8 Real Simple And Easy Tips to host a Dinner Party ‘At Ease’
It took me a long time to learn how to be a party host. At first, I figured: how hard could it be? You simply cook more food than you normally would, and invite people over to a dinner party.
I quickly learned just how wrong and naive this thinking was. Cooking for a crowd has its complications, and so does the timing. I never had the patience to read books on entertaining or party hosting tips. Through trial and error, I learned that it’s not just the food that makes for a successful dinner party — it’s the ability to pull everything together with ease AND STILL enjoy the company of your guests.
If you are not spending time enjoying the company of your guests, well then you’re not having a dinner party at all: you’re just hiring yourself out as a cook or server– without pay.
Here are 8 real simple and easy tips for hosting a dinner party ‘at ease’, which I gladly share with you, culled from years of throwing my own gatherings, attending well-run shindigs thrown by others, and tracking the best food and entertaining blogs on the Web.
1. Let your guests bring gifts to your dinner party
Given today’s casual party environment, most people show up empty-handed at someone’s house — primarily because they don’t know what to bring or give. While most people I know don’t go out of their way to buy a gift, have it wrapped, and hand it to the guest at the door, most guests actually do want to bring something to someone’s home, as a token of their appreciation for the invitation to the dinner party. As I would learn over the years, when guests ask, ‘What can I bring?’ you need a ready-made answer, such as ‘How about a bottle of wine?’ or ‘How about dessert? I’m never sure what people like, or what crazy diets or meal plans they’re on, so a dessert would be great!’ You get the idea.
This strategy has worked for me for years. And here’s the hidden benefit: while it is considered proper etiquette to serve and eat the dessert that was brought, you don’t necessarily have to open the bottle of wine. This means that you can steadily and stealthily build up your wine collection over time — and enjoy that bottle long after the party has ended. It’s time to buy a wine rack!
2. Games people play
You must have some sort of party game, or else the conversation will either be hijacked by the loudest, drunkest guest, or there will be too many smaller groups and no one will get to know one another. Consider those outrageous new card games, like Cards Against Humanity, or dust off Pictionary or Cranium. And for heaven’s sake, please don’t have everyone gather around your brand-new flat-panel TV and watch CollegeHumor YouTube videos. That’s not the dinner party you want to have.
3. Get ahead
I know it’s time to relax and enjoy your friends, but one of the best party hosting tips I can share with you is to invite someone from work to a dinner party — preferably someone who you’re curious about, and/or someone with whom you’re interested in forging a better working relationship. With time being such a precious resource, why not network in your very own home? And if you do a stupendous, bang-up job, that officemate will be blown away by your project management skills, creativity, and emotional intelligence. How’s that for parlaying a dinner party into a professional performance?
4. Get paid
If you love throwing parties, or if you’re trying to hone your cooking or entertaining skills — before truly impressing your own friends and family — why not throw a party and get paid for it? Check out EatWith, ‘the Airbnb for dinner parties,’ or post an event in the Community section of Craigslist, and have a few strangers over to your house for a party. This carries substantial risk, but you would have to do your own vetting AND you could make money off of the dinner party.
5. Hire help
It’s no fun if you’re always in the kitchen, or running around cleaning up. Remember, the whole idea is to enjoy your guests and the moment. Consider hiring one or even two people to help you for the few hours of the dinner party, freeing up your time to focus on your friends and family. The money spent will be worth it in the long run. Any host with high-volume party experience will tell you that hiring help even for just a few hours is one of the best party hosting tips you can get.
6. Use it as an excuse to do more things around the house
Another secret to throwing a great party is that it motivates you to take care of other things around the house that you hadn’t attended to or don’t attend to on a regular basis. Perhaps you need to re-do the bathroom — new shower curtain and furnishings — knowing that you have an upcoming party will motivate you to work on this.
You can make the home project large or small — just remember to budget your time accordingly. Of course, the completion of the project itself could be the very impetus to throw a dinner party! Show off your DIY project to all of your guests and encourage everyone to take photos of your creation.
7. Find inspiration for future parties
The idea of throwing a party should be inspiring and inspired by something — you should never feel like you ‘have to’ throw a party. If it’s a chore or duty, it won’t be fun for anyone — including yourself.
As such, find small pieces of inspiration and archive them for continuous review. Besides receiving email alerts from your favorite home or food blogs, keep private Pinterest boards or Evernote workspaces of recipes, drinks, decor, crafts, and other things that make you say, ‘I want to do this, and I want to show it to everyone during the dinner party!’ (You can even search Pinterest for party hosting tips, though you cannot search Evernote, since it is not a public network.)
I’m not a shopper, but I’ve known people who, during a casual visit to the big box discount retailer or thrift shop, find something that motivates them to throw a party. Find your inspiration!
8. Use PurpleSlate
And how will you inform everyone about the dinner party? Why via PurpleSlate of course! Use the app to share details of your party, and be sure to upload photos — perhaps of the centerpieces, plates or foods — to entice everyone to attend. Not worrying about invitations or RSVPs is one less headache for your event — which is one of the reasons why we developed the app in the first place. This is one of the party hosting tips you don’t want to forget: sign up now to get notified as soon as we launch and start creating events. The beta version of the app has launched already!
Posted by Jake Wengroff on November 7, 2015.I have served as the Founding Chairman of the Social Media Strategies Summit, and have written for publications such as CMO.com and InformationWeek. I have been quoted in Time, Reuters, Bloomberg, and other publications on the topics of social media and marketing. If you enjoyed reading this post, join our email list to get free email updates.