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How to Host a Dinner Party: Setting Up

by Bethany (follow)
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In preparation for the big night, there are several important things that must be seen to before you are ready to receive your guests. It’s best to do these at least a day or two in advance, to ensure you’ve got enough time for everything, and so you won’t stress about it on the day.

So here are some things to think about, leading up to, and on the date of the dinner event itself:

No matter how formal or casual your dinner party is, there is no excuse for an unclean house. Make sure to do a thorough cleaning of your living room — vacuum carpets and rugs, sweep the floors, dust the shelves — your bathroom, and basically any other room your guests may potentially see. Empty your bins, if you need to, and clear up as much clutter as possible.

If you’re bringing out the fancy dinnerware and haven’t used them for a while, consider giving them a quick wash and rinse. Wipe down the tables, placemats, cups, and glasses, so everything will be spotless and ready to use.

On the night, if you don’t want your guests to accidentally wander off somewhere, remember to close the doors to the rooms you want to keep private. It shouldn’t be too much of an issue, given that people would be more interested in staying with the main group than going off exploring, but it never hurts to make sure.

Party Bathroom - Kelly, Flickr

Stocking Up
You’ll want your guests to be comfortable, so making sure you have enough seats for everyone is always a good idea. Toilet paper and soap should also be high on your list of priorities — your guests are guaranteed to be needing the bathrooms at some point, so you don’t want to suddenly run out in the middle of the party!

Do you need ice? Straws? Make a list of little tidbits you may need, so you can get them in advance, or organise for someone to bring them along on the day.

When you've got a few people over, you've got to keep them occupied while the food is being prepared. And if there are members of the party who aren't already acquainted with each other, you'll also need a way to break the ice.

Games are a great way to go in these situations. It doesn't even have to be an elaborate setup: a deck of cards, a guessing game, even charades are a lot of fun. If you have a theme to your dinner party, try and think of games to go with it.

Check out some great party games ideas here.

Food Prep and Serving
You’ll obviously be doing the majority of the cooking just before the party, but try and get as much of the prep done earlier. Things that can keep, such as appetisers, snacks, or drinks, can be knocked out a day or two earlier, and will save you time to concentrate on the more fiddly cooking.

Appetisers - wEnDy, Flickr

Here’s a good time to think about how the food will be served.

Where is your kitchen? Is it right where the dining room is, or is it at the other end of the house? Do you have an open or closed kitchen? These are all things to think about, as they can affect how much time you’ll be spending away from the party while you’re looking after the food.

Eat in kitchen - Susan Serra CKD, Flickr

If your kitchen opens up to the dining area, it’s easier to cook and socialise at the same time. But if your kitchen is removed from the general dining or socialising area, you’ll be away from your guests for extended periods of time preparing food. Consider providing cold appetisers and finger foods, so all you’ll have to do is arrange them on a plate or platter before serving.

This is also a good time to move furniture around, if needed.

Will everything be spread out on the table at once, or will you be separating them by courses? The latter would probably work best with an open kitchen, where you can move back and forth between kitchen and table fairly easily.

Dinner spread - David Goehring, Flickr

Once you've thought and planned for these, your dinner party is ready to go! Join us next time for the third and final instalment of this dinner party series: The Aftermath.

In the meantime, what are some of your best tips to make your dinner party planning easier? Tell us in the comments!

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