How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party

bigstock-Decorated-Christmas-Dinner-Tab-48434702-nov292013With the holiday season right around the corner, dinner parties are all the rage. Throwing dinner parties may seem like a daunting task, but with a little planning and a little luck, you can pull off the perfect dinner party like the pros. Here are a few tips on how to host the perfect dinner party:

Invitations

No dinner party is complete without invitations. Having formal invitations not only serves as beautiful way to make your guests feel special, it also serves as a reminder to them as well as communicating the theme and tone for your event. It’s not necessary to send paper invitations anymore, however. You can send beautifully custom designed invitations via email through many different sites on the Internet. Not only is this the easiest and least expensive way of sending invitations, it’s also eco-friendly and they allow your guests to RSVP without ever picking up the phone. Send out your invitations between two and three weeks in advance. This allows your guests plenty of time to RSVP while giving you ample time to plan and prep for the party. And while there is never a limit to the number of people you invite to your soiree, keeping the guest list to between 8-10 people gives you a more intimate setting that really lets people connect and keeps your budget under control.

Table Setting

One of the first considerations you need to think about for your dinner party is your theme and table setting. Floral centerpieces work with a number of themes and are an inexpensive way to create a beautiful table. The rule of thumb for floral centerpieces is to use flowers that are in season and keep them low enough so that your guests can talk to each other without straining to see over them. Floral centerpieces can be accented by candles, but if you choose to go this route, make sure that you use unscented candles. This way the scents of your candles won’t compete with the smells of your food. Other accents include using matching dinnerware that incorporates your theme including appropriately patterned cocktail napkins, table linens and rings and other small details. Keep in mind the number of people you are inviting and the size of your table. You don’t want to crowd your guests’ dining experience with a lot of extraneous decoration.

Seating

When it comes to how to host the perfect dinner party, assigned seating isn’t a requirement, but if you know that there are certain members of your party that aren’t exactly on the best of terms, you can add place cards to your seating in order to ensure minimal interaction between these parties. Of course, you can also use assigned seating as a way to introduce certain people if you are looking to play matchmaker or want to foster new friendships.  And, of course, adding place cards to your table is yet another way to add a splash of color and elegance to your table. You can use a software program to create them or letter them yourself.

Music

No dinner party is complete without music. Music should be used to create ambiance. It should be soft enough that your guests can speak to each other without competing with it, but noticeable in the background. Having music playing in the background prevents awkward silences at the table while your guests are eating and during natural lulls in conversation. Streaming music sources are great for this type of accompaniment and a station should be built that will accentuate your theme but not offend anyone.

Hors D’oeuvres

By placing hors d’oeuvres out in an easy to access place, you give your guests something to munch on while you finish up preparing the meal. It is also a great opportunity for your guests to gather around and mingle before sitting down to eat. Finger foods are great because they are easy to make and don’t require a lot of effort to eat. This allows your guests to wander about the room and mingle. Cheese and crackers or vegetables, sweets, and other easy to prepare fare all work well. If the gathering is more formal, you might look to offer something a bit more upscale, but sticking with finger foods and one bite offerings will suffice.

Dinner

Before deciding on your menu, make sure that you have accounted for your guests’ food sensitivities and likes/dislikes. You can address this during the invitation process or call each one individually after the RSVP to ensure that you don’t offer foods that make people uncomfortable. The last thing you want is for your guests to go hungry or go on a hunger strike to protest your meal. Also, stick with foods that you’ve had the chance to prepare before. This allows you a greater chance of ensuring that your guests will have edible food the day of your event rather than excuses and takeout fare. Your guests will enjoy a simple homemade meal over an elaborate gourmet meal any day of the week. Your event is more about the camaraderie of good friends rather than about the skill level of your cooking.

Drinks

When it comes to offering drinks, keep it simple. Unless you have a hired bartender for the affair, the last thing you want to do is to get stuck in the kitchen making elaborate frozen drinks. Stick with a favorite bottle of wine and maybe one signature mixed drink that doesn’t require a lot of effort. This keeps everyone visiting rather than waiting on drinks.

Last but not least, don’t forget to enjoy yourself. If the hostess is tense, the entire party will be tense and unsuccessful. Prepare for the night and then relax and enjoy the fruits of your efforts as well as your guests.

Pucher’s Decorating Center wishes you and your family a wonderful holiday season!

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