5 Secrets to Planning the Perfect Dinner Party

If you're inviting friends or family over for an upcoming dinner and thinking where do I start? I've got you covered. Here are my top 5 tips for planning the perfect dinner party! Don't worry, you've got this. If you can open your fridge, then you can fill your table with a feast.

I love having a simple side table set up with drink and appetizers. I tell our guests to find their seat at the table, grab their glass and help themselves. Having a side table encourages the guests to mingle!

#1 : MAKE YOUR FAVORITES :

If you make a killer pot of soup, then plan your meal around that. If your family loves your grilled teriyaki chicken kebabs then make those! Maybe you whip up an amazing pre-made lasagna from Costco. Just because folks are coming over doesn't mean you have to slave away trying new recipes and crossing your fingers they'll turn out. So, ask your friends or family what their favorite dish is that you serve and use that as your main course. Now think through what other things go well with that dish and write out your menu.

#2 : INVITE FRIENDS = INVITE HELP : Now that you have your menu figured out, ask your guests to bring some of the side items; maybe a salad, or appetizer, a loaf of bread ready to be warmed up or their favorite beverage. Just like people love being invited to be part of the party, they also love contributing to the meal. Just because you're hosting does not mean you have to provide and prep everything! The best dinner parties are ones that you get to do with friends, so invite 1 or 2 people to come an hour early to help with the final details. When doing a large dinner I enlist all sorts of help. We have a large chalkboard in our kitchen that I turn into the to do list. I go through all the things that need to be set up and put out before the dinner and I jot it ALL down. Then when folks come and ask what they can do I already have my thoughts in order and there's no chance of forgetting to put out the sauce for the spring rolls, or the butter for the corn bread. Creating a large meal for a large group all on your own might be commendable but I promise you it isn't nearly as fun as doing it with friends. Plus, having help makes the entire evening start better because you'll be reminded why you're doing all of it...so you can be with your people!

#3 : MAKE A LIST...just 1 :  

I'm sure you have an incredible memory, but honestly MAKE A LIST. There's nothing worse than realizing in the middle of making dinner that you don't have enough corn starch, or you need 1 more egg. So, look over your recipes and double check your ingredients. This is also a great chance to think through how you want the table to be set. Do you need to pick up any extra candles? Do you have the flowers or greenery you want to use? If you need inspiration on how to set the table think through what type of food you're making. If it's Italian, go with an Italian theme like the last dinner we hosted. Are you making Thai food? Then find a few decor pieces that reflect that look. Mexican? Go for a fiesta! If you take time to plan out your table set up as you plan out your grocery list then you'll only be heading to the store once for all of the groceries and decor pieces. And no need to break the bank! It's amazing how greenery and candles can make any table feel like a million bucks. Look around your yard, your neighbors or friends places and put those crazy ivy plants and shrubs to work.

Placing drinks and water bottles down the table allow your guests to easily help themselves during the meal : plus they add a great splash of color and decor to your table scape!

#4 : GET TIME ON YOUR SIDE :

When it comes to the day of the dinner party, give yourself time to set everything up and get yourself ready too. I make a rule for myself that if I haven't done so already, I stop 2 hours before and take time to get myself ready for the night. Then I pour myself my favorite beverage (spritzers! yummmm), turn on my favorite tunes and then get back to the final prep. As long as you are dressed and ready for the evening when your guests arrive everything else will be just fine. Remember, your friends and family are coming over because they want to hang out together. So, take the pressure off of yourself. Everything does not have to be perfect in order for it to be a perfect evening.

#5 : READY, SET THE TABLE, GO :

So the dinner might be cooking slower than you expected, no worries! As long as your table is set when your guests arrive they'll feel like everything is going as planned. 30 minutes before everyone arrives double check your table, is everything where you want it? If a friend is coming early to help, have them light the candles, double check that the music is playing and be sure to have drink options out. When your guests start arriving ask one of them to be in charge of inviting people to help themselves to drinks and appetizers. People want jobs, so if you give them something to do it will help them feel at ease. 

People come to dinner to be together, not because they think your house should be perfectly clean or decorated, not because you're a Master Check, they come because you invited them to be part of your life. Now, you've done all the prep work, it's time to enjoy!....plus, no one will even know if something is out of place, honestly don't say a word and I promise they won't even notice.