Too many dinner parties are somber affairs. Why should they be? When one is dressed to the nines, chandeliers are lit, and the dishes approaching the table are culinary masterpieces, why should one look like they are in the midst of paying an obligation?
We, at Balissande Finishing School, are all for cheerful, memorable dinner parties. We understand some dinners are more likely to have an air of seriousness to them, especially those dealing with business mergers and political agendas. But not all them must be that way.
We, personally, are suckers for the ones that are intimate, full of laughter, that have a hint of sauciness, just enough to be entertaining. These are the dinners that inspire us to continue hostessing and dining. So, if you are anything like us, here are a few tips for hosting fun dinner parties.
1.. Unless you are intent on hostessing an all-female dinner party, invite an equal number of gentlemen and ladies. This mix will help keep everyone on their toes, encouraging the conversation to be more entertaining and less personal.
2.. Do not invite guests with the purpose of paying off a social debt. If you focus on social debt invitations, you will end up inviting someone who will not add to the fun atmosphere of your party. They will deplete it instead.
3.. Invite people who are fun. It’s hard to have a fun dinner party if you invite a bunch of sour people. So, when you are making out your guest list, make sure the majority of your guests are fun and entertaining. Also, make sure to invite guests with similar interests. This way conversation can flow easily.
4.. Greet guests as soon as they arrive. Greet them with genuine enthusiasm and comfort. Make them feel wanted. The hostess is always responsible for setting the tone for her party, from the minute her first guest walks in to when the last one walks out.
5.. Have refreshments ready for your guests. Delicious drinks and hors d’oeuvres will put them in a good mood before they even sit at the dinner table. Make sure no one drinks too much before dinner. You don’t want a drunken debacle at your dinner table.
6.. Do not keep your guests waiting for dinner. Some may not have eaten before arriving. And hunger can put people in a bad mood or in an uncomfortable state. So, keep pre-dinner mingling in the receiving room to one hour. This should give tardy guests enough time to arrive.
7.. Make sure to sit guests next to people with whom they would get along well. For example, don’t seat someone obsessed with reality-shows next to someone who hates them.
8.. Make sure you serve food and drinks that are of good quality and taste. There’s nothing more dissatisfying than having to force down food that tastes horrible. So, if you cannot cook well, hire a reputable chef, caterer, or restaurant to cook for you.
Hiring someone to cook for you has the added advantage of removing stress and duties off of you. This will give you more time for yourself before the party, putting you in a happier and calmer mood. It will also help lower your anxiety about how good the food will taste.
9.. Start conversations that you know will be enjoyed by all that can take part in it. If you are not a great spontaneous conversationalist, plan ahead of time. Make a list of topics that can be discussed with interest, smiles, excitement, and laughter. Make sure your topics don’t require or encourage anyone to give a long discourse. Also make sure it won’t start an argument at the table. Screen all your topics carefully.
By having a few topics already planned, you can start a conversation with ease as well as re-direct a conversation that has taken a dangerous turn. Always make sure that your conversation topics will not discomfort or offend any of your guests. For that reason, it is best you follow the common rule: never discuss religion, politics or sex in public.
We’ve seen these topics turn dinners into screaming matches. But we’ve also seen them turn an otherwise boring dinner into one full of laughter and passion – to be remembered for many years.
In the end, it all depends on your guests. As the hostess, you are responsible for knowing your guests – their interests, beliefs, annoyances, soft spots, and etc. With this knowledge, you can direct the conversation at your table like a pro.
10.. Do not host a dinner that is too expensive for you even if it is your greatest desire to impress your friends. If you overspend, you may show discomfort and other unbecoming behaviors throughout your party.
For example, if a too-expensive-for-you wine glass were to break, you could lose your temper in front of guests. If the food you are serving cost you more than you are comfortable with, you may exhibit this discomfort by forcing your guests to eat more than they desire. Discomfort has the tendency of rearing its ugly head in unpredictable ways. You should avoid these incidences as much as possible
Please remember, a fun dinner is not about the expense of the food. Instead it is about the quality of the food and the quality of your guests. You can serve a simple meal of high quality that will be just as enjoyable, if not more so, than one that is overly lavish.
11.. If any problem were to arise, don’t point it out. If your guests are unaware of the problem, why make them aware of it. And why put them in the awkward position of saying the usual platitudes: it’s ok; no problem; we don’t care.
12.. Do not invite too many people. The golden rule of yore is: “never more than the Muses, or less than the Graces”.
6 is best. 8 is tolerable. 10 starts becoming too many.
The problem with large dinners is based on the custom of not sitting friends next to friends and partners next to partners. So, when this happens at a dinner with many guests, it is hard for guests to be able to have a view of the person they really want to be seated next to.
On the other hand, when you throw small dinner parties of 3 couples, even if partners are not seated right next to each other, they are in full view of each other, and maybe even in talking distance. In such cases, a group conversation that includes the entire table is possible. Imagine how much more entertaining such a conversation would be versus having to have separate ones with strangers sitting next to you.
Smaller dinner parties are also beneficial for you, as the hostess. You will be able to do a better job at entertaining your guests and making sure everyone has what they need to have a fun and satisfying time.
This is not say you cannot throw a large dinner party. Instead we would say the real fun ones are the intimate ones. It’s hard to be intimate if you’re hostessing 24 guests at a dinner table.
13.. Decorate your dining room table with chic elegance. Don’t go too minimal. That will add a starkness to the energy of the evening. Don’t over decorate. That will clutter your table, increasing the chances of embarrassing mishaps. Instead, keep it tasteful.
People, in general, enjoy being surrounded by beauty. It’s an inspiring sensory experience for the eyes. By decorating your table with taste you will be gifting your guest this experience – a beautiful table, surrounded by beautiful people, eating beautiful food.
14.. Make sure to light your dining room becomingly. Not too much light where you can see every blemish on your neighbor’s face. And not too little where you can’t see what you are eating. Find a good in-between.
The perfect in-between has the power to enhance the beauty of everyone at the table, the food and drinks on the table, and the table itself.
You want your guests to feel the magic of the evening. And there’s nothing like sparkles of light dancing all around you to do that. For more magic, add a few un-scented candles. A few tiny flames flickering about will add a bit of extra romance and magic.