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What’s the best way to pull off an enjoyable party at your home? If you’re wondering how to succeed when hosting at home for the first time, providing fabulous food and delectable drinks is a good start, but there’s more to entertaining than that. It’s often those thoughtful touches and tasteful details that make an event memorable and enjoyable for your guests. Whether planning a brunch, dinner party, or a more casual coffee date, the following tips cover everything you need to know – from scheduling and menu planning to plate setting and home décor –to get you started.
Types of Events
When planning a home party, there are plenty of things to consider, such as date, time, number of people, and your budget. Events can range from casual to formal, and you’ll need to decide on the best style to host an event at home. Let’s take a look at some common home event styles.
Hosted mid-morning to early-afternoon, brunch is more filling than breakfast and lends itself well to a wide assortment of foods in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. Brunch is the ideal event style for bridal showers, holiday celebrations, birthdays, and more. Brunch is almost always served as a buffet, making it easy to host out of your home kitchen.
Dinner and Dinner Parties
Dinner parties can be a highly formal, sophisticated event. Still, they can also be a casual buffet where everyone mills about the living room with their appetizers. Dinner parties are a great way to spend time with old friends or deepen relationships with new acquaintances. There are several ways you can structure a dinner party.
One of the best ways to connect with others is to invite people for an at-home coffee date. Meeting up at a café has its drawbacks, such as less privacy from eavesdroppers and waiting in line. Hosting a coffee date at home makes it easier to converse freely and deepen friendship bonds.
Regardless of whether it’s a party for a kid or a grown-up, you can make your event an exceptional one while gathering your loved ones. Alongside candles, cake, and activities, a few different elements settle before the birthday party begins. Decoration and food are crucial to any chosen theme; games can also be a great way to complete your party. No matter the time of the year, it’s always fun to have a themed celebration.
Cooking for Guests
A party isn’t a party without food, so the bulk of your event preparation will be crafting a menu, cooking food, and serving your guests. The following tips should help you tackle meal planning and prep.
A polite host should inquire about special dietary needs – such as food allergies or vegetarianism – in the invitation. Rest assured, you won’t need to create a custom-tailored meal for each guest. In most cases, making sure there are plenty of options will be enough. If your group of guests has a wide range of preferences, a tapas-style dinner is a great way to meet picky eaters’ needs.
Smart Cooking Tips and Ideas
It is better not to bite off more than you can chew when cooking for guests, so it’s best to avoid cooking a new dish for the first time. Stick to tried-and-true favorites that won’t take you longer than expected and are sure to turn out delicious. Avoid making everything from scratch. Instead, supplement your menu for easy prep dishes that you can make ahead of time or quickly assemble while the main dish is in the oven.
The best way to host a bigger crowd is to set up a self-serve buffet, allowing guests to easily take the portion size they want and pick around dishes they’d rather avoid. It also makes for far less work for you as the host; you can simply prep the buffet table beforehand instead of running between the kitchen and dining room while dinner is already in progress.
Table Setting Ideas
Once you have your party’s food aspect sorted out, you’ll need to consider how and where you are serving it. For simple table-setting ideas, consider a buffet-style party since you can stack matching plates and silverware in one area. For formal, sit-down dinners, centerpieces, like flowers and candles, are an easy way to add a stylish touch. It’s always a good idea to match the settings and décor to the party’s tone and style.
Time to break out the fancy china and silverware. A well-set table is all about creating an ambiance and making your guests feel welcome. There are no hard and fast rules on table settings, so feel free to mix and match plates, try out bold colors, or add some fun flowers to the mix. The rules of table setting vary on what kind of meal you’re hosting, but these are the basics you need to know:
- Plates should be centered and evenly spaced on a tablecloth.
- Napkins must be placed on the left side of the plate.
- Forks should sit on the left of the plate.
- Set knives with blades facing inwards towards the plate.
- Spoons typically go on the right side of knives.
- Glasses should be placed above the knives.
Themed Events and House Decoration
If you’re looking for décor inspiration, the first question to ask yourself is what kind of party you are hosting. For example, a baby shower, a graduation dinner, and a birthday party all provide excellent opportunities for event-specific décor. Matching the décor to the event’s theme is a great way to make your party more memorable. The great news is that fancy table settings party décor shouldn’t need to break the bank.
