Attending dinner parties is great, but hosting them is even better! I mean, who doesn’t love opening their home – and a few bottles of merlot – to break bread with friends over an old-fashioned evening of food, drink and chit-chat? I know I do!
The witty banter! The sarcasm! The bursts of laughter and “slightly serious” debates! Conversations made even more interesting by copious food and drink, the latter often being the lynchpin that turns good dinner parties into great ones… I love them all!
But besides great food and wine and laughs and conversation, you know what else makes a dinner party great? That would be YOU, the most excellent host! That’s because you are the conductor who ties all the moving pieces of this orchestra together, creating a warm, welcoming vibe; a vibe that invites interaction and conversation throughout the evening. Here’s how to get started…
Once guests have arrived: their coats have been hung up and they’ve received an initial libations, an excellent host makes introductions and ignites conversations between strangers. Once this has happened they’ll step back and watch as these sparks catch fire. Once all the guests are successfully engaged, the host grabs a glass of whatever and it’s GAME ON for the next several hours as a night of eating, drinking and socializing unfolds!
Fast forward to midnight: Food has been ravaged and bottles of wine consumed. At least one guest probably got too loud and/or silly (but that’s okay) while another (may or may not have) discovered a kindred soul or fallen in love; or at the very least, lust. Conversations have finally trailed off into unpredictable conclusions and the final two guests don their coats and say goodbye, closing the door and moving to the sidewalk to wait for the cab they’ve agreed to share.
Except for the quiet jazz in the background, the room is silent, and you, the satisfied host, are all alone. As you survey the landscape littered with empty bottles, dirty glasses and half-eaten slices of chocolate cake (plus possibly a new wine stain or two on the sofa), an eerie silence settles, like an early morning mist upon a still lake.
You allow yourself a little smirk; sort of a victory smirk, one that recognizes that you, and only you are responsible for not only this mess, but what it represents. The bringing together of cool and interesting and amazing people, to break bread, share stories, and maybe even become friends. You did this. But alas, now it’s time to clean up.
As the host experiences the well-earned twin feelings of exhaustion and jubilation, they in fact, experience the moment great dinner party hosts live for; the one that whispers softly in their ear, “now THAT was a great party”. Truth is, great hosts can’t wait to start planning to do it all over again; but only after they get some much needed sleep.
And so they saunter off to bed; but only after filling the dishwasher first, of course.
David’s Tips For Throwing Successful Dinner Parties
Throwing dinner parties is super fun, and never needs to be overwhelming or expensive; in fact, creating shared memories for friends should be none of these things. After throwing dinner parties for several decades, I’ll share my best hosting tips below. Surprisingly, while each is important, there are surprisingly few.
- Should you provide the food or go potluck? It’s your choice, but for larger groups, potluck definitely makes things easier and cheaper, plus people enjoy contributing as it adds to their own party experience
- Check beforehand if any guests are vegetarians, or have food allergies or dislikes. Consider these things when creating your menu
- When hosting six or more people, I recommend self-serve. The food stays hot, it lightens the workload and encourages mingling. Self-service is a must for potlucks!
- I suggest avoiding inviting hardcore health fanatics if they will judge people’s food choices. No party is fun when conflicts over animal cruelty or zero percent body fat take precedent over a nice roasted leg of lamb with jellied mint sauce. I have many vegetarian friends who happily enjoy their rice and beans alongside us carnivores, no problem.
- Always ask for a little help in the kitchen, even if you don’t need it; the same goes when people offer to help with the dishes. Involving people in the event makes it even more fun for everyone. Besides, if someone offers to scrub your pots and pans, why not let them?
- If you want to provide liquor, that’s your call; I rarely do since it gets expensive. I just ask people to bring what they want to drink, but have a couple bottles of wine and a few soft drinks available, just in case. Everyone seems good with this.
- As harsh as it sounds, I’ve learned people who are generally aggressive or make others feel uncomfortable make terrible dinner guests. Once they get talking (or have a couple of Lucky Lagers in them) these folks can kill the vibe of the evening, and not in a good way. I advise only inviting folks who are open, friendly and non-confrontational.
- Also avoid people who knowingly cause friction, or vehemently defend their politics and/or conspiracy theories. This also goes for those who can’t, and frequently don’t, handle their drink well. It only takes a minute for one asshole – drunken or otherwise – to destroy a splendid party.
- When your guests arrive, introduce them to each other, citing commonalities that might connect them. Say things like, “Dan, meet my friend Adam who lives on your street. How is it you guys haven’t met?” By pairing up guests and introducing people it takes the awkwardness off of them having to do it themselves.
- It’s always wise to have a couple decks of cards, or some fun games on hand to play after dinner. Better yet, schedule a game as part of the evening’s activities. This way everyone is aware they are playing and will be a part of the fun. My favorite dinner party game is “The Game of Things” and it never fails to involve or entertain anyone sitting around the table. Pictionary is also a huge crowd-pleaser.
So there you have it: My tips for hosting most exceptional dinner parties. Follow them and you too, will soon create evenings bound by great food, tasty beverages, stimulating banter and super-fun games… And who doesn’t want more of these things in their life? I know I do!
So what are you waiting for? Saturday night isn’t that far off!
Author Bio: David Knapp-Fisher
As founder of The Inspired Humans Project, David loves sharing inspirational stories. His TEDx talk, “Discipline or Regret, a Father’s Decision” been viewed over 100,000 times, and his first book, “Punch Failure in The Face, Then Buy It a Beer” has 36 five star reviews on amazon.ca.
David lives in Victoria B.C. where he spends most of his time trying (& usually failing) to stump his son with movie trivia, feeding his friends or planning his next big adventure; all while drinking great coffee, of course.