Everybody loves a good dinner party. Food, wine and conversation, what’s not to love? If everyone at the party knows one another, the room is sure to be filled with laughter and reminiscing. If people are meeting one another for the first time, a dinner party is an intimate enough setting for wonderful new friendships to be forged. As the host of a dinner party, there are some rules to observe to ensure that everyone has a good night. Read on to learn the elements of a great dinner party.
These days, most people have email access. It is no longer necessary to send invites in the mail, so save the trees, save the postage, and send electronic invitations. There are plenty of free invite websites to choose from, and the majority of them have an RSVP function that lets you know who is coming.
Be firm with RSVPs. There is nothing more frustrating than putting time and effort into organizing a dinner party, to find that only half the guests have responded to your invitation by the RSVP date. Unfortunately, busy schedules, lost mail, (and dare we say differing priorities?) can turn the most respectful and considerate friend into a model of bad RSVP etiquette. Follow up - send an email to the individual you are waiting on, or call to explain that you need to know how many guests are coming, for catering and seating purposes.
Let people know your intentions on the invitation. For instance, if you usually invite people’s children, but this party is for adults only, call all of your friends with kids well in advance and let them know that you are planning a kid-free soiree. Be polite and understanding and tell them you would really love it if they could come and that you hope they can get a sitter for the night.
Create a Good Dynamic
Your dinner guests can be as diverse as you like, but there should be some common ground. Don’t invite your über-conservative next-door neighbors and your outrageously flamboyant theatre troupe friends to a dinner party for six. You needn’t make people feel awkward, even if you think it might be entertaining for you and your partner.
Strangers need to be able to socialize with each other. It’s great that you are inviting all of your old school or college buddies, but be aware that such a tight knit group can be intimidating to newcomers. If you are planning on inviting someone who doesn’t know all of your old friends, be sure to invite a couple of others who are in the same boat, (unless you know for sure that your solo friend is confident enough to muscle in with the group and feel at home with their style of humor).
Music choice at a dinner party is a contentious issue. Some believe that if you are hosting the party, you should have the last word on the tunes you play. Others believe that as the host, you should be considerate of everyone else’s tastes in music; they are your guests after all. The best solution is to mix it up a little. Consider the ages and lifestyles of your guests, predict the kinds of music they might like, and keep your selection fairly mainstream. And if you want people to mingle, keep the volume to a reasonable level. The music shouldn’t be louder than the conversation.
Nourish the Masses
People generally expect to be eating by about 7 or 8 pm when they go to a dinner party. Just be sure you have provided your guests with snacks earlier in the evening so nobody is starving by the time you serve the first course. Put out snacks in the afternoon as people arrive, but don’t leave food items like cheese, smoked salmon and cured meats in the afternoon heat. RedEnvelope’s home decor gifts such as our Cubist Chips and Dips Set is designed with a built in, ice filled cooling mechanism to keep your olives, cheeses and dips from spoiling.
An important rule of hosting a dinner party is to avoid making the dinner fare overly complicated. The worst thing you can do is spend the entire evening in the kitchen while your friends entertain themselves. Make as much as you can the night before so all you need to do is put things in the oven and take plastic wrap off salads.
We live in a fortunate social climate for people with food allergies or preferences. Gone are the days when people with dietary restrictions had to carry food with them in zip lock bags in case of an attack of the munchies. On some airlines, you can now choose from upwards of 30 special meal types, including diabetic, fat-free, gluten-free, Hindu, Indian vegetarian, Jain, kosher, lacto-ovo, lactose-free, low calorie, low cholesterol, low lactose, low protein, low purine, low sodium, Muslim, non-carbohydrate, nut-free, post-weaning, raw vegetarian, vegan, and of course, the humble vegetarian.
Thankfully, as the host of a dinner party, and not the CEO of an airline, you need only find out what a handful of peoples’ dietary preferences are. By no means should you change your entire menu for one or two guests with dietary restrictions, but you must respect those few guests and offer a well thought out alternative for them. And be generous – don’t serve escargot and rabbit terrine for everyone else only to dish up a store-bought vege burger and a pile of broccoli for your vegan guests.
Consider the number of people you are having over for dinner and don’t put out too much alcohol. Keep in mind that many guests will bring a bottle with them too. As the host, it is your job to encourage responsible drinking. Offer snacks in the wine serving area, so people aren’t likely to drink on an empty stomach. Serve bread and cheese with some dried muscatels on a nice wooden cheese board (like the personalizable hickory cheese & bread board from RedEnvelope).
If you would like to make a pitcher of cocktails, err on the conservative side when it comes to the amount of alcohol you use. People expect pitchers or dispensers of cocktails to be much less alcoholic than a normal cocktail. For example, a cosmopolitan that you order at a bar will use equal parts vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice and fresh lime, but if you were to use the same ratio in a pitcher of cosmopolitan you would be filling half the pitcher with spirits. If you want to serve individual cocktails, you can be more liberal with the alcohol ratios (your adult guests will be familiar with the strength of a cocktail served in a martini glass). RedEnvelope’s cubist martini set hold four martinis in a chilled display. Stemless martini glasses sit in ice-filled glass cubes, keeping them perfectly chilled while your guests mingle and dine.
You are now ready to throw a fabulous dinner party! Lastly, the most important rule is to enjoy your own party! You worked hard to put it on - you deserve to have some fun!