If you’re like me, sometimes the thought of throwing a formal dinner party for friends is overwhelming when you consider how hard it is just to get dinner on the table every night for your own family. But with the economy being what it is, dining in is becoming a much more attractive option to making a reservation!
It’s time to check those insecurities at the door, and get busy! Even if you are not a seasoned chef (pardon the pun), you can create a fun, warm evening for you and your friends. All you need is food, friends, and ambiance. In other words, if I can do it, so can you! It doesn’t have to be perfect, just sincere. So let’s take the stress out of it, and HAVE FUN!
Tips to defuse dinner party stress
- Determine the optimal number of guests you can comfortably accommodate. It’s less stressful to do a few small dinner parties than one large one.
- Do you want a theme for your party? It’s not necessary, but can be fun (see some ideas at the bottom of this post).
- Pick a menu you are comfortable with. Be prepared with requests in case any guests ask if they can bring anything. Desserts, appetizers or wine are easy choices.
- Depending on how formal your party will be, either mail printed invitations or (for a more spontaneous get-together), just pick up the phone and call some friends.
- Don’t aim for a spotless house before the party…go for the illusion of clean (a good solid “pick up”) and save the heavy cleaning for after they go. Bonus – guests will be more comfortable in a not-so-perfect home.
- For a more formal dinner party, get a sitter for the kids (or rent their favorite movie) and distract Fido with a bone in the basement or garage.
- Don’t forget to chill the wine or other chosen beverage ahead of time.
- Set the table well in advance of the party. It will help get you in the party mood, and it’s more fun to create the ambiance when you’re not feeling rushed.
- Print the menu on cards in a fancy font and display at each place setting.
- Use place cards to strategically set up an optimal conversational arrangement at the table. Plus guests typically feel more comfortable if they don’t have to jockey for position when called to the table. Just make sure your seat is closest to the kitchen.
- Opt for a more understated center piece to encourage cross-table conversation. Better yet, just scatter a few votive candles around the table for a casual glow.
- Pick appropriate dinner music to play in the background.
Relax and Enjoy:
- Don’t forget to enjoy your own party! Guests pick up on any “perfectionist” vibes, and will relax and have fun if you do. “Good enough is good enough!”
- Don’t worry about cleanup – just get the table cleared, food put away, and then leave it for the next day.
Ok, as promised, here are some theme dinner party ideas for fall:
- Football party – serve up chili and hot dogs, and lots of team spirit.
- Pumpkin Carving Party (and/or costume party) – Pumpkin muffins, roasted pumpkin seeds, etc.
- Election Coverage Party – Red/blue decorating theme. Have large wall map that you can track results as they are reported. Serve an early thanksgiving meal and focus on what makes our country great rather than petty partisanship. Have a viewing of the latest SNL spoofs for fun.
- Coffee House Night – serve up some gourmet coffees, coffee cake, muffins, set out an eclectic assortment of coffee mugs. Live music optional!
- Game night – How about a night of grown-up charades, men against women?
So go ahead and have that spontaneous dinner party with friends. Just remember to have a GREAT time!