There was a point during some of my first few dinner parties where I said to myself ‘I’m NEVER doing this again’. I’ve had the moments where it’s 15 minutes before everyone is supposed to arrive and you hear the door bell and someone arrives early. I know what you’re thinking, oh shit. You are right my friend, oh shit.
My hair was half curled with a pink chip clip holding up the rest, my chicken was still raw and not one bottle of wine was cold. What. A. Nightmare. Today I am sharing with you all of my secrets of success to never have this moment happen to you! I promise!
I should have gave myself a break because I was in my very early 20’s and didn’t have a whole lot of experience. Not only was I using teeny tiny spaces (which I think you can totally have a dinner party in by the way!) but I was biting off FAR more than I could chew. I realized quickly that I didn’t have to have 3 different desserts for 10 people and that I could throw out a bunch of cold beer and wine and not have to hand shake everyone a fun cocktail.
I am 100% one of those people that likes to do eveeeeeerything. It’s probably one of my greatest weaknesses and biggest flaws. When it comes to throwing dinner parties I realized that I was going to have to tone down perfection a little. The point of having a great dinner party (for me anyway!) is to have everyone leaving like they had an unforgettable evening. You will quickly find that having every little detailed filed out is not what is important. I use things like make ahead recipes, self serve stations and always use what I have on hand before buying an entire new table set.
Above everything else, and probably the most important, you have to be a good host. Which may sound pretty self explanatory but I think there is a little more to it. You have to make sure you are in the right mindset because your tone sets the tone for everyone else which sets the tone for the whole evening! It’s kind of a lot okay?! So use these tips to get your evening under control and make sure you have an amazing time just as your guests will!
1. Plan your menu and theme
As soon as I know I am having a party or gathering I start planning right away! The first two things I figure out are, who I am inviting and what I am throwing.
Is it a Birthday party? A themed dinner party? A holiday party? What ever you are putting together, figure it out and stick with it! This theme can act as the foundation to your dinner party! Next plan out as many recipes/drink ideas that you can. I am a big fan of make ahead dishes that you can pop in the oven or cold sides that just need a garnish and a serving spoon. My biggest advice for your menu is to stick with dishes that you have made before or a familiar with. I am a big fan of taking classic dishes like macaroni and cheese and tacos and giving them an elevated spin!
2. Set the mood
One of my favorite moments of any dinner party is showing off the table that I put together for them. Candles are lit, music is running and everyone just feels like the evening is really special. It’s extremely corny, I know. But I seriously live for those moments. Inexpensive things like putting together a custom play list, lighting lots of unscented candles are small things that take your dinner party skills up a notch!
3. Mix and match
I am here to tell you that you don’t have to spend a few hundred dollars at Pottery Barn every time you want to have a dinner party. My first few dinner parties that I through in college were made up of a collection of mismatched Target plates and some borrowed items from my Aunt. Make do with what you have if you need to and get a little resourceful. If you do mismatch your table decor, just keep everything in a similar color family! This will help the whole look stay cohesive.
4. Self serve drink station
I love keeping everyones wine glass as full as possible. This can also be a tough task when you’re trying to mingle with everyone and get some food on the table during that first half hour. Having a self serve drink station will get your evening running smoothly. This keeps everyone busy (I hate award moments at parties!) and gets everyone a first drink which is always necessary for a good dinner party. I usually try and batch one cocktail (margs are my fav!) and then beer and wine for the rest of the night. Whenever people ask if they can bring something I ALWAYS say beer or wine! Simple and you can’t really go wrong. Unless someone brings in like disgusting Kirkland light beer from Costco, then I don’t know what to tell you my friend lolz
5. Take some time for yourself
This one’s important okay?! Having the right frame of mind and taking a few moments for yourself before a bunch of people invade your home are IMPORTANT. My best dinner parties were ones where I was my best self. For me this means tidying up any messy areas in the house, doing my hair and makeup and putting on an outfit I feel comfortable with. Even if my chicken isn’t done cooking or the dessert isn’t put together, I always take a moment to pause what I am working on and get myself together. If I am really ahead, I’ll even have a glass of wine before everyone arrives to loosen up a little!
6. Keep it simple
My number one tip that I have to constantly tell myself before planning any party is to keep everything simple! I always want to try and make something extravagant or incorporate too many ideas into one evening! I have realized that people really just want some great food and endless drinks. Two simple things that are often overlooked. I find myself always spending far too much time arranging flowers and perfectly folding napkins. If I have the time for it, great! Most of the time I try and plan everything out around a layer of simplicity.
I hope you found these tips and tricks helpful for throwing your own dinner party. Comment below if you have a great tip that you always stick by!