Since launching this little blog and showing how much I like getting friends together when the stars align and everyone’s crazy schedules work out, I’ve been getting lots of “dinner parties are so much work, what’s your secret?” type questions. So here’s the start of a list of little tricks that help reduce the prep and increase the party – a pretty good combo.
1. Have your guests help out – take a load off one part of the meal. I find that having them focus on either the beginning (apps) or the end (dessert) is best because you can still keep a coherent main menu.
2. Give them a seat – For bigger parties, I spend way more time than I should thinking whose butt should go where. Mixing quieter and more vocal friends, letting friends you know haven’t seen each other catch up…all the efforts really do add to an even better night where the conversation flows. And while hoping your friends will be friends with each other is a nice idea, don’t overdo trying to force people to get to know each other.
3. Keep the wine flowing. My hubby likes to call our favorite wine dispenser fancy Franzia, but the20 really does bring boxed wine to a whole new level and keeps your guests guzzling throughout the night. With their special casks and bags of wine from boutique CA wineries, you get really great tasting wine and don’t have to worry about opening a new bottle every few minutes. Each pouch of wine holds the equivalent of four bottles, and since they don’t have to deal with bottling costs, the price is about the same as paying for 1-2 bottles of wine. Great deal, right?! Definitely worth checking out.
4. Keep the bubbly flowing. Sodastream is old news to most people by now, but if you’re still an outlier and haven’t seen this sparkling-water-maker in action, give it a whirl. Regular tap water + a few pushes = sparkling water with just the right amount of bubbly (extra bubbles here, please!). Beyond the novelty, it saves tons of money. We’ve had one for about 4 years and have saved hundreds of dollars on buying bottles of Perrier.
5. Lots of cake platters! And napkin rings! And napkins! Having a mix of decorative items on hand makes it so much more fun to set up for a party. Buy things on sale at the end of the season, or find some great Ikea fabric to make cheap tablecloths. Cake platters come in handy and are just so pretty. Adding height to any table makes it feel more special and festive. I LOVE everything on Petite Portions for that vintage milk glass look.
6. Set up in advance: Get the table ready the night before so you can focus on food the day of.
7. Play around: While Anthropologie’s table design program definitely still has a few kinks in the system, this is a pretty fun little app to play with. If only you actually had all their dishes waiting in your cabinet… I always do a real version of this (setting up one place setting and fiddling with mixing and matching all my linens and dishware) before diving into the whole table.
8. Keep track: This is a bit much for anyone but the serious host, but if you do entertain a lot, make sure you don’t serve guests the same meal twice in a row by keeping it organized in this gorgeous leather bound Entertaining Book by Graphic Image.