I love hosting family and friends at my home for dinner and drinks. And while our home isn’t exactly a sprawling mansion, it’s cozy and inviting. Hosting guests for dinner isn’t always about being flashy and extravagant, though it doesn’t hurt to splurge on a great bottle of wine (or two!) to get the conversation going. That said, there are certain things to remember to do in the kitchen and beyond to ensure that the party is a success.
Whether it’s your first time hosting a dinner party or you’ve done it a few times, here are a few tips that are worth keeping in mind to make sure the evening goes smoothly.
1. Timing is everything
It took me a while to finally get into the groove of properly timing every aspect of a meal so that guests weren’t sitting around starving and waiting for food, or so I wasn’t stuck in the kitchen rushing to prep and cook dishes while everyone else relaxed outside. Almost more important than preparing a delicious selection of dishes is making sure they are all done on time, and in sync with one another. You want to enjoy the company of friends and family, too, after all.
To keep track of this, write out your menu along with the prep and cook times for each item. For example, while it might only take you four minutes to sear steaks on the stove or barbecue, baking a potato to go on the side could take upwards of an hour. Meanwhile, if you steam or roast the vegetables too far ahead of time, they could dry out or simply get cold.
Do all of your chopping, grating, and prepping beforehand then throw everything back in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble or cook. With some experience and a bit of finesse, you’ll eventually get the timing right.
There are kitchen tools that can help. I love using my Instant Pot, for example, to fast-track things like corn on the cob or baked potatoes, which I can get fully cooked in a matter of minutes. It’s perfect if I forgot to throw them into the oven or on the BBQ in time. Further, you can cook side dishes in the Instant Pot or other multicooker or slow cooker then leave it inside to be kept warm for hours. This means you can prep and cook the dishes that take the longest as far as a few hours in advance.
Timers work wonders as well while you multitask. I use the timers on my oven as well as a smart speaker or smart display. The beauty with the latter is that you can prompt them to set a timer for X number of minutes by voice while your hands are dirty or working on other dishes.
Speaking of my oven, I got a double oven a few years ago. It has a divider that lets you cook two different dishes at the same time at two different temperatures. So, you could roast broccoli florets up top while baking the apple pie for dessert on the lower rack. While I only make use of the feature once in a while, it can be a massive timesaver when cooking for guests.
2. Set the dinner party mood with music
If you’ve ever watched a movie or television series without background audio, you realize how important sound is to setting a scene. The same goes for your own home. Not only can music make your home feel more inviting, cozy, or fun, depending on the playlist you choose, but it can also lift spirits. We never have people over without music playing. In fact, we usually have music playing at all hours of the day in our home.
A soothing playlist with jazz or classical is great for a more sophisticated gathering. For a nostalgic reunion with old friends, play songs from the decade you grew up in. For the holidays or a themed party, choose a playlist that fits. You don’t need to blast the music to night club levels. But playing it quietly in the background will make people feel good and could even spark conversation when a notable song comes up in the rotation.
How do you play the music? A whole-home music system is ideal, with speakers placed throughout the home. Our guests love that, even when they pop into the powder room, or move from the kitchen to the backyard, the music is still playing everywhere. You can accomplish this with wireless multiroom speakers from brands like Sonos and Bose.
If you are looking for a quick solution on a budget, a good quality portable Bluetooth speaker or home smart speaker will suffice for tunes in a single room. With a smart speaker, you can even use voice control to change playlists or let guests request their favourite tunes.
3. Set the ambiance with lighting
Alongside music to set the mood, lighting plays an important role, too. Go one step beyond just dimming the lights or having dinner by candlelight with smart lighting. You can adjust some smart bulbs to different hues, like a cool red shade for after-dinner conversation and a bright white for game night. Comfortable lighting can set the mood and really add something special to your dinner party.
You could get really creative with something like the Nanoleaf hexagonal light panels. These can be arranged on the wall to provide cool, app-controlled lighting. Plus, they create a gorgeous eye-catching artistic piece that will have guests enamoured.
4. Go light on the dinner party menu
No one wants to go to a dinner party and leave feeling completely overstuffed and tired. Serve a relatively light menu with a salad or other appetizer, a delicious main course with protein and vegetables and a small amount of carbs, like potatoes or rice. Top it off with a small portion dessert that will go perfect with coffee but won’t take everyone over-the-top such that they can’t finish it.
If the dish you’re serving is, by nature, heavy, like pasta, include smaller portions. But give guests the option to grab second helpings if they want. This way, those with smaller appetites don’t feel pressured to over-eat out of obligation to clean their plates. Have snacks on the ready for before and/or after the meal if necessary, so you can space out the eating. You can’t go wrong with a nice charcuterie board.
Keep the drinks flowing and have a fancy alternative for those who don’t drink, like sparkling water with lemon or a non-alcoholic cocktail selection. Always buy more than you think you might need. Even if you end up with an extra case of beer or bottles of wine, you can enjoy those at the next event.
5. Pay attention to décor and tableware
While central to any dinner party is the food itself, don’t discount the importance of the home décor and accent items. Whether it’s fresh flowers, the good China, or fancy serving trays, you want to impress your guests with beautiful dishware and décor.
Make sure the wine glasses don’t have any water spots and the table is set with all of the necessary cutlery and serving spoons and forks. Even something as simple as elegant salt and pepper shakers or mills or gorgeous serveware (think a glass wine decanter or cake plate and dome) can wow guests.
Get ready to host an amazing dinner party!
Hosting a dinner party can be overwhelming if it’s your first time, especially if you’re having more than one or two people over. But with a bit of preparation, you can make it an evening to remember. And once dinner, coffee, and dessert have been served, think about breaking out a board game or two. These can not only keep the fun going, but it’s also a good way to break the ice among different groups of friends or combat any lulls in conversation.
Check out lots of home living products that can help get the food, mood, and ambiance just right at Best Buy Online.