Top Hosting Tips
Whether an intimate brunch with a few old friends or a large holiday dinner, throwing a great party – is no small feat. There’s a lot that goes into ensuring your guests have a good time. These top tips will help you ensure the event runs smoothly from start to finish.
Sending invitations about three weeks in advance is the perfect timeframe for guests to arrange their schedules, but not too far ahead that they’ll forget a dinner date. Use the invitations to inquire about any special dietary needs or allergies. This will help you plan your menu with extra time to make adjustments and source ingredients.
Set the Right Mood
Transform your living space into a classy, elegant setting by selecting a soundtrack and dimming the lights. Music with moderate energy is the best. Here are some great ideas for songs to include on your soundtrack. Keep the music at a volume loud enough to be heard but low enough so that guests can easily converse. Candlelight glow is universally flattering and helps set the mood, so decorate the tables with tealights. Dim the lights a few degrees lower than you think you need to let the candles work their magic.
Inviting the Right Group
A dinner party is smaller and more intimate than a regular party, so the best way to avoid awkwardness is to invite a group of friends or co-workers who already know each other. Feel free to add one or two outsiders to the mix; after all, dinner parties are social events and excellent for forming new connections in addition to supporting existing relationships. Another alternative is to invite a group of couples.
Icebreaker Ideas and Topics to Avoid
A good dinner party should have lots of chatter, laughter, and a few awkward lulls. Without icebreakers or fun activities, your guests may grow uncomfortable and bored. Start the evening with some fun icebreaker games. Bored games are also an excellent option while enjoying appetizers or waiting for dessert. It never hurts to brainstorm some icebreaker topics beforehand.
Nothing kills the mood like a heated, bitter debate about politics or religion, so avoid bringing up sensitive topics. You can’t always predict what your guests will bring up in conversation, but you can help change the subject to more agreeable topics. Try to avoid talking about sex, salaries, gossip, controversial jokes, and medical conditions. If your party’s discourse goes off the rails, safe topics to retreat to include food, fashion, and music.
Make Extra Food Just in Case
There’s nothing worse than having guests leave hungry, so always prepare more food than you think. Ensure you have enough that guests can freely take seconds – or even thirds – without feeling like a hog. Remember, preparing too much food is a good problem to have since leftovers mean you’ll get a few nights off from cooking.
Have a Signature Cocktail
Alcohol is universally popular and makes it easier to socialize. You can add a special touch to your dinner party by serving up a signature cocktail to complement a supply of popular beer and wine staples. Maybe you already have a favorite cocktail in mind you are sure your guests are going to love. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, take some time to browse and experiment with recipes for martinis and other mixed drinks.
Try Not to Stress Over Event Clean-up
The best way to have a stress-free clean-up is to break everything down into specific tasks. You’ll need to scrape plates, load the dishwasher, pack away leftovers, and gather up any bottles and cans. It may seem like a lot of work when put all together, but breaking everything apart into specific tasks can make the clean-up process feel more manageable.
The rules of etiquette will depend mainly on the type of event you are throwing. Are you hosting a casual birthday get-together between friends or a more formal dinner with business associates? Once you know the type of event, you’ll have a better idea of the etiquette guidelines. Here are a few ground rules to get you started.
Guidelines for Brunch, Dinner, and Coffee Dates
Here are some basics to keep in mind for etiquette at different kinds of home events:
- Brunch: When hosting brunch at home, you can expect a more casual event with less strict etiquette than most formal dinner parties. Since brunch is often served buffet-style, there’s no need to worry about table settings or serving guests. However, it’s always a good idea to invite guests with plenty of time for them to clear their schedules.
- Dinner Parties: While hosting dinner at home comes with many responsibilities, the essential rule of dinner party etiquette is to be present with your guests and guide them through the evening.
- Coffee Dates: Coffee dates are a casual, intimate meet-up with friends in your home. As such, they don’t usually require an invitation several weeks in advance. It’s a good idea to check in with your guest about their drink of preference to make sure you have the right supplies on hand.
The host’s main job is to make each guest feel welcome and comfortable. Always greet guests at the door, take their coats, and show them inside. If a new guest is unacquainted with anyone else at the party, a gracious host should take care to make introductions.
As a party guest, don’t arrive too early but try to avoid being more than fifteen minutes late as this can keep the other guests waiting too long for their dinner. Be polite to the other guests and always mind your table manners by chewing with your mouth closed. While everyone enjoys a lively conversation, it’s best to avoid rude or sensitive topics of discussion.