8 Tips To Hosting A Dinner Party Like A Pro

by Nick Bailey on March 10, 2017 in Food+Drink, Lifestyle, Home, Living Texas, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio,
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If you’ve got a home (or apartment), a sturdy table and the culinary prowess to read a few recipes — or watch videos from the Tasty Facebook page — then you have just about everything you need to host an amazing dinner party. But if you’re going to do it, then do it right and make it a night to remember. This isn’t your average takeout and Game of Thrones gathering — This is an experience, shared with your closest friends. Assuming you’re all adults, here are some tips to hosting the best dinner party they could ever ask for. Grab a glass of wine and take notes.

Send Invitations

Get creative with your themes and ideas. Make the invitation something guests will want to keep.
Get creative with your themes and ideas. Make the invitation something guests will want to keep.

Skip the texts, and do this the old school way. Break out the pen and some above-average stationary and give your guests the details in a more formal way. Don’t fret, once you’ve sent out the invitations, follow up by making a Facebook event to help make sure everyone’s on the same page when it comes to the details. Nobody wants the arrive late to dinner — it can easily diminish the atmosphere. Not only will they appreciate the extra effort, but they’ll also have a simple momento to keep long after the evening has ended. Plus, who doesn’t like getting mail that isn’t a bill? although it seems silly, make sure your invitations have all of the important info. Forgetting to specify the date of the gathering can make for an unfortunate gaffe.

Set The Dress Code

It's ok to have a theme from time to time — just make sure everyone is in the loop
It’s ok to have a theme from time to time — just make sure everyone is in the loop

Setting the dress code is essential to make sure that everyone is on the same page. If you leave it to their imaginations to come up with an answer, you may be met with guests who look like they just rolled out of bed sitting next to guest that were expecting the this to be the highlight of the season, and although the idea of Marie Antoinette sitting next to Jed Clampett may sound humorous, unless that’s your goal save everyone the frustration.

It can be as fancy or as casual as you want, but you should make it a point to make it consistent. After you’ve got good at hosting these, you may want to try incorporating themes into your dinner parties to create new and unique experiences. I’m sure some of your friends would be dying to have an unnecessarily elegant masquerade dinner with some opulent hors d’oeuvres and a majestic main course.

Plan Your Playlist

Step away from the Kenny G. Grab your gadgets and make the soundtrack for the evening.
Step away from the Kenny G. Grab your gadgets and make the soundtrack for the evening.

This goes hand-in-hand with setting the dress code — music sets the scene. It’s the subtle hues and pastels that form the foundation of your mealtime masterpiece. It’s the soundtrack to an intimate moment with life-long friends. Or it’s background noise while you debate over why the Houston Texans aren’t as good as the Dallas Cowboys. Texas-based jazz and low-key indie artists are good options depending on your crowd, but it’s ultimately up to you to set the vibe for the evening.

One tip many people utilize is using Pandora or Tidal to curate customizable playlists. You should definitely try to read the crowd to see what their musical tastes lean towards.

Pass On The Pasta

Sometimes pasta can be a good option, but unless you have an Italian theme, it may be best to pass.
Sometimes pasta can be a good option, but unless you have an Italian theme, it may be best to pass.

This isn’t the high school booster club banquet. No offense to pasta-heavy cultures, but dishes like lasagna and spaghetti might not be the best option for your dinner party. Think about it; you’ve sent out hand-written — or at least physical — invitations, you’ve set a dress code and even picked a theme. All for your guests to be presented with SpaghettiOs for adults? It’s safe to say everyone in the situation deserves better than that — including you.

There are many options that are appealing to the eyes and the appetite that won’t break the bank. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots and many leafy vegetables can be versatile alongside leading meats like salmon, duck and chicken. Facebook and Instagram have all the recipes you could ever need, too.

Have An Alternative Dish Available

Bowl of quinoa with mixed vegetables
Check with your guests ahead of time so you don’t waste a plate, but be ready just in case.

We all have that one friend. The one who doesn’t eat meat, gluten, dairy, starches or anything beginning with the letter C. With all the different diet trends coming in and out of fashion, you’re bound to be met with a guest with one restriction or another.

You can’t help the fact that your best friend’s fiancé is a lactose intolerant pescatarian, but if you want them to be there you’ll need to have something for her at the table. This is where that Facebook event comes in handy. Now these conversations can happen in advance, rather than having it sprung on you at the door with a bottle of merlot. That said, if you do need to make an alternative dish for a guest, make sure it’s just a delicious as the original option.

Keep Guests In Good Spirits

slightly blurred dark dinner party person pouring wine into a glass above the table and candles
You don’t have to splurge on the drinks, but knowing how to pair drinks with your food will make all the difference.

A properly prepared cocktail never insulted anyone. If you have the budget for it, pair a light cocktail like a dry martini with the hors d’oeuvres, a wine with the main course and a good digestif such as smooth whiskey or brandy with dessert. The alcohol will help to loosen lips for more exciting conversation, and believe it or not, these drinks help prepare the body for the food.

The opening cocktails are light and meant to stimulate the appetite, and the digestifs help the food settle in part due to the higher alcohol content. The wine you select for the main course will depend on what you decide to cook. Just make sure nobody goes overboard with the drinks — it could get uncomfortable at the table if someone has had a few more than a few too many. Having things coordinated so well shows your guests how much you think of them and appreciate their presence.

Disconnect The Devices

Tell your guests that gadgets are for emergencies only. You're all there to enjoy each other's company.  But a couple of photo opps won't hurt.
Tell your guests that gadgets are for emergencies only. You’re all there to enjoy each other’s company. But a couple of photo opps won’t hurt.

This isn’t a double date to Applebee’s, so make sure guests know to ditch the devices at the door. No smart phones, tablets or whatever else they may use to check their timeline instead of enjoying the evening in good company.

Remember how you set the standards with a dress code, theme and playlist? Don’t put in all that effort just for them to overlook it all because they’re more concerned with their celebrity crush’s latest snapchat story. Though some devices can be left at home, you would do well to have a container for guests to safely place their phones for a couple of hours. Pro tip: Place a wager on the phones. First person to check their phone has to buy the drinks for next dinner.

End The Evening Like A Boss

Even Cinderella's fun had to end. Just make sure your guest leave with both shoes.
Even Cinderella’s fun had to end. Just make sure your guest leave with both shoes.

There’s a good chance some of you have things to do the next day. If you’ve got to be at the office first thing in the morning, you may not want guests lingering around for two hours after dessert has been finished.

This isn’t the night for friends to get sloshed and crash on the couch, and make sure they know that ahead of time to save yourself the hassle with that one friend — not the crazy diet one, the other one. We all have those friends. If you want to avoid being rude about ending the evening, wait until dessert is served and sneak in a comment or two about having an early start the next day. If that’s not enough, politely begin taking dishes to the kitchen in hopes they get the message. After that, all bets are off.

Putting together a dinner party doesn’t have to be an exhaustive endeavor. With a little bit of time, patience and planning, a dinner party can be a great way to strengthen bonds and create an evening of happiness for the special people in your life. It can be anything from a Gatsby-level affair to a quaint backyard barbecue