Hosting your first dinner party is a major milestone; sure, you’ve had friends over for cocktails or thrown a house party, but those are different beasts altogether. A dinner party might seem imposing at the outset, but really it shouldn’t be; follow these guidelines and you’ll pull it off easily!
Keep your guest list manageable
Stick to six to eight people (including yourself); not only is it less stressful to host a smaller group, but it’s more budget-friendly as well. While there’s no need to stick to one friend group, it’s generally a good idea to avoid a guest list entirely made up of strangers.
Consider hosting on a weeknight or a Friday
While it’s tempting to choose a Saturday as you’ll have more time to shop, prep, and clean your house, a weeknight dinner party (or even Friday) comes with lower expectations and therefore less pressure. Plus, you won’t eat up your entire weekend getting things ready. With some advance planning and outsourcing, a Wednesday or Thursday is totally manageable, plus it’ll be a fun break from your weeknight routine.
Send out the invite at least a week ahead
Schedules fill up fast, so send out invites one to two weeks ahead of time. If you’re inviting a group of friends, a mass email is fine; if not, email or text everyone individually. Make sure to inquire about dietary restrictions so that you can plan around any.
A week before your party, assess your inventory
While there’s definitely no need to have matching plates, silverware, glassware, and napkins, do make sure that you have enough of each for the entire group. Don’t overlook napkins. While there’s no need to splurge, paper towels don’t cut it.
Feel no shame in outsourcing
Most will probably bring a bottle of wine or some beer, but if one of your guests asks what they can bring, suggest their favorite cheese and a baguette or a couple pints of ice cream for dessert. Likewise, don’t feel the need to cook every dish; go store-bought with at least one major element, whether it’s appetizers or dessert.
Prep as much of the menu ahead of time as possible
Leave dishes that need to be finished at the last minute, like a delicate salad or pan-fried fish, for when you have a couple dinner parties under your belt. Instead, fill out your menu with foods that are meant to be served chilled or at room temperature. Do as much of the cooking as you can in the day or two prior to your party.
Don’t overlook ambiance
Like dinner prep, don’t leave cleanup to the last minute; do the dishes, take out the trash, wipe down the dinner table, and tidy up high-traffic areas like the bathroom the night before. Put on a playlist that everyone will enjoy. Consider picking up some inexpensive flowers.
Keep the alcohol flowing
While you can expect some of your dinner-party guests to bring booze, don’t rely entirely on this. Even if you explicitly ask everyone to bring something they’d like to drink, have some wine or beer chilled and ready for when the first people show up. Unless you’re a teetotaler, savor a preparty glass of wine or beer while you put the finishing touches on your party; it’ll set a convivial mood and loosen you up.