The answer to making sure your dinner guests have a good time lies in making sure your timing is absolutely spot on. With a little thought well ahead and careful timetabling you can be sure all will go according to plan.
First things first
You have decided to give a dinner party so what next? Sit down somewhere quiet and mull over the basics so that you have a general idea of what you want but don’t get bogged down by details at this stage, just investigate the possibilities.
When to hold it?
Who to invite?
What kind of party?
Which food do you want to offer?
Moving on to decision making..
4 weeks from D day
There are a number of considerations to take into account when setting the date for your party.
- Week day or weekend? It will probably turn out to be a weekend when you and your guests will have more time to enjoy the evening so pick a day about 4 weeks ahead and see how it fits in your diary.
- Are you free the day before and the day after? Best not to try and fit your party in between 2 other late nights or busy days as you wont be able to devote your undivided attention to the event itself. Imagine trying to host a sophisticated dinner with a raging hangover, or on only a couple of hours sleep! Imagine having to attend an important event the day after with no time to get ready for it because you have spent all your time on your party! So pace yourself well and it will be much lower on stress levels.
- Is it a quiet time at work or for family commitments? Also best not to try to fit it in with your annual performance review, important client meetings or baby sitting your grandma’s dog! You will need a clear head and lots of energy without other distractions getting in the way.
There are lots of possible candidates and combinations for your guest list and you will need to think carefully about who to include and now is the time to be doing it! For detailed guidance on this see previous post on drawing up the guest list
Assuming you will have opted for a fine dining experience at home, will you be having a particular theme? If so, now is the time to finalise what you want it to be and start to explore it in detail. More advice on this will follow in a further post.
Set your budget now and be very strict in sticking to it! It is so easy to be carried away with wanting to provide the best and adding a bit here and a bit there with alarming results when the credit card bill drops through the door.
Issue the invitations
Doing this a few weeks in advance will usually mean that your first choice of guests are available, but if not, you still have time to invite others without them feeling they are second best. RSVP by a set time not too far ahead is a good idea to help you with this.
Setting this well ahead will give you peace of mind and allow you to practise any new dishes you want to offer. Never ever try to cook something new on the day of the party. The last thing you want is a mousse that won’t set so you have to dash off to the supermarket when you don’t have time and then have to present an inferior shop bought alternative. More advice on menus another time.
Sort out your recipes and keep them together for easy reference. Leafing through lots of books or having to go online every time will be the recipe for stress. So print them out and keep in a folder or put in those book marks then the only recipes you have to hand are those you really need.
3 weeks from D day
- Now is the time to be fine tuning the menu and starting to lay by the ingredients. Anything that is non perishable should be bought at this time, so check your larder against your recipes and make a shopping list. This also has an economic advantage in that you can spread the cost over a longer period rather than all in one go. Next make lists of items to be bought a week ahead, a couple of days ahead and finally the day before or as a last resort on the actual day though try to avoid this by buying things with a long sell by date.
- Draw up a timetable for the cooking, write it down and tick off as you complete each task. Try to space it out so that not much is last minute when you need to be getting yourself ready or greeting everyone. You will not want to be red faced and in your apron and the guests won’t want you to be either!
- Check your table ware and wash any table cloths or napkins, make sure you have enough of everything for the table setting and if not buy or organise to borrow extras.
- Organise the music see separate posting for help with this
1 week from D day
- By now you should be feeling well organised and confident that everything is under control as you move into the last week.
- Walk around the rooms that will be used for your party and check for any little jobs that need doing, such as brushing cobwebs, removing spots from carpets or clearing away clutter.
- Reflect on the entrance to your home to make sure the garden, hallway or front door will be creating a good first impression for your guests.
Last couple of days
- The more you can do now will relieve the pressure on the day itself so do as much as you can as early as you can if you are sure that it is practical. Setting the table and arranging the flowers for example, but not if it means that family will have to picnic in the garden for 2 days because they are not allowed anywhere near the dining table.
- Finish the shopping and make a start on any dishes that can be made ahead, or at least do the prep for as much as possible.
- Decide on what you will be wearing and keep it ready, there will be no time for dashing off to the dry cleaners at the last minute.
The day before
- A very important day for you! it will be your last chance to get well ahead so don’t delay setting the table, giving the house its final sprucing up and finishing all the shopping and any possible food prep or cook ahead dishes.
- Try to get an early night and a good sleep safe in the knowledge that you are well organised with as little as possible to do tomorrow.
- Get out and have ready all the dinnerware and dishes you will need for the dinner.
- Organise the drinks, red wine at room temperature, white wine and beer in the fridge.
- Finish food prep and have everything ready to cook.
- Prepare the canapés and nibbles
- Make sure all garnishes are ready
- Keep the kitchen as tidy as you can and check generally for anything out of place in other rooms you will be using.
- Have somewhere ready for coats etc and any gifts the guests might bring
- Keep up with the cooking
2 hours before
- Open the red wine.
- Make sure all food is under control with as much as possible just to be served.
1 hour before
- Get yourself ready, you can always leave only your dress and perfume until the last half hour and finish things off in your dressing gown!
- Check all food is well under control
- Put out nibbles and canapés and have welcome drinks mixed or ready to pour
30 minutes before
- Last minute lippy and perfume application and feel like a million dollars
- Put on the music
- Light the candles
- Keep up with the food timetable
- Sit down for at least 10 minutes before the first guests arrive
The party has started, enjoy the evening!