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How to Throw the Perfect Dinner Party

Have you longed to be called “The hostess with the mostest.” There are a few gal pals I know who have earned that moniker.

“Perfect food and perfect company – thank you for a memorable evening” typical messages from Special Ed teacher Judy’s dinner party guests. What’s her secret? Warmth, hospitality, and making guests feel special.

No matter whether your dinner party is casual or formal– friends appreciate and never forget the glow you give it and how you make them feel.

My friend Margaret’s dinner parties are “folksy” with a changing decor depending upon what projects the kids are doing in school. She likes potluck events, and “when’s the next one going to be?” is what her guests say whenever dinner’s over.

Margaret explains, with or without kids, my dinner parties “are about friends getting together to enjoy old fashioned face to face conversation.” Her dinner tables have a “fun” look with arty, conversational table settings, perhaps using seasonal nature and fruit in a centerpiece. She likes flowers, but cautions to keep them low so people can see each other over and around them! And put out a basket into which all can deposit their cell phones, which are not to be answered except for emergencies.

Realtor Dina plans regular dinner parties for friends. Dina sets a beautiful table, with special tablecloths, crystal wine goblets, well-selected wines, water pitchers, candlelight. Dishware is fruit trimmed or solid, varying the pattern to complement the meal.  “But most important is my guest list,” she explains. “I plan for 6-8 people and personally call 2 weeks in advance.

I inquire about allergies, dietary requirements, and if there are, I will incorporate substitutes in my menu for them. Guests remove their shoes, it makes them feel relaxed, homey.  The right mix of people and congenial political views is most important to prevent any discord.  I steer away from political or business conversations — encouraging laughter, discussions about events, experiences, travel. I’m also prepared with jokes, and I frequently invite a very funny impersonator. Comfort, enjoyment is essential. If someone spills wine, I also spill to avoid embarrassment.”

Dina adds, “The day of the party, food is ready ahead of time, dessert is prepped and set out, appetizers, nibbles, put together at least 1 1/2 hours before arrival time.”

What Do All Great Dinner Party Hosts Have In Common?

These are three regular party throwers, with three very distinct tastes and styles, but what do they all have in common that keeps the guests coming back for more?

The do’s for a perfect dinner party are similar for all great hostesses: spotless home, guest amenities in place, seasonal items on your menu to assure availability, prep work done as far in advance as you can. Many great hostesses make an hourly timeline of procedures, taped to kitchen cabinets.

Your bar is stocked. Your ice is made ahead–novelty shaped ice is “cool.” Serve comfortably — too long between courses will kill the atmosphere, too quickly can promote indigestion. Inform your guests ahead of time how long your party will last, so no one has to leave early and disrupt the mood, or, overstay taking away your need for quiet. If you are new to dinner parties, try out your food beforehand. Relax and enjoy yourself!

The best hostesses advise to clear dishes quickly but do them after the party ends. And many smile at the “mess to clean up” because it means their house was just filled with the mirth and laughter of wonderful friends.


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