So you've decided to put on a dinner party and already you're lying awake worrying about every little detail: what if people don't come? What if my food ends up being a disaster? What if people don't enjoy themselves? Keep calm and follow these tips and your dinner party should run smoothly.
If you have a cause for celebration then this will help to set the tone and anchor all the elements of your party. You will of course also need to pick a date that gives you plenty of time to plan your party so that you aren't rushed. You will also need to decide on a style for your party so people will know how to dress. Whether you are hosting a small informal dinner or perhaps you are hosting a fundraising dinner for 40 people - either way your guests must know what attire will be appropriate. Written invitations would be suitable for these larger gatherings, whereas a simple email or phone call will do for a smaller, relaxed party.
When setting out the room makes sure that you create the required ambience. Perhaps you will go for simple candlelit decorations or something more elaborate. Remember that everything from the table settings to the menu to the music will set the tone.
Decide on your menu one week ahead of the party date. Your first instinct will be to scour your cookbooks for recipes. Rather than do this, think about what flavours, textures and sensations will compliment each other. A good idea would be to visit a farmers markets so that you will be able to taste what food is fresh and in season. Make sure that you get a good balance of foods; for example you wouldn't want to serve cheesecake for dessert after a main course consisting of creamy dairy textures.
If you are having a large gathering of people then you may need to rent additional supplies such as extra crockery and silverware, glasses and tablecloths. It may also be worth hiring people to help with the serving as well as a caterer and housekeeper to clean up after.
A couple of days before the party is due to take place make sure that all the silverware is polished, the crockery is clean and that the tablecloths are ironed. Select some background music and choose some appropriate wine to serve your guests. If you are unsure as to what wine goes with which food then there will be plenty of websites that will give you advice. If you are buying wine from a specialist retailer then they will also be able to advise you.
On the day of the party it is important that you take charge of the mingling. Introduce friends to one another if they are not already acquainted and create little conversation corners. Huddle chairs together so that no one will be left out and at the dinner table seat guests with similar interests next to one another. Even more importantly you should enjoy yourself as your enthusiasm will rub off on everyone else.
Do pay attention to the mood of the party so that you can get a sense of when people are ready to leave. If you are having trouble getting people to move then you can drop subtle hints like 'would anyone care for a last coffee?'. Always remember to thank your guests for coming.