Hosting a dinner party shouldn’t feel like a trial by fire. After all, it’s meant to be a fun, low-key gathering where you share some good food and drinks with your friends. If you keep that in mind and follow the tips we’ve provided below, you’ll be well on your way to a stress-free dinner party (and lots of compliments on your hosting skills).
Don’t Choose an Overly Complicated Menu
Your dinner party isn’t the right time to attempt to make five complicated, perfectly plated dishes you saw on Pinterest. Set yourself up for easy dinner party success by choosing a few things you know you’re good at making. So what if your famous mac and cheese isn’t photogenic? It will still taste great.
If you have your heart set on trying a new recipe, give it a test run a week or two before hosting your dinner party. Make sure you’re not choosing a dish that requires constant monitoring or an exceptionally long cook time.
Make What You Can in Advance
We can’t stress this enough: do as much prep work as you can a day or two before your dinner party. You’ll be happy you did.
If you’re making a dish that requires a lot of diced vegetables, cut them up the day before the party and keep them in plastic containers. If you’re planning to serve a baked dessert, you can make that ahead of time too. If you really want to make things easy on the day of the dinner party, you could also plan an entrée that you can make in advance and then heat up, like a hearty soup.
Take Stock of Your Kitchen Supplies
There’s nothing fun about frantically searching your cabinets for the right bakeware once you’ve already started cooking or realizing that you’re short on wine glasses after your guests arrive. Avoid this unnecessary stress by doing a kitchen inventory a week or two before your dinner party. Make sure you’ve got the necessary dishware, glassware, and kitchen supplies—and that everything’s easy to access during the dinner party.
Have Snacks Ready When Guests Arrive
Know When to Accept Help
If any of your friends wander into the kitchen and ask if there’s anything they can do to help, take them up on it. You may not want to make your friends cook, but you can always have them help you out with simple tasks like cutting vegetables, carrying dishes to the table, or pouring drinks.
Make More Food Than You Think You Need
When trying to figure out how many servings you need, take your head count and add two. That way you’ll have some leeway if one or two of your guests unexpectedly bring a friend. It’s always a safe bet to make a little more food than you think you need. The worst case scenario is that you end up with leftovers (and that’s not such a bad scenario).
Cut Down on Dishwashing
The last thing you want to see after a stress-free dinner party is a giant stack of dirty dishes in your sink. To minimize the work you have to do after your guests leave, make sure your dishwasher is empty before the party starts. It’s also a good idea to hand-wash what you can while you’re making dinner. It may be a little inconvenient, but it’s probably preferable to washing all your dishes at midnight.