You have an insatiable urge to host a fabulous dinner party, but have absolutely no idea where or how to begin planning and prepping. Your Mom used to handle it all while you sat around munching on black olives and peanuts from a fancy candy bowl. Now it’s your turn and you wish you’d paid attention to all her motherly words of wisdom! Don’t panic. With a pinch of thought and a dash of finesse, you’ll soon be the talk of the town.
Planning is the first step in creating a seamless soiree. Before you hit the pavement, you should prepare a budget for yourself, allowing a few extra bucks for miscellaneous items (extra ice, spontaneous beer run, etc.). You’ll need food, decor, entertainment and a suitable time frame. Why the latter? If your bash could potentially last until sunrise, you’ll work up a sweat trying to find things to do. If your party has a starting and ending time, you’ll know exactly what and how much to prepare.
First things first – food. It’ll be easier and a lot more fun if you prepare appetizers and finger foods and leave sit-down meals for Thanksgiving. The reason being, guests are much more apt to leave early and/or become bored after consuming a large meal than they are snacking the whole night long. Choose food that can be prepared ahead of time (cucumber sandwiches) or cook while they’re being served (tiny sausages). It’s wise to make more than you think you’ll need (liquor + socializing = famished guests).
What to try:
Snack mix (pre-made)
Cheese tray (preparing this yourself is more creative and a lot cheaper than buying a packaged version)
Chips and salsa
Shrimp cocktail (buy a prepared tray or shrimp that has been de-veined)
Meatballs or snack sausages prepared in a slow cooker
If you plan on having liquor, make sure to provide something for everyone; gather a good mix of beer, hard liquor, wine, and mixers. Unless the chic martini is your specialty, cut costs by purchasing low to mid-priced liquor. Few people will be able to tell the difference in a mixed drink. Similarly, make sure to pair the liquor with appropriate mixers and don’t buy these on a whim. Vodka, for instance, mixes well with orange juice and lemonade. Rum is a good match for cola and whiskey is nifty with lemon or lime soda. It’s also a good idea to have soda and water on hand.
Your choice in decor depends solely on the environment you’d like to create. If you’re shooting for a quiet, intimate evening with a few close friends, gather a few candles and place them strategically throughout the room. If your party is themed (e.g. birthday, New Year’s Eve, or game night) invest in a few fun pieces to mark the occasion. Or, utilize no extra decor at all you’re friends will have a splendid evening enjoying each others’ company in a clean, inviting space. Regardless of which creative avenue you choose, it’s best to keep the lights low, this makes for a more intriguing social atmosphere.
Similar rules can be applied to your chosen form of entertainment for the evening. If you’re interested in getting a bit rowdy, have some funky, fast-paced CDs on hand. On game day, leave the T.V. on and keep other noises to a minimum. If intimacy is your ideal, play some slow jazz.
Finally, designate a start and end time for your dinner party. Remember to allow enough time for people to end their daytime activities, or your guests may arrive late. Seven or eight o’ clock is typically a safe bet. The end time is up to you, but it’s usually wise not to let the party drag on past 2 a.m. Don’t forget to allow yourself enough time to prepare your pad and put on your dancing shoes before it comes time to play Hostess. Set your food out, tidy up and arrange seating so that your guests can easily socialize.
Try not to focus any of the seating around the food, as it discourages interaction. When your guests arrive, offer to store their coats and bags in a side room, make the necessary introductions, lead them to your feast and let the party begin!remember