSVP date. Facebook invites seem like a good idea but, for mine, it feels like we shouldn’t need to go there – it seems to cheapen it to the level of a commercial-music-festival-ad or something.
How’s Your Furniture?
In the weeks prior to entertaining take a mini-stocktake of your furniture, tableware, cutlery and glassware. That jam jar collection you’ve used as wine glasses for the past couple of years may suffice for a last minute barbecue, but how about springing for glassware for a sit-down dinner party? On the subject of sitting, do you have enough chairs or should you pick up a couple of spares? You don’t need to break the bank, as homeware retailers like Super Amart usually have everything from complete dining settings to single chairs and stools.
Mind The Menu
Once your numbers are locked in, it’s time to consider the menu. Your first dinner party is not the time to be testing new recipes. If you’re considering cooking something amazing that you haven’t made before, definitely do a trial run well in advance. It’s also worth considering that any menu you plan should allow you to socialise with your guests. You don’t want to be tied up in the kitchen sautéing imported French truffles while your guests entertain themselves.
On this note, make what you can in advance and freeze it. No-one’s expecting you to be a contestant in Masterchef rolling out your own puff pastry in the countdown to meal time.
Don’t Forget Decorations
Some nice flowers, a new tablecloth, candlesticks or ornaments around the home can really give your party an entertaining atmosphere (I get some inspiration from my event designer friend on instagram @_WINNIEQ_. Maybe you’ve picked a theme for the cuisine – can this be reflected in the decorations to enhance the mood? If you are setting a table, it’s worth doing it the day prior so you have time to attain the look you hope to achieve.
The Magic Of Music
A solid soundtrack or playlist can really get the festivities going. Put together a good playlist with ample tunes well in advance of the evening. It might be worth considering the vibe over the course of the night with enlivening songs at the beginning and chilled out numbers towards the end.
Timing Is Everything
To ensure success, mentally walk through how you envisage the evening will pan out. What will you do when people arrive? What drinks will you serve, when will you provide nibblies and where? A time frame will help ensure meals come out at an acceptable time and there’s no lag in the courses.
Above all remember to enjoy yourself – you didn’t arrange this to stress yourself, you arranged this to have a good time in your own home. Dinner parties are ultimately about fun with friends – good food, good company and great hospitality. I learned from my mom, the master – who prepares prepares prepares, but then really gets involved on the night to enjoy her efforts 🙂