A Successful Dinner Party

Sunday night I hosted a dinner party for 9 people (plus a 4-month old baby) and it was fabulous.

It’s funny how things change in a year. This time last year when I had people over, I was a hosting mess. I fussed and worried and stressed over every detail. What if they don’t have a good time? What if the conversation is dull? What if the food is under or over cooked? What if my table isn’t comfortable enough for everyone?

It takes a lot of courage to host a party.

You invite people over into your home. You feel responsible for meeting their physical and entertainment appetite. You have to time the food so everything will be hot and ready at the same time. You try to make your place look spectacular, but at the same time want to put people at ease and not over do it.

I’m no hosting expert, but I’m becoming more and more comfortable. After hosting my fair share of dinners and get-togethers in the last year, I’ve learned a few tricks to make parties go well:

  •  Always have enough time to clean the house before people come over. It doesn’t have to look spotless, but will make you feel 100% better when people arrive knowing your place looks its best.
  • Have more beverage choices other than water. I always like to have an alcoholic option, a non-alcoholic option (like soda or lemonade), water, and decaf coffee on hand for those who like coffee with their dessert.
  • Always fix something you’ve made before. Never, try a new complicated recipe for guests, unless they’re forgiving family or really close friends. Preferably make something you can prepare ahead so you’re not alone in the kitchen slaving away when your guests arrive.
  • If you want to try a new recipe, experiment on the dessert. Everyone will be too full at that point if it flops.
  • Ask people to bring something! Maybe a side dish, a dessert, salad, or a bottle of wine. It makes them feel like they are an important part of the dinner instead of indebted to the hosts. (And it’s sooo much easier on you as a host!)
  • Have a candle lit in the bathroom and make sure to empty the trashcan.
  • Have music playing, whether it’s Sanatra, Coltrane or Bieber (and only a few select groups can handle Bieber – I’m looking at you, Becca.)
  • Practice makes perfect. The more you host, the easier it becomes.

My older sister Carrie has hosting down to an art, and I’ve learned so much from watching her. She reminded me the other day…  What do you feel when you’re at other people’s homes? Most of the time I’m just happy they’ve invited me!

After everyone had left, the candles were blown out and the dishwasher was running, I went back to my room happy and full after a successful party. I looked in the mirror and realized I had forgotten to put on makeup that day. Ha! How do I forget to look in the mirror before 7 people come over? But it was the best feeling — I didn’t care. I realized how far I’ve come in a year from seeking perfection and how nice it was to have such great friends who cared less if I was decked out in makeup or not.

Do you get nervous about inviting people over? What hosting tricks do you have up your sleeve?

PS – Apparently Ina Garten wears slippers when she hosts. I love that!

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  • Yeah! Wonderful post and so encouraging for those who are new or nervous about hosting just right! To be your age you’ve got the right attitude and perspective; many, many people will learn from your example!

  • Great tips and it looks like you had a lovely dinner party! I learned the hard way to give myself WAY more time than I think I need to do last minute cleaning/straightening up and to make the food. I also learned not to make a new recipe for a dinner party! It took at least 45 minutes longer than I expected and I felt so badly (my guests were very understanding, fortunately).

    I try to make simple dishes or ones that take care of themselves (stick in the oven, or in a crock pot) instead of ones that require a lot of attention, so I can focus on my guests.

  • i love that you hosted a dinner party…i have yet to host one but hopefully someday soon! it looks like everyone had a great time. thanks for the tips!

  • I love hosting dinner parties and you are right, it takes great courage for many! Good job – looks lovely and I bet people had a blast! :)

  • Yes, unfortunately I’ve also learned the hard way not to make a new recipe! J has been the guinea pig for so many good and bad recipes. :)