Tuesday, December 6, 2016

10 Tips to Reduce the Stress of Planning a Dinner Party

To take the stress out of a dinner party, you have to think like a caterer. Obviously, you are not preparing the family dinner. This means that you really do want to please your guests. It can mean return invitations and their future attendance at other events that you may host. The food needs to be fresh, prepared properly and served on time. The caterer knows that if these criteria are not met, future business will be lost. This is true for the current customer and for any friends that may be told.

Determine if the party will be considered more formal or informal.


Most home dinner parties that are not business related will be best handled as an informal dinner party. The guests can come dressed comfortably in casual clothes. It will make for an immediately more relaxed affair. If it is to be formal, you will need to get place settings and table coverings that reflect this. With informal dinner parties, you can even make the dinner be served buffet style if desired. Informal dinner parties can use food dishes that serve larger numbers like a lasagna or spaghetti.


For more formal parties, the entree should appear to be a single serving prepared for each guest. The number of courses are relevant. A formal party requires a clear cut distinction between courses. Appetizers, salad, entrée and dessert should all be served at the correct time to each guest.


Plan a guest list carefully.


Avoid the temptation to turn the dinner party into a dating service. It also is not the right venue for helping enemies become reunited as friends. Try not to invite people whose personalities clash to the same dinner party.


You will need to make the decision about children from the beginning. You face several problems with this because some people with children are extremely offended if you exclude children. Others with children really do not like to take their children or deal with the children of others when they go out for the evening. It is best not to mix and match these types of couples. Go one way or the other and stay committed.


Do not invite more people than your table or entertainment space can accommodate. Except for outdoor events, a dozen or so should be considered a maximum. As few as 4 or 5 will still make a nice party.


Set the menu based on who you intend to invite and the reason for the party.


If you have guests that have to be invited because of business connections, try to learn something about their dietary likes and needs before completing the menu decisions. For most dinner parties, you should already know this information about most of your planned guests. It is better to avoid extremely messy or spicy foods for business dinners. For informal dinner parties where the guests are friends and family, almost any menu will work that you are able to prepare properly. Try to pick foods that you have experience preparing to lower the stress level on preparation day.


Send invitations that request an RSVP.


Specify in the invitation anything that the invited guests need to know to make a wise decision about accepting or declining. Make a firm date for the response about a week ahead of the dinner party. Let the guests know how to respond. You can include a stamped self-addressed post card with the invitation or request a phone call. The date, time, place, and a partial menu should be included on the invitations. The purpose of the dinner should also be a part of the invitation. If it is just to visit and have a good time, mention that. If your guests can encounter fewer surprise upon arrival, they will be much happier most of the time.


Do not skimp on food, drinks, or quality.


When you buy the supplies for the party, build a shopping list based on the menu and needed decorations. A lot of dinner parties do not need elaborate decorations. In fact, if the food is good, most guests will not care how you have decorated beyond the first 2 minutes. If the food is bad, you cannot decorate nicely enough to compensate. So, concentrate on high quality ingredients and purchase enough to prepare for about double the expected number of guests. Many people do not enjoy a dinner party where they have to count the pieces to see that everyone gets just enough. Have a surplus. This also helps in case someone who declines has a last minute change of heart.


Set up the dinning area a day ahead of time if possible.


All place settings, table cloths, chairs, drink glasses, and cups should be ready to go a day early. This way, if you have a shortage or something is damaged, you will have time to recover before the party. It will also let you plan the traffic flow for serving and whether help will need to be recruited. All cleaning and polishing should be completed during this same time frame. Any decorations should be prepared and placed unless fresh flowers are being used. Those should be put into place a few hours before the party.


Prepare as much food early as possible.


Appetizers, salad, and dessert can almost always be prepared well ahead of time. Entrees often need to be fixed so that they are ready to be eaten within a few minutes of being completed. Some can be held in a warming drawer or other type of heated environment for a short time before serving. You may need to recruit a little help to watch over the entrees while you get ready to greet your guests.


Either have place cards or personally seat your guests as they arrive.


No one enjoys staring at a table of empty chairs and being uncertain where they are to sit. Give your guests guidance. This will make them more comfortable and assure that each guest will be seated near the best possible table mates. Explain the evening to your guests once they are seated. They will need to know if the food is to be served to them or if it is a serve yourself arrangement. Tell them what to expect at each stage of the evening during the meal and after.


Have a plan to put away the dirty dishes and linens without being away from your guests for an extended period.


Put away all of the dinner plates and materials immediately after the meal has ended. You may have to return and finish washing them at the end of the evening. It might be a good idea to hire someone who is acquainted with your kitchen to spend a couple of hours during and after the meal assisting you.


Keep after dinner activities minimized.


You will tired after the dinner. An hour or so of good conversation to round out the evening may be all that is required to end the night on a high note. Avoid games unless you know that your guests are expecting them. Always work to keep things as simple as possible. People can usually entertain each other for about an hour with no problem. After that, it can get tough to keep them occupied. Just let the party wind to a natural conclusion.


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