Dinner Party Guide

Be the Perfect Host

Would you like to have an enjoyable dinner party without lots of stress? We have put together a Dinner Party Guide to help you prepare and have an enjoyable evening.

We would love to guarentee everything will run smoothly, but you can never predict what will happen and that is part of the enjoyment of the ocassion.

To have an enjoyable time as well as your guests, be less stressed and make everything run as smoothly as possible then preparation is the key.

This guide to hosting a dinner party, which you are welcome to use as a checklist too, is to assist you in preparing and hosting your evening. Adapt it as necessary to suit your own party.

Before the day

  • Choose the food you are going to cook, read the recipes and check timings.
  • Check the ingredients required, and make sure you have them in plenty of time.
  • If you have not cooked the dishes before have a practice and use family for guinea pigs.
  • Find out if any dietary / guest requirements - vegetarian, gluten free, diabetic, tee-total etc.
  • Invite guests 30 minutes before you would like to start to eat eg 7pm for 7:30pm. This allows guests to arrive, be introduced before the meal starts plus allows for a guest that could be running late.
  • Work out an approximate schedule for the evening so you know when to cook, eat etc. Allow time between courses.
  • Have a seating plan, follow boy, girl, boy, girl where possible and don't sit couples together.

On the day

  • Clean the party areas - rooms, toilet(s) etc.
  • Make sure all the bins including kitchen are emptied. You don't want to be emptying the kitchen bin in the middle of the party.
  • Put fresh soap, towels etc in the toilet.
  • Lay the table using 'best' china suitable for occasion - do not use priceless/family heirlooms if not appropriate.
  • Use a low centrepiece on dining table so guests can talk over it, not through or round it.
  • Prepare condiments - salt / pepper are full etc.
  • Prepare the kitchen, make sure equipment you want to use is ready, dishwasher is empty.
  • Get drinks ready, white wine cooled, mixers for spirits handy etc.
  • Keep a clear path from the dining room to the kitchen so you can easily move between them.
  • Prepare / cook any food that needs to be prepared in advance.
  • Leave time for you to get ready without rushing.

An hour before your guests are due

  • Light candles (if you are having them).
  • Adjust lighting to desired level.
  • If you are having music, switch on and adjust volume to background level, not loud enough to interfere with conversation.
  • Switch on Hostess Trolley and other items if using them.
  • Prepare canapés/nibbles if being served.
  • Give yourself a break of 15 minutes to relax.
  • Have a small snack to give you energy to start the evening.

Guests Arrival

  • When guests arrive welcome them, put them at ease.
  • Introduce guests to each other.
  • Ignore wrong dress code, it will make your evening harder for you.
  • Give your guests a drink.
  • Offer canapés/nibbles to your guests - make sure they don't fill up on them.

During the party

  • Be a social butterfly, don't spend too long with one guest.
  • Keep drinks topped up.
  • Don't drink too much yourself.
  • Don't apologise or be negative "I'm no good at cooking" - would you want to eat the food if your host was no good at cooking.
  • Move guests to dining table at appropriate time. Work to your schedule, guests will go with the flow.
  • Watch for inappropriate conversation, be aware of your guest's delicate issues; illness, a recent death in the family and steer the conversation away from making your guests uncomfortable. Knowing your guests will help you decide on suitable topics for conversation.

At the table

  • Serve ladies first from eldest to youngest.
  • Serve gentlemen after serving the ladies, again eldest to youngest.
  • If you are serving food in a bowl, you should have a plate or dish under it. This is removed with the bowl when finished.
  • Salad should be served with the main course should be on a separate plate.
  • Don't overload plates, allow guests to have seconds.
  • Serve food from the left, collect plates on the right. If you are hosting alone, most guests are happy to help by passing the dishes along the table so you can carry on serving.
  • Do not collect plates until the last person has finished.
  • Allow conversation to flow, don't rush guests. If you have allowed time between courses this will help.
  • When you go to the kitchen ask a guest to top up drinks if you do not have a partner or second host at the table.
  • Clear condiments and spare cutlery away before serving pudding / cheese.
  • If you are having port, this should be served with the cheese and is passed to the left.

At the end of the meal

It is up to you whether you retire from the table. This is traditionally the time the ladies left and the conversations carried on separately. However follow the flow and if everyone is happy at the table, let the conversation continue while you serve coffee etc. Allow people to swap chairs and move away from the table.

End of the dinner party

Many people will offer to help at the end of the meal. It is up to you whether you allow them to help pack the dishwasher or thank them politely and decline their offer. It depends on the type of guests

Remember this is a guide / checklist to help you prepare and host your dinner party; you need to adapt it as necessary to suit your own party.

If you have any tips you find useful then please let us know and we will add them to the list with full credit. Just email us.