How to Throw a Stress-Free Dinner Party With Ease & Grace

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"Sure, I'd love to host the next one!" It sounded like a great idea until you started thinking about the details. The thought of hosting a dinner party has become the ultimate nightmare. When throwing one of these gatherings, the most important thing to remember is to NOT STRESS OUT. 

So, you ask yourself, "Where in the heck do I start? Do I really have room for everyone? What is this going to cost me?" These are common questions that always come to mind. I know because I used to be in that boat (well, I still become a little anxious by the mere thought of my dirty house) but then I remember to breathe, refer back to my handy notes, recall my last successful party, and then my blood pressure goes back to normal. Listen, this doesn't have to be some 10 course, elaborate extravaganza. You can be the 'hostess with the mostess' by making it simple but elegant; easy but sophisticated (looking), while impressing the pants off your guests (well, not literally!) The secret is organization. This is key to make hosting a breeze. To be organized, you must plan ahead.  

To get started with your party prepping, simply ask yourself these 4 basic questions. 

1. What is the date and location of my party? 

  • Give yourself enough time to prepare and give your guests enough time to plan.  
  • Evaluate your entertainment space. Don't excuse a studio size apartment or a single bathroom. If guests will be standing, the average-size room can generally accommodate 30 people. For any form of buffet, you must provide seating. Consider renting a place if your home isn't equipped to handle the party you want. 
  • Invitations? It is not necessary to send invitations for an informal gathering, as it is for a formal gathering, but if you choose to do so Dear Addie has you covered with a variety of invitation styles.

2. Who exactly should I invite?

  • Know your audience.This is important in determining your menu. For example....are any of your guests vegetarians? Will anyone be offended by alcohol being served?
  • Be strict about how many people you are actually inviting. Don't put yourself in a situation where "bring a friend" is an option, if it is not. Remember: you want the size to fit your party space.
  • Don't hesitate to call people for responses. Not knowing how much food to serve is a sure recipe for stress.

3. What type of food & drinks should I serve?

  • This should be the most fun part, so make sure that the majority of your dishes can be prepared in advance. This will allow you to enjoy your guests and not be stuck in the kitchen with pot holders glued to your hands.
  • Have fun with the menu and be inventive with your choices. Food: have a theme to your dinner party. This sets the stage for what may accompany your main dish. Drinks: if you're serving alcoholic beverages, it is wise to only serve one signature drink (along with the always popular wine & beer). By only offering one liquor drink you have eliminated a major headache & expense.  Too many options and people are overwhelmed. No one expects you to be well stocked like a restaurant (and if so, do you really want them at your dinner party??)

4.  What is my budget? 

  • Determine how much you want to spend. Don't forget to consider things such as liquor, flowers, decorations, (and even entertainment if you're stepping it up a notch!)
  • Make a grocery list. There are so many fabulous food & drink options you can prepare that won't take you to the bank. This will give you a very good idea of where you stand with your budget.  

Now that these 4 basic questions have been answered, you're already over halfway there. Easy, right? So, start planning, and remember...the one thing your guests will take away from their wonderful evening is how easy you made it all look!

 Below are pics of some of my favorite dishes when hosting "Italian Night".  Bon appetit! 

Antipasta Platter

Rustic Garlic Bread

Creamy Caesar Salad


Last, but not least....the 'Signature Drink' ("The Barn Nail")

"When faced with a challenge, evaluate or assess the situation, gather the good things in sight, abandon the bad, clear your mind, and move on." - Martha Stewart.

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