Dinner party basics…or, learn from my disasters

Epic dinner party: NYE 2006

With the holidays nearly upon us, the calendar is getting full of events to celebrate. Some we’re attending: school plays, work parties, New Years Eve events. And some we’re hosting: 3rd birthday parties, dinners with friends. It’s not exactly the social calendar of our pre-kiddie days, but it’s still pretty fun.

It has gotten me thinking about what makes a good party. I’m no expert, but I have attended a party or two, and even thrown one on occasion. In fact, I’ve thrown a lot of dinner parties, and more than one of them a total disaster.

My first real dinner party was when I was 17. I invited my boyfriend, his parents, and my parents to meet for the first time. Yep, a super relaxing dynamic.

I made seafood crepes from scratch. After I elegantly hosted everyone for hors d’oeuvres for an hour or so, I left them all in the living room to go make crepes. FROM SCRATCH. Do you know how long it takes to make crepes? At least 2 hours…or eternity if you’re sitting in a room with people you don’t know and aren’t too sure you want to know. I’m sure they were trying to figure out if we had something to tell them. (we didn’t). For 2 hours.

Since then, I’ve gotten a little better at it. And in the past 11 years with Dan, we’ve hosted our share of epic parties. Or at least, we haven’t starved anyone for 2 hours in an awkward situation then tried to kill them with a heart attack on a plate in a while. So I thought I’d capture the top 10 things that make a good dinner party. But then I ran out of things at 8. So, top 8 things that make an awesome party. Maybe you can help me fill in #9 & 10?

Try something new on guests. Everyone else says don’t do it. I say, why not? If you’re having friends over, make them your guinea pigs. You’re inviting people into your home for a fun time. What’s more fun than being entertained by a spectacular meal or a royal flop? Either way it’s entertaining. Just be prepared that you might be ordering pizza.

Do NOT try something new on guests. If it’s a potentially tense or awkward scenario (see mine above), make something comforting and easy for you. If you’re relaxed, they’ll be more relaxed. Your boss, your in-laws for the first time, make meatloaf. Serve with a bourdeaux. You’ll be a rock star.

Make or prep ahead. There is nothing more boring than watching someone chop onions. Do as much as you can beforehand so you’re either pulling something out of the oven when they arrive or entertaining them with a cooking show.

Give your guests a job. Either have them bring something, or give them something to do when they arrive. Something fun, like opening wine or putting apps out. Trust me, they don’t want to chop onions either.

Make food people actually eat. No one is coming to your house for foie gras. Make something interesting, or make something boring and do something interesting with it (see meatloaf and bourdeax above).

Always have champagne on hand.
People like to share big news at dinner parties. Be prepared. Also, if dinner is a disaster, serve pizza with champagne and pretend like you planned it that way.

Always have an awesome non-alcoholic option on hand. People like to share big news a dinner parties.

Go out to eat. If you don’t truly love having people into your home, in your kitchen, in your business, meet them at a restaurant. It’s fine.


  1. JB says

    #9 Consult Gourmet Mommy for great ideas!
    #10 Dine with Gourmet Mommy (et al)!

    REALLY enjoying catching up on your great Blog lady! You’ve really got something here! I love the natural voice and humor that comes through along with the wonderful tips, recipes, and ideas. Wonderful!

  2. Tay says

    Fantastic Post!
    Maybe #9 can be soemthing to do with how to handle clean up? I always find that to be the most awkward point of the party. I feel obligated to tell my guests “no,” they may not clean. Secretly, however, I really want them to…

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