Entertaining 101 – “Tis the Season”
9 tips for a successful dinner party
The season of entertaining is about to begin! Did you ever notice that there are some people that love to have parties and are always having people over to their homes. And other people, not so much. From the time my sister and I were very young, my mother enlisted us to help at her many parties. I think we learned the clean- up end first, serving next and then graduated to cooking. Mostly we learned that it was fun to have parties. I do think our mothers had more time than we do today, but entertaining at home is still my favorite way of getting together with my close friends.
And I’m grateful for my mother’s training.
I’d like to offer some of my own tips for actually throwing a great party and having fun at the party yourself. This last element can be challenging if you are type A and or a perfectionist. Being both of these things, I have learned how to protect myself from having a bad time at my own party. Here’s how:
- Make sure the mix of people you are inviting will have somethingin common. Of course they have you in common, but if it’s a smaller party I like to make sure there is a common interest. This way you won’t feel solely responsible for making great conversations happen.
- Smaller parties are much more fun. You get to talk to everyone. They are easier on the hostess as well, because there are not a lot of dishes. I love 6 to 8 people. Double digits make dishes feel overwhelming.
- Keep your menu simple. Stick with things that you are comfortable making. There is no need to make a lot of dishes. Whatever it is, it should be delicious!
- The menu should also not be too bizarre, unless this is a themed party where everyone is aware that you are going to be adventurous with your choices. Also, ask guests about food allergies and special diets. Gluten Free? Vegetarian? Vegan?
P.S. – My mother never did this. Back in the day, people were just happy to be invited.
- I think people love to help in some way, so let them.
- Make sure the table and all serving pieces are ready to go.
- Serving- I love plating dinner in the kitchen because it makes serving easier. But for a larger occasion, serving buffet style is a great option. If this is a sit down dinner, I’m a firm believer in place cards. This lets you decide how to ensure a lively conversation. And people aren’t anxious about what seat will be left at the table for them.
- Try not to get too obsessed with clean up after dinner is finished. Hopefully, there will be a few kind souls who will help you clear the table to get ready for dessert. My mother was a firm believer in having the children clear the table for the adults and helping with the dishes. Great training opportunity!
- Remember why you invited these people over in the first place – which was to have fun and talk about things that might not come up in the short snippets of time that we actually get with our friends these days. Oh, and stay away from political conversations!
Taking the time and energy to have our friends and/or family to dinner is one of the best ways to show our love for them. It should be fun. Know yourself. One year I thought I could do Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas dinner back-to-back and still have fun. I was wrong. It made me feel like a maid. Not so festive. I still do Christmas.
Honestly, my favorite time to have people over is January when all of the holiday stress and excitement are over.