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Hosting Dynamic Dinner Parties
A celebration need not coincide with a special occasion on the calendar! Dinner parties can be held for any reason, and provide the perfect backdrop for dressing up and delighting in dinner, laughter and conversation.
The best dinner parties are intimate ones where the guests feel comfortable with each other, the conversation flows naturally and the hosts are relaxed and gracious. Here are some tips to help you host the perfect dinner party:
- Settle on a number of guests that will suit the scale of your kitchen and dining room. As a basic rule, only invite as many guests as you can seat around the one table.
- The comfort of your guests is your primary aim, so consider compatibility, tastes, ages and the ambiance you want to create when putting together your guest list.
- Then decide on the date of your party. This may also help you determine a theme and menu.
- Consider your theme. This can be as simple as a combination of colours or a decorative motif. It may also be a season or a holiday theme. Decorations for a party can be as simple as crisp white linen and candlesticks on the table, or as elaborate as centrepieces, balloons, flower arrangements and even chair slipcovers.
- Decorate with the seasons too. Fresh flowers in spring or summer, a bowl full of polished apples and bare twigs in the winter, or a vase filled with red and gold leaves in autumn are simple, inexpensive and beautiful.
- Send out party invitations to set the tone for the evening. Invite guests to your party early, preferably two or more weeks ahead of time. This will give them time to RSVP and will give you more time to plan.
- Make a realistic assessment of your cooking and baking skills, and the amount of time you'll be able to commit to the party. You may choose to hire a caterer to help you save on the stress of preparing a meal as well as entertaining your guests.
- If you are cooking yourself, plan a menu that you feel confident delivering. Creative cuisine is best left to those who can deliver it flawlessly every time. Choose menu items that can be prepared mostly in advance. And remember, the best menus most often have simple combinations of the freshest, highest-quality ingredients.
- Take an inventory of your supplies: table and chairs, serving pieces, cutlery, crystal, plates, candlesticks, napery, and of course, kitchen equipment. Think about renting or borrowing items you don't have. Make sure the things you own are sparkling clean and in good repair.
- You can provide nibbles as soon as guests arrive, but don't leave your guests lingering for hours. Serve dinner no more than one hour after everyone arrives - 40 minutes is the ideal.
- Provide guests with a number of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage options. You may like to prepare one ‘signature' party cocktail, such as sangria for a festive summer party or sake as the overture to a Japanese feast, but don't overdo it with a range of complicated cocktails! Less is more!
- Maximise the mood with minimal effort. Unify your theme with candles and flowers in all the rooms the guests will occupy - the hall, dining room, living room and bathroom.
- Your dining table should be the star of the show. Add some wow factor with a spectacular table centrepiece in keeping with your theme. But remember to keep room for serving dishes!
- Encourage your guests to mix and mingle. You may ask them to shift seats in between courses to inspire new connections.
- As a parting gift, present each guest with a personalised party favour that complements your theme.
- Most of all, enjoy yourself!
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