This was supposed to be a short post, but then, as usual, it turned into a novel. I do apologize and please excuse the poor grammar :0)
Some people have the wonderful ability to be able to throw dinner parties at the very last minute and make them a great success. THIS IS NOT MY CASE. And if you are half the perfectionist I am, it is not your case either. I used to stress a lot in the past when planning and hosting dinners. I have come to realize that I could no longer allow myself to feel that way when all I had wanted in the first place was to have fun myself. I also realized that people felt my stress and weren’t having a good time because of it. After all, a happy host is what makes for a great dinner party. People (the right people at mean; people who care about you) don’t come for the food or drinks. They come to spend a great evening with you!
Here are a few tips that I hope will help. The list isn’t perfect by any means, but it is inspired by my own experiences over the years:
- Plan way ahead of time. I put my menu together as soon as I have a date for the party. This allows me to schedule my cooking sessions appropriately. If I include foie gras or gravlax for instance, I’ll know when I need to order the produce, when I’ll pick it up and when I’ll start preparing the dish.
- Shop a day or two in advance so you won’t be at the mercy of last minute engagements or work obligations. You don’t want to have to rush to the store the morning of.
- Prefer small parties to larger ones (10 guests or less) if you have a choice.
- Hire help for the evening if you can. I’m a single man. If I don’t have someone to help me during the party, then I end up spending way too much time away from my guests.
- Keep the kids away or hire a nanny. It depends on the kind of evening it is of course. A family gathering is always better with kids running around. An evening with business associates requires a different atmosphere…
- Try not to cook during the party. Everything should be ready ahead of time.
- Use post its to label serving dishes and silverware ahead of time. You should know exactly what goes in what. You don’t want to be running around the house at the last minute because you’re missing a sauce boat.
- Delegate to your partner or spouse or older kids. Setting the table, last minute errands, picking-up the bread or pastries, opening the wine at the right time…
- Use your phone to set up reminders and alarms. Some of you might not need reminders. I have a really bad short term memory and I don’t want to worry about forgetting details such as warming up the plates, opening the wine on time etc…
- Get people drunk; at least enough to relax. This way, you’ll be less worried about them being impatient (even if they’re not). Tipsy conversations are often less interesting, but at least people are engaged with one another and you can spend more time away from them without feeling rushed to get back into the conversation.
- When you throw a party for friends, chances are you appreciate everyone’s conversation and/or personality. After all you handpicked them to attend. When it is for business or with family however, you may have to prepare a sitting chart that will keep everyone happy.
- Invite your very own master of ceremony. Just pick a friend or colleague who you know will lighten up the mood and/or whose conversation will captivate the other guests.
- Put together a music playlist on your phone or computer. Set it up a few moments before the party starts and forget about it.
- Ask about allergies and preferences ahead of time. Having to deal with this at the last minute can be very annoying for a host.
- Go with what you know. There is nothing more stressful than wondering how a dish will turn out…
- Keep two hours free on the afternoon of the party. One in case you need to run last minute errands, and the other one to take a nap. That’s assuming your party isn’t on a business day of course.
- Start early!!!
- Set the table up the night before or have the kids do it
- Don’t take things too seriously. Nobody will care if the casserole is ever-so-slightly uneven or the drinks don’t come in Baccarat. There’s no need to work yourself up over mistakes most people won’t even notice.
- HAVE FUN! You are the most important guest at a party you throw. If you are not having a good time, people will sense it and the party will be a flop. Think of yourself first!