Sunday, April 7, 2013

How To Enjoy Hosting A Dinner Party

Ever hosted a dinner party and realized, at the end of the night as you crawled into bed exhausted, that you didn't really get to enjoy it at all?

 Sure, there's a lot of enjoyment to be gained from watching others devour food you made. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fact that you spent all evening in the kitchen, while your guests socialized in the living room. I'm talking about not being able to hold a conversation of any significance because you keep getting distracted by that pot that's boiling over or the bread that's almost too toasted in the oven.

Thankfully, I'm not that girl anymore. I've learned a lot these past few years about how to host AND enjoy a dinner party.

You can do it too. I promise.

1. Start planning in advance. At least a week in advance, I choose the recipes I'll make. I read through them, mapping out how much of each ingredient I need to buy. Then, I schedule out what I'll do each day leading up to the dinner. I try to do less time-sensitive jobs, like picking out what bowls I'll use for what dish, in advance.

2. Choose make-ahead appetizers. Think roasted nuts, marinated olives or a cheese plate. Look for dishes that can be prepared in advance and easily uncovered just before your guests arrive. It's so nice to have snacks out when guests show up, and having them prepped in advance ensures you're ready.

3. Prep, prep, prep. Once you've mapped out how much of each vegetable you need, prepare it in advance. Before my last dinner party, I peeled and trimmed five heads of garlic. I chopped six onions and thinly sliced two others. I roasted four peppers and chopped two more. I saved time the day of because so much prep work had already been done.

4. Be realistic. Don't make every dish a show stopper. This is one of the areas where I struggle the most. I made homemade bread for my last dinner party, and I felt like I had to tell people so they knew and could appreciate it. Everyone would have been just as happy with store-bought bread, and I could have saved myself a few hours of work. Pour your energy into one or two main dishes your guests will really savor.

5. Don't worry about what you can't control. Did a bowl of crackers crash to the ground and shatter? Someone spill tomato soup all over the rug your mom made? It happens, and there's nothing you can do about it but reassure your guests that it's ok, and get started cleaning it up. Stressing out about the situation will just make you and your guests feel bad, lessening everyone's enjoyment of the meal.

6. Sit down and eat. Even if the dinner is casual, take the time. Drink refills can wait for a few minutes. People will survive for five minutes without more salad. You worked hard, and you deserve the time to savor the meal. Clean your plate, and then get up.

Following (almost) all of this advice lead to one of my most enjoyable dinner parties yet (more recipes and photos to come).

What's your best advice on enjoying the dinner parties you host?


  1. This is great advice - especially planning ahead and prepping. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Katelyn! I think both of those make a huge difference.

  2. Pleased to know on how to enjoy hosting a dinner party. Couple of weeks ago, I arranged a tea party with my friends at one of elegant Chicago venues. Decorated venue with amazing flowers and arrangements were done by planner. Everyone liked them very much.