Throwing a dinner party is so much fun! A stylish host knows how to entertain her guests and still enjoy her own party…it just takes a little planning and preparation. Here are a few party etiquette tips to keep in mind for your next celebration.
Consider the theme. Do you enjoy a last minute gathering or a more structured affair? Either way, it’s important to organize your thoughts, make a list, plan your menu and decide what help you will need. Whether you do it all yourself or hire a caterer, it is always helpful to have a few extra hands to assist in serving and keeping things tidy.
Don’t make your guests wonder what they should wear. Let those attending know the dress attire, either by including it on the invitation or passing it along by word of mouth. A quick “please dress casual” is fine communicated by text if you are hosting a last minute potluck bbq, but that doesn’t suffice for a more formal affair. No one wants to show up to a party underdressed – do your guests a favor and let them know your expectations.
Shine like a star. As a host, you are expected to dress with panache. Put on a great outfit, dazzling earrings or statement necklace and your biggest smile. You’ll feel more confident and ready to take on the evening.
It happens. Tell yourself, “There is nothing that can go wrong that will dampen the evening.” Worst case scenario, the food burns and appetizers flop…order pizza and keep the party rolling. Guests won’t remember the food as much as they will notice a frazzled host.
Make a playlist. A party is always more special when there is music playing in the background. If you are lucky enough to have a wonderful sound system, program music throughout the house and backyard. If not, use your smartphone, download a music app and hook it up to a portable speaker.
Lay out the serving pieces the night before. Eliminate stress by setting out as much as you can the day before your gathering. Use sticky notes or small pieces of paper to write down what food items will be served in each platter and bowl. Write on the cheese markers and put them where the corresponding cheeses will be placed on the tray. Now all you have left to do is follow your own instructions with little thought as to what goes where. It also makes it easier for those offering to help.
Give your guests several food options. Rather than taking a poll as to who has what allergy or diet preference, offer a little of everything that vegetarians, nut allergies and locavores will enjoy. Create pretty name plates that identify the dish and state “Gluten Free,” “No Nuts” or “Locally Grown.”
Encourage mixing and mingling. Set up food inside and out, along with multiple drink stations. This allows your guests to continue their conversations without standing in line at a crowded bar to refill their cup and appetizer plate.
Use place cards to avoid awkward seating moments. It’s uncomfortable for guests to arrive at the dinner table, only to stand around waiting for directions. Find some creative place cards and seat your guests next to those with compatible personalities. Put a talker next to someone shy, and a free spirited artist next to an engineer that you feel would enjoy a change of “scenery.”
Don’t leave empty seats at the table. In the event a guest or two doesn’t show up, don’t allow gaps in the table to dampen the conversation. Remove the plates and glassware, encouraging guests to scoot in close for a lively discussion. If a guest shows up in the middle of dinner, pull out a plate and let them catch up with the course you are serving at the time.
Use your best manners. Make introductions to those not familiar with each other, encouraging conversation as you continue to work the room. As the host, spend a little time with every one of your guests. Your efforts will not go unnoticed.