You have decided to host a dinner party. Where do you start? The first item of business is to determine your guest list. When that is complete, begin sending out invitations. Be sure to request an R.S.V.P. and provide contact information. Within a week to ten days of your event, if you still have not heard from potential guests, call to see if they intend to be present. Knowing how many people you will be serving is one of the most important details in planning dinner parties.
The menu may also be influenced by the guest list, so once you learn who will or will not be attending, you can begin planning your menu. Remember that you should always plan for more people than you expect. You may have guests that change their minds and drop in at the last minute, and occasionally, guests bring others along with them unannounced. Also, some guests may have larger appetites than others. Even if none of these issues arise, it is always preferable to have too much rather than not having enough, so be sure to provide food and beverages in generous quantities.
Accommodating extra people is an important consideration when it comes to seating as well. Make sure you have at least one or two extra chairs handy and can quickly set another place if an unexpected guest arrives or if someone brings another person along.
Unexpected things do come up, which may cause guests to arrive late. For this reason, it is generally a good idea to serve cocktails and appetizers for an hour so in a casual manner before you intend to serve dinner. This is especially true if you are serving a family style meal or having courses served individually. This option gives everyone a chance to arrive and settle in before the meal begins.
Be sure to offer plenty of food choices. Not everyone enjoys the same types of foods. It is awkward for both you and your guests if someone has very little on his or her plate and only picks at the food. Even if you don't provide an alternative entrée, be sure to offer several different types of side dishes and relishes.
If you are serving a large or heavy meal, it is wise to allow some time to pass before serving dessert. The best way to do this without an abrupt end to the meal is to invite guests into another room for after dinner drinks or coffee, and announce that dessert will be served in that location shortly. This is actually a good option for serving dessert in any instance. The dining table can then be cleared more easily after guests have left the table.
Always greet guests, or have a friend or family member arrive early to greet them, and always see your guests off when the party is over. If serving alcohol, remember, it is your responsibility to ensure that guests arrive home safely afterwards.