Organizing events is difficult enough as it comes, but organizing large-scale dinner parties can seem wildly overwhelming at first blush. The idea always sounds great; getting a big group of folks together to enjoy food and drinks is a social activity almost anyone can enjoy. But how do you get started planning a night that will truly satisfy your friends and family? Here are a few tips to help smooth the process.
Actually Send Invitations
Yes, literally. Don’t send text messages or shoot random phone calls – send out physical or emailed invitations. By sending something intentional, you communicate to your guests that this will be a special gathering. Invitations can also help you with your planning process. Use a service like RSVPify to ensure you have a clear list of attendees. Additionally, ask guests to send you information about dietary restrictions or allergies in advance so you can plan to feed everybody fairly.
Make Things Fun
The focus is food and company if you’re throwing a dinner party. The company will take care of itself; your focus is the meal. If you’re trying to get mouths watering from when your guests arrive, design a menu that your guests can hold or even take home as souvenirs. The idea behind sending specific invitations in the first tip was rooted in doing things intentionally, and the same is true here. The more you focus on the little details, the better your guests will remember this dinner for years to come.
Think Carefully About Your Menu
You’ll want to think about your menu in two forms: prep time and coursing. Having multiple courses means you’ll be a little less able to socialize with your dinner guests, but multiple courses can strongly impact the meal’s presentation. There’s no wrong choice, but it’s good to decide on this before the invitations have even been sent out.
As prep time goes, you’ll want every facet of your dinner as fully prepared for serving as possible. The goal, as any chef will tell you, is to ensure that you have to perform as few steps to service as possible before putting plates on the table. Figure out exactly what you’re serving, and read recipes carefully. Sometimes listed time requirements don’t account for things like marinating or cooling times, but you need to. Lay out a clear cooking timeline and be fair to yourself.
There are a few things to keep in mind when planning the menu. In the early part of the evening, you’ll want snacks available for guests to nibble on until the meal begins in earnest. Charcuterie boards are an ever-popular choice, but any number of snacks will go down smooth. Think also about drinking with your dinner. Should this be a BYOB event, or do you want to curate drink pairings? As before, consider the workload you’re putting upon yourself when making this decision. There are no wrong answers, provided the answer is the one that best serves the experience you want.
Keep Your Focus On The Details
You could even consider seating arrangements if you really want to amp up your attention to detail. This is especially helpful if you have guests with special dining needs; by seating them all at one table, you can prepare their meals separately or before others, mitigating cross-contamination risks and making them feel prioritized all in one fell swoop. Set up some table tents with assigned seating listed for each table. Individual seats aren’t worth worrying about, but making sure a group of vegan folks are in one place will only serve to smooth out dinner service for everyone involved.
Seriously, Don’t Be Too Serious
The goal here is to throw an event where your loved ones can get together, relax, and enjoy a delicious meal with great company. Take deep breaths! Don’t stress yourself out! If a menu item is causing you to sweat just thinking about it, that’s your sign to consider choosing a different option. Hosting is fun, and it should be treated like fun. Don’t be afraid to embrace the challenge, but don’t do so at the expense of your ability to enjoy the meal. Have fun, eat well, and keep a joke or two handy, and your guests will tell stories of your dinner parties for years to come.