Inviting one’s friends, co-workers, family, or clients over for dinner is an age-old tradition and an act of hospitality that shows both solidarity and affection among the group of people banding together over a meal. The simple act of sharing food has long been seen as a source of community strength, which is why sharing home and table with another is a privilege for both the guests and the host.
Whether you’re new to the art and practice of hospitality or you’re an old hat at entertaining, there are probably ways to improve your approach so that you and your guests have an even better experience. In anticipation of better dinner parties then, here are six ways to improve your hosting game.
Think Through the Guest List From Multiple Angles
Who to have over for dinner can be simple or difficult depending on the group or groups you’re hoping to invite, which means you need to get creative when considering your guest list. Too often, dinner parties can become overly homogenous if you seek only to ensure that like-minded folks sit down together, while people from remarkably different worlds can cause trouble of an entirely different variety.
Try instead to aim for a balance of difference and like-mindedness, and as you do so, weigh the pros and cons of each guest’s potential interaction with other guests. Some tension and difference can make for a more interesting party, but all-out arguments should be avoided at all costs. Be sure to examine your guest list from everyone’s point-of-view, so you can create an interesting dynamic that will be memorable and amiable.
Improve Your Dining Area
Depending on your budget, one easy way to improve your guests’ experience of your dinner parties is to spend some time and money on your dining area’s ambience. From repainting trim and finding more comfortable chairs to installing an inviting new chandelier above your table, upgrading your dining room so that it feels more elegant, intimate, comfortable, and welcoming can help ease your guests into even better conversation, reflection, and enjoyment.
Buy Local and Cook From Scratch
Even if you’re still a budding and bumbling cook, make sure you source your food as well as possible, which will truly help it taste as good as possible. Whenever it’s available, buy local, organic ingredients and cook your meals from scratch. Even a simple meal of spaghetti and meatballs will taste better if you skip the boxed pasta and buy a fresh, locally made pasta, and a local farm’s ground chuck and sausage will veritably sing when you compare it to your grocery store’s offerings. Many a promising party has been less than successful due to poor ingredient sourcing, and your guests will love hearing about all the great food sources available in your community.
Keep it Simple
While it can be tempting to throw the equivalent of a dinner party Hail Mary pass to impress your guests, you’ll have a much better time if you keep things simple.
Instead of making handcrafted place tags, simply invite guests to sit where they’d like. Prepare appetizers that won’t lose their flair if someone is a bit late in arriving, and don’t bother to overdo yourself cleaning your house or apartment either. As long as the bathroom, kitchen, dining and living areas are presentable, the rest can be dealt with at a later time.
Does your best friend want to bring the wine? Does your boss want to bring a cheese plate? Whenever possible — especially if someone has offered — delegate responsibilities to reliable parties. Not only will it take something off your plate, but it will also add to the feeling of camaraderie that you’re trying to create.
People love getting to help and participate, so allow them to do both, and be sure to give credit where credit is due throughout the meal.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
This advice is useful in so many arenas, but when it comes to being a gracious and well-meaning host, it is essential. Do not wait until the last minute to prepare yourself and your home for guests. Even if you just start a couple days before, give the bathroom a good scrubbing and think through a music playlist. Decide on the clothes you’d like to wear, and begin chopping vegetables. Do whatever you can the day before. You’ll feel much more relaxed, and it will allow any last-minute needs to be tended to without a sense of emergency.
Improving the art of hospitality is as simple as committing to improve. From better guest lists to better ingredients, follow these six tips and your dinner parties will soon become everyone’s favorite event.