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Hosting a Dinner Party? Tips for Low-Stress Entertaining

dinner party summer tablesetting I love to host dinner parties. This time of year, many people are entertaining family and friends in their homes. Here are my a few tips for lessening the stress of hosting:

1) Set the table first. It always puts me in the mood and is one task that is perfect to complete far in advance of the dinner hour. If children are around, I always ask them to help with setting out napkins and silverware.

2) Place water glasses and a pitcher on the table. This prevents thirsty folk from occupying the kitchen and leaves the hostess ready to serve other drinks.

3) Clean and put away all possible dishes before guests arrive. If you have an empty dishwasher or sink, plates can be whisked out of sight during courses and clean up later will run smoothly.

4) Establish 'stations' in your kitchen and dining area. You may need a drink station, buffet line, dessert station, or serving station. Be mindful of what utensils might be necessary at each station and lay out hot pads, silverware, drink glasses, etc.

5) Consider your menu carefully to please guests and make life easy on yourself. I err towards the side of simplicity and quality, usually serving one or two hot dishes and several prepared-ahead courses like salad or dessert.

6) Prepare (or ask someone to bring) an appetizer to occupy guests as they mingle before the meal. Think simple, fresh vegetables, cheese, or charcuterie that can be eaten without utensils or serving dishes. A make-ahead finger food tray frees the hostess to finish preparing the rest of the meal.

7) Assign roles if you are sharing host duties. Alex and I usually have a pow-wow an hour or so before the event to decide who will greet guests and who will staff the kitchen.

8 ) Once the guests arrive, take a deep breath and enjoy yourself! Plans do not always go as you wish but so long as you keep the spirit of the party alive, guests will never know if little details go awry.

drink station for dinner party

How do you do to prepare for a dinner party?


PS. These pictures came from the 'It Couldn't Be...' dinner party we threw in July. I needed a reminder today that someday it will be light and bright again.

Added to Simple Lives Thursday #74.