Can you feel it? Summer is (almost) here, groups are safely gathering, and the dinner party is in full swing. I’ve hosted my fair share of dinner parties over the years, so I’ve compiled some knowledge about what makes them run smoothly and how to ensure your guests will have the best of times (and not the worst of times).
There’s nothing that screams “I’m an adult” more than hosting your friends at your home for an intimate gathering in which you supply the food and entertainment.
Beyond staying organized (I like to make a spreadsheet with vendor names, contact information, what they’re supplying, and cost) and having quality food, there are a few key things to keep in mind when hosting a dinner party.
1. Anytime snacks are key.
The point of hosting a dinner party at your home is to spend more time with your guests than you would at a restaurant. Thus, having what I like to call “anytime snacks” around your house for before and after the actual sit-down dinner is key. My favorite anytime snacks are big, beautiful cheeseboards. I like to place a couple of them around my home so guests don’t feel like they’re crowding one table or waiting in line for food.
2. Set the mood—lights, candles, music, and florals.
Take some time to make a long (think 4 hour) playlist—you don’t want to be spending time trying to find songs that night—and even ask your friends to contribute by adding their favorite songs. Make sure you’re stocked up on fresh candles. I like to use pillar candles for longer events so you don’t have to worry about relighting or wax spilling everywhere. Never underestimate the power of candles to create a vibe! If you’re hosting outside, a good compliment to candles is bistro string lights, which will make your patio feel like an oasis. Finally, don’t forget the florals! Try searching for a local vendor who can make a few unique arrangements for you—a couple for the table, one for the bathroom, and a couple scattered throughout the house.
3. Dessert is always a good idea.
Even if you’re not a dessert person, serve dessert! Stage dessert at a different table than you serve dinner at so guests can grab it at their leisure. Some people are pretty picky about when they eat their dessert after their meal, so setting it up this way is more low-pressure and allows for another “event” after dinner. If you’re feeling extra fancy, set up a coffee, espresso, and tea station, too, for the folks who’d prefer to indulge that way post-dinner.
4. Create a signature cocktail
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here or hire a mixologist, but serving a specialty cocktail that will make guests think of the night whenever they have that cocktail again is a special thing. Even if it’s as simple as a Paloma that you serve in chic glasses with a sprig of mint, Tajín rim, and wedge of grapefruit.