The prospect of hosting a dinner party may fill you with dread. But this needn’t be the case, as throwing a dinner party, especially over the summer months, should be about having fun and being present, instead of stressing about the small details. No matter the occasion and the guest list, bringing people together for an evening of good food and even better company should be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Hosting THE ultimate dinner party without a hitch does take a little planning and preparation, so here are seven essential steps to ensure the night runs seamlessly:
1. Plan ahead of time
First things first, consider the purpose of your dinner party. Is it an impromptu get together or a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary? While it isn’t necessary to have an excuse for a get together – making the most of the sunny weather and reconnecting with friends over an alfresco dinner is an excuse enough, if there is a reason for bringing people together, this may impact a few aspects of the dinner party. From the guest list, to the menu, the purpose of the get together should help to shape the format of the evening.
Once you’re set on hosting a great dinner party, decide how formal you wish the evening to be. Whether you’re looking to take inspiration from the decedent afternoon tea in York at The Grand by hosting a high tea, or are leaning towards a more traditional three course meal, make sure you’re comfortable with the arrangement or you won’t be able to fully enjoy the evening.
2. Practice makes perfect
As the saying goes, practice really does make perfect. If you’re a complete beginner when it comes to cooking, or perhaps you have dreams of creating a three-course masterpiece you’ve never attempted before, take the time to practice before the evening. If you’re looking for a little more direction or inspiration, it may be worth booking onto a cookery class, like those available at The Grand, York. Teaching you new techniques, tips and tricks for presenting dishes, a cookery class is sure to set you on the right path, leaving you armed with new dishes in your repertoire ready to impress your guests; they will undoubtably be so proud of your efforts.
3. On the day organisation
As the dinner party day arrives, do not stress. Write a to-do list and tick the tasks off as you complete them. From chopping vegetables to preparing courses in advance, break everything down into actionable tasks. As the time ticks on and your guest’s arrival time nears, you can relax in the knowledge that everything has been taken care of. If you do need an extra pair of hands, ask a reliable guest if they are able to help out – they’ll almost certainly be happy to be of assistance and contribute to the evening.
4. Set the mood (and the table)
For summer entertaining, creating a relaxed atmosphere is simple. Dim the lighting and play a chilled playlist that’s to everyone’s taste. If you’re dining alfresco, carefully placing tea lights on the table and lanterns on the floor makes for a really nice effect once it gets darker. Opt for seasonal and unfussy table décor, for example, by using one or two local varieties of seasonal flowers as a centre piece. Chose glasses, place mats and napkins in on trend colours and make sure they complement each other. If you’re going all out, bring out your best cutlary and pretty plates – what’s the point in having them if they never get used?!
5. Ask guests to bring the wine
While it’s nice to have a couple of bottles of wine prepped for guest’s arrival, if you’re worried about a sky-high wine bill or worse, running out, there’s no shame in asking guests to bring a bottle along. They were most likely planning on doing so already, but for peace of mind, asking the question will not do any harm.
6. Go easy on the pre-dinner nibbles
If you’re planning canapes or even just some pre-dinner nibbles, don’t over do it. While guests may arrive hungry, having put hours of planning, preparation and cooking into the dinner party, the last thing you want is for guests to struggle to finish their food. On the other hand, going over the top may lead to wastage, which is far from ideal.
7. Opt for a seating plan
For dinner parties that bring multiple groups of friends together, where perhaps guests won’t know each other too well, try a seating plan. By sitting everyone next to one person they know well and one they don’t, will ensure everyone feels comfortable and has the opportunity to get to know one another while feeling relaxed.