You’ve sent the invitations and gotten your replies. Now what? Follow this checklist to help you plan the perfect dinner party.
To Theme or Not to Theme? Decide on a theme- or decide not to have one. Asses your guest list. Do you think they will be responsive to a theme? If not, keep things simple but elegant.
Which theme should you choose? You can base your theme around a season or holiday, a cuisine style or country, a color, a type of food or drink? Be wary of combining themes as it makes things too complicated.
Plan the menu. Think in terms of courses. Choose one appetizer, one salad, one main entree, one dessert etc. Resist the urge to over prepare. This creates too much stress and prevents you from enjoying your guests. If guests have specific needs, work that into your menu instead of preparing something different.
A menu for a Mediterranean style party may include cheese phylo triangles for an appetizer, minestrone soup as a first course, fennel and arugula salad with pine nuts and feta as the second course, Italian seasoned steaks with roasted asparagus as a main course, and a Greek style apple cake for dessert.
Decorate. Make simple but inexpensive changes to your decor. For a Mediterranean party, use a white table cloth with blue dishes, light some candles, and play some Greek or Italian music softly on the stereo. You want guests to feel comfortable and if you get too fancy with the decorations, they’ll be too afraid of breaking something.
Prepare in advance. Make what you can ahead of time. You can’t enjoy your guests if you spend the entire party cooking! In the Mediterranean menu example you can prepare the cheese phylo triangles and Greek apple cake in advance. You can prepare the salad and its dressing the morning of the party and add the dressing to the salad just before serving. You can prepare the steaks an hour in advance and keep them warm before serving.
Understand your guests. Try to pay equal attention to all your friends to make them feel welcome. If someone seems to feel uncomfortable or isolated, try to draw them in by getting them to speak about their interests. The goal is to make everyone feel comfortable and keep the conversation flowing. Be careful not to badger, though. If they truly don’t want to talk, putting pressure on them to speak can have the opposite effect and may embarrass them.