The table was set to perfection, you prepared an exquisite meal, you made a sensational signature cocktail, you spent time with your guests, and at the end of the night your guests praised your efforts. You’d thrown a successful dinner party. You’d been the perfect host.
It isn’t hard to be a good host, but there are some basic rules you’ve got to remember. One of the first ones is to bear in mind the occasion for the event — whether it is to celebrate a promotion, to welcome friends from out of town, to say thank you to someone who has done you a good tur, or just because you want to hail a new season with some of your favorite dishes and people, which is perfect if you’re hosting a Friendsgiving. Once you consider why you’re inviting people over in the first place, you can choose a stellar guest list — and the guest list matters. But that’s just one thing to remember.
Here are some rules followed by some of the most successful hosts we know — rules that will have you entertaining with ease.
Rule #1 – The Perfect Guest List
Be strategic when creating your guest list. Remember, at a dinner party the main entertainment is conversation. If your guests don’t get along, chosen, then regardless of how elaborate the meal or how good the wine, you’ll be hosting an epic fail.
Rule #2 – Timing
A good host recognizes that people have lives of their own, and may need to make advance arrangements to be free on a Friday or Saturday night or a holiday. Invite guests at least three weeks prior to the occasion, and invite them by email or the old-fashioned way — snail mail. No, text messages are not acceptable.
Make sure that you greet every guest as he or she enters, making them feel welcome and at home. Never allow a guest to wonder around before you greet him or her; you should be the first person your guest interacts with.
Diversity is a plus in a guest list. Invite a few friends and a few acquaintances that may not be part of the same social circle but are apt to have something interesting to say. Once you get them there, it’s your job as the host to make sure they’ve been introduced — and not just by name. If they don’t know each other, add a few words of explanation (“This is Marcus Graham, who’ll be the new SVP of Marketing at Taste + Scene” or “This is Jane Jones, whom I’ve known since my freshmen year of college”).
Always have a game plan. Outline your menu. Plan and purchase any decorations or special serving utensils or vessels you might need several days in advance. Two days prior to the occasion, have your bar and your wine rack fully stocked. Buy flowers the day of your party so they’re fresh and vibrant.
Dinner parties are not the right time to test out that complicated new dish you’ve always wanted to try. One of the most frightening things a guest can see when walking past the kitchen is a ponderous-looking cookbook propped up on a holder.
Make something you’d made successfully at least a few times before. A nicely cooked lasagna is infinitely preferable to a botched beef Wellington. But be aware of the seasons, too. If corn and tomatoes are in season, work them into your menu; Since it’s #Thanksgiving or #Friendsgiving, make something appropriately autumnal. And don’t choke: Your guests are rooting for you, and if the atmosphere is warm and the interplay stimulating, nobody will care if the turkey is slightly overcooked.