I love hosting dinner parties – but I also hate how stressful they can be. After all, family life’s chaotic enough without throwing extra people into the mix once a week!
That’s why I thought I’d put together some of the ‘rules’ I follow for a stress-free dinner party. They’ll help you set the mood (and table) while also picking the right food for your guests.
So here goes:
Choosing Your Dining Options
As ‘Gordon Ramsey’ as you might want to come across, avoid cooking anything that you’ve never tried before. This has disaster written all over it and you’re much more likely to impress with a tried-and-tested dish that you’ve mastered to perfection than a Michelin-star-inspired dish that takes days to prepare. Plus, you’ll want to double-check any dietary requirements well in advance.
Equally, one of the most important aspects about hosting is spending time with your guests. So you’ll want to cook something that allows you to entertain everyone when they arrive without having to spend hours slaving over your cooking in the kitchen.
And to make sure you bring everything together on time and to the precise details of the recipe, you might want to create some lists. Write one for your timings so you don’t run late (and be sure to factor in time for talking – aka getting distracted – once your guests have arrived) and the other with all the ingredients you need and when you need to add them.
Enhance the Mood
While your food will be the focal point of the entire get together, you can add to its show-stopping qualities by creating the perfect ambience in your home and dining room.
Background music is essential, so put something together than emulates your food and the kind of dinner party you’re after. For example, if you want it to be informal and relaxing, choose soothing tunes with the odd fun party song thrown into the mix as a conversation point. Or, if you’re hosting a themed evening (i.e. Spanish), you might want to choose music that reflects this. Apps like Spotify are always a good place to find playlists without having to trawl through music choices for hours on end.
Also, select your guests carefully. If you choose 5 people who don’t know each other, this could be quite awkward to start with and conversations may be stilted. So try to mix your close friends with new friends who have similar interests. That way you know the conversation will flow effortlessly.
Set the Table
Candles are great for adding to the ambience you’re creating, so light as many of these as you want. Introduce them on your new sideboard (there are some great designs here), bring them in as part of your table decorations and dim the overhead lights (just enough so everyone can see what they’re eating but it feels warm and inviting).
Always add salt and pepper to the table, even if you do think your food has been seasoned perfectly. And always offer guests a dessert. If you know there are quite a few people who tend not to eat dessert, you could serve this along with coffees in your sitting room so it’s less informal and people don’t feel as though they’re being watched while they eat.
Finally, when something goes wrong (come on, something always goes wrong at these events!), just breathe, laugh it off and go with the flow!