The Ultimate Dinner Party Guide

Part of the fun of having a home is entertaining friends. And whether you’re a natural Martha Stewart or not, hosting a dinner party for your close friends is a great way to get people together without the hassle of loud restaurants and crowds. But hosting a dinner party is about much more than cooking a meal. From the time they step inside to the minute they depart, you want your guests to feel comfortable and entertained.

Creating an intimate ambiance, serving delicious food and keeping the conversation flowing can be a stressful combination. Consider this your official dinner party guide and you’ll be sending out those Evites before you know it.

The Living Room

It’s true that most of your dinner party will take place in the dining room—but before and after the big meal is served, your guests will probably congregate in the living room. Before everyone arrives, make sure your space is set up to encourage interaction. Create a conversation area by placing your occasional chairs around the sofa. Folding chairs, bar stools or ottoman furniture will also work in a pinch. If you have a fireplace, light a fire for ambiance. Keep some light snacks such as chips, veggies and dips on the coffee table so guests can graze.

The Dining Room

This is the place where the meal will be served and everyone will convene, so have some fun decorating it for the occasion. Add the extra leaves to your dining room table and make sure there is adequate seating. Then, create a customized tablescape to add a little elegance. You can tie the theme of the tablescape into the theme of your decor—for example, if you have reclaimed wood furniture, you can go with flowers in mason jars and small candles for a rustic look. You can also set the table to match the theme of your meal.

The Menu

Planning the menu is the best part of any dinner party. But before you get carried away, check with your guests for any food allergies, sensitivities or dietary needs. There’s no need to plan an entire meal around a picky palate, but you’ll want to be sure you’ll have something for everyone. As for the actual meal, you can go all out with a five course feast or keep it simple. No matter what you end up serving, however, it’s fun to have at least three courses: a salad, a main course and a dessert.

Take stock of your home bar as well. It’s a good idea to have beer, wine and at least one option for hard alcohol, like a customized cocktail. And don’t forget to have a non-alcoholic option for guests who don’t drink.

Entertainment

Sometimes dinnertime conversation will be entertainment enough. However, it’s a good idea to have some ice breakers on hand for guests who don’t know each other. You can play trivia, card games or board games after your meal, or you can work some of these party game ideas into the meal itself.

Last but not least, be sure and have your guest room or space set up in case one of your guests hits the bar cart too hard. Most importantly, relax.

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