Nicole R. Colman is known as the consummate cultural curator of epic event production and general lively life of the party. As a natural host I have compiled a list of my top ten tips for when you plan your next dinner party or fête.
- DO: Have a Reason for Your Celebration.
You need something to toast, right? Giving the special event a purpose will spice it up all around. Birthdays and milestones are obvious reasons for a party, but really you can host a dinner for any reason you dream up. It’s your half-birthday! It’s any day that ends in the letter Y! It’s the season finale of your favorite series. In this unpredictable world WE CELEBRATE EVERYTHING UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. So feel free to drum up a reason to dress up and get the party started.
- DON’T: Be Confined by the Space You Live In.
If you think your home is too intimate or does not spark enough pizzazz, think again. The people and conversation are what make a dinner party special. Sure, a stunning table overlooking the ocean at sunset is spectacular, but it’s not necessary for a dinner to be fun and memorable.
- DO: Create a Social Atmosphere!
Your kitchen and home should not present the same as they typically do. Light a few candles; set the table with a tablecloth, incorporate a tablescape, bold chargers, place settings and cloth napkins; play mood music; fill the room with fresh flowers; and put on something that makes you look wonderful and feel like the star you are.
- DON’T: Overlook Your Guest’s Dietary Needs.
Being a good host/hostess means that you want to make your guests feel comfortable while they are dining at your table. Serve food they can eat. Be sure to inquire in advance. Questions like, what is your meal preference for a specific dinner, do you have any food allergies, special dietary requirements, etc., are all topics you could look to cover on the front end. Keep the questions clear and to the point and don’t ask anything unnecessary.
- DO: Write Out the Menu!
You want your friends to know what they are eating. Plus, a menu adds a unique and personal touch to any special event.
- DON’T: Skimp on the Cocktails.
Wondering if you should get that extra bottle of something spirited? The answer to this question is always a resounding – YES. It is better to have more alcohol than less, as it relaxes your guests and typically gets the conversation and good times flowing. Whenever possible suggest in advance for guests to travel via Ride Share or confirm they have a designated driver. It is Always imperative to Drink Responsibly.
- DO: Serve Appetizers and Dessert.
Your guests should have something to nibble on when they arrive. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet Fig and Olive Tapenade served with Goat cheese, chopped green onion (optional), Balsamic vinaigrette, toasted walnuts and served with French bread. It’s your party and you can do what you want to. Put out a bowl of homemade or store-bought spinach artichoke dip and a flavorful charcuterie board and call it a day. The same rule of thumb can be applied for dessert.
DO: End the meal with something sweet. Homemade desserts are divine, but do not feel as though you have to over-think this portion of the meal. A scoop of ice cream or sorbet are both easy, crowd-pleasing options.
- DON’T: Be Limited by Your Cooking Abilities.
You should not think you cannot throw a dinner just because you are not a Master Chef. There are plenty of options for the non-cooking host/hostess. Local specialty grocers like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Central Market can make your event a breeze; you can literally get an entire meal from the prepared food section. Or whether you decide to order an assortment of pizzas and salads from your favorite pizzeria; or hire an acclaimed Private Chef to do the dirty work for you the possibilities are endless and the experience is still YOURS.
- DO: Be Flexible.
As a person who likes to have all her ducks in a row in advance this one sometimes makes me cringe just a tinge – however I graciously apply my hostess skills and move the appropriate chess pieces accordingly. DO: Accept last-minute party guests. If your cousin’s best friend is in town for the night, throw a little more food in the mix and let the friend come to dinner, too. If your homemade baked salmon breaks before you get to plate it the way you had your presentation etched in your mind, don’t waste time lamenting over it. Just jazz it up with some fresh parsley and citrus slices. Remember, the host/hostess sets the tone of the dinner, so if you’re freaking out about a failed attempt, your guests will sense your stress and may not have the best possible time.
- DON’T: Rush to Do the Dishes.
My favorite part of a dinner is the time after the meal is finished when everyone lingers at the table. Pop open a fresh bottle of wine, champagne, whiskey or cognac. Sit back, relax, and let the lively conversations commence.