You’ve made the event, borrowed all your Mum’s cookbooks but planning a dinner party is just not as simple as it seems. Corny TV Shows like My Kitchen Rules make it look like a breeze to set up, but they have a whole styling department. A dinner party is so much more than cutlery and plates, so here’s 5 easy steps to nailing your first soiree.
#1 Invite a Cohesive Group of People
How many chairs at the table often dictates who you invite but seriously consider who’ll make the list. Short of place cards you can’t dictate where people sit so think of the worst case scenario. A conservative lawyer sitting next to a Greens campaigner, that may sound like the beginning of a joke but for you it will just mean a headache.
You don’t have to only invite couples either, it may seem easier that way, but introducing different sub-groups of your friends is the best part of dinner parties. Who knows you could end up setting someone up.
#2 Set the Menu
You’ve scoured the internet for recipes and nothing seems achievable, do not fear. Cooking for a bunch of people can be daunting but delegate and you’ll be fine. If someone offers to bring the nibbles then take them up on it. It’s not rude and it certainly makes less work for you on the evening. Pick a main option that you’re comfortable cooking but with a twist, if chicken is your meat of choice then try a new flavour to it and go adventurous with the sides and sauces. If something doesn’t work along the way at least it’s not the centrepiece of dinner, no stress.
To get a feel for the recipe watch a Nigella, Jamie Oliver – whoever it is video on how to prepare it. Often the recipe can seem long and stilted but after you watch a how to you’ll be able to whip it up with your eyes close. Please don’t try to obviously.
Make sure you cater for the hungriest of guests, people don’t come to a dinner party to snack, they come to gorge. That’s 2 drinks per hour, 1 desert, 2 pieces of bread, 2 cups of salad and a decent serving of protein.
#3 Decorate The Space
Fill your dining space with pieces of character, it is your home after all. Dim the lights and play music softy to break the silence. Before you even get to the table these things make a difference, no one wants the conversation to lull in a silent bright room. This is a gathering of friends and food, it should never feel like an interview.
So it isn’t a five star establishment work within your means to deliver a warm and inviting space. Pinterest is great for inspiration into table runners, DIY crockery and personalising your glassware. Even heading to the Reject shop and getting a little crafty or a matching set of tableware will show your guests the effort you went too. It doesn’t have to be themed or anything extravagant, just pulled together.
#4 Make Your Guests Feel Welcome
Do you know the perfect way to stimulate conversation? Throw out the icebreaker and put your phones in a different room. Without the distraction of technology you’re free to enjoy each others company and skip the small talk all together. As the host or hosts it’s important to make sure everyone feels at home. While your serving the food or clearing plates be sure to engage with anyone and everyone. It won’t go unnoticed.
#5 Don’t Forget The Drinks
To lubricate what can often be a tough social situation, make sure you have a matching brew or two for the night. Match the wine to the main but get creative for the before and after. A crisp sake before dinner goes down a treat or afterwards indulge in a darker liquor for a nightcap. If you enjoy your fruitier drinks mixing will take way too long on a night like this, so premix some punch or Pimms and share it around. The make it yourself version is much tastier than at any bar.
Image source: From Moon To Moon, Vine Repair, Elle, She Knows, Ivory Bill Furniture, Bon Apetit.