Five Steps to Throwing the Perfect Dinner Party (Without Losing Your Sanity)
Dinner parities can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially when you have two plus children and/or a full-time job. Depending on your level of commitment and patience, the planning and execution can be simplified if you take it one day at a time. Below I’ve listed 5 steps to calm the nerves and create a seamless dinner party that you can have the luxury of enjoying.
1. Getting organized.
You know the “note” app that comes with your phone? The one that works perfect for a grocery list? Use it.
Start off by making a list of all your guests. It takes time to collect RSVPs, so you will be deleting/adding as you go along. Once you have the guest list organized, you’ve established your foundation.
Use the note app to also organize the groceries, accessories, and decorations that will be needed for the party. This app will be your go-to and best friend throughout the planning process. If your phone has voice commands you can literally talk your way through. Consider it the perfect free assistant.
2. Putting things in motion.
It typically takes a week or more to plan out everything you need. Completing the prep work in advance will enable you to have a moment to actually sit down and interact with your guests during the big soiree. After all, constantly shuffling between the kitchen and dining room will leave you tired and missing out on all the interesting conversations.
The key is to complete one or two tasks everyday before the grand event. It’s a great idea to stock up on all your groceries and essentials ahead of time. Keep checking off completed items as you go along. The satisfaction of crossing off things on a shortlist is monumentally gratifying.
3. Set-up the night before.
The night before, when I’m starting to get a little anxious and wondering if I’ve gotten everything done, I take out my favored cutlery, dishes, and table decorations and arrange them in a sensible and artful manner (this step– in fact every step, I borrowed from my mother. I have a lot of experience serving as her apprentice folding napkins and getting the centerpiece just right).
You’ll also need to select the appropriate serving dishes for each of the items you’ll be cooking, both big and small.
Speaking of cooking, I make anything vegetable or desert-related the night before, leaving only meat and rice dishes for the day of the big affair. Trust me, this saves a lot of time.
Before going to bed, I also make sure I have chairs set up for the guests in a way that economizes space and is aesthetically pleasing. Having to shift chairs around, squeeze two people in a tight space, or asking someone to sit on your hard wood floor can be dreadfully embarrassing.
4. Wake up early, delegate tasks, and relax.
Unfortunately sleeping-in is not an option the day of the party. Set two alarms if you are a chronic snoozer and don’t trust your ability to wake up. If that doesn’t work, get the kids to jump on your bed while signing Let it Go, or better yet, go to sleep with the curtains wide open, letting in all that bright morning sunshine.
Once you are up and refreshed, get all the cooking done, cut the garnishes, and refrigerate them. Cutting garnishes is a very tedious task. If rushed, it can be a disaster. Trust me, I’ve ended up in the ER with a badly injured finger.
Now is the time to also ask for help. Get your hubby to pick up the flower arrangement that you ordered three days before at the getting organized step.There are always last minute things like extra napkins or drinks that you can ask your trusty husband to grab. Oh, be prepared to receive a minimum of 5 calls asking which aisle contains the items you requested, no matter how basic or simple! This would also be a great time to send the kiddos with dad.
Since I woke up early, by 3 or 4 pm I have everything that I need done, done. Now is the time to relax for an hour or so. I don’t do anything here besides drink a cup of coffee and allow my mind to rest.
5. You are ready to party.
Having done all the pre-planning, prep work, and table arrangements (and enduring constant fits of panic and anxiety), it’s finally time for the party.
The table is set, the food is ready, and you and the kids are dressed to the nines because, of course, you took out all the party clothes the night before.
Remember one thing: the “warm” button on the oven is the most important button you will use during the evening. Once your food is at the temperature you like, just hit warm, sit back, and relax until the guests arrive.
Sometimes you will have a helper who can attend to the needs of your guests throughout the night: taking coats, serving punch, and dishing out food. If you are lucky enough to have such an assistant you can comfortably watch the night unfold like a perfectly preformed theatrical play. But if hired help is not an option, you can always rely on a friend or your husband to lend a thoughtful and generous hand.
This is the moment all your hard work pays off. Sit with your guests, enjoy the compliments, and revel in the delight of having pulled off the perfect party.