Planning a dinner party can bring on a variety of challenges that can put even the most relaxed host to the test. So, we caught up with the team at the spectacular country house, and home of the ultimate dinner party, Dewsall Court, for their tips on ensuring your dinner party leaves your guests impressed.
Consider any dietary restrictions your guests may have. Although your heart is set on a warming winter beef wellington, your vegetarian and gluten-free guests may not feel the same way.
Ask your guests at the invitation stage about any dietary requirements or allergies, so that you’re aware of what you can add to the menu… and what to leave off.
Plan a menu that allows you to spend time with your guests. If you’re going to be up and down all evening checking on the oven, or serving side dishes, you won’t be able to devote your full attention to your guests. Consider bringing in service staff to cook or serve for your, allowing you the chance the sit back and get on with the entertaining.
Veggies overcooked? Not enough seasoning in the soup? As host, you will always be a little critical of the fine detail. Though it’s likely your guests won’t notice. So avoid apologising for small details you’re unhappy with. But do gush over the details you love… your guests will too.
Consider serving dessert away from the table. It’s much more relaxed for guests to enjoy their final course in a cosy seating area where they can sip coffee and unwind. It also makes the evening a lot more informal than staying seated at the table.
Consider the theme of your event. If it’s a winter dinner party, adorn the table with acorns or sprigs of fern. For the summer, fresh fruits placed in the centre of the table, or vibrant flowers in hessian jars make for a stunning display.
Use cloth napkins, not paper. They add much more of a luxury feel to your table settings, and make even the most minimal of tables look elegant.
Think about your seating plan. Many couples, if left to their own devices will sit side-by-side. If you’re happy for guests to seat themselves, that’s fine. Though if you plan to encourage interaction between guests that aren’t well acquainted, seat couples across the table from each other to create more of a conversation flow.
Make a playlist to avoid simply letting the radio run. Nothing kills the mood than a rock anthem suddenly cutting into your smooth grooves. Choose music that you think all guests will enjoy, something relaxing, not too loud and that doesn’t drown out the conversation.
Add some atmosphere with candles. Rather than having guests dine under bright lights, candlelight will create a more relaxed mood and allow guests to feel a little less exposed.
The difference between a good dinner party, and one that leaves your guests truly impressed, is attention to detail. You don’t have to spend a fortune on expensive wines, lavish entertainment or gifts for your guests. Just focus on what will make them comfortable…
On arrival, take their coat and offer them a drink. We all know how hard it is to juggle a coat over one arm and a glass of wine in the other. So ensure they have some hands free for meet and greets with other guests.
If a guest’s glass is looking empty, offer them a refill. Don’t simply top up their glass. Some guests like to keep track of how much they’re drinking. Plying them with alcohol isn’t always welcome.
Encourage conversation. On arrival, guests may find it difficult to strike up a conversation with others they don’t know. So, ensure you introduce all guests to each other. You may like to go a stage further than, ‘Stuart, meet Sophie.’ Give a little background to kickstart the conversation. ‘Stuart, meet Sophie. Sophie is an events manager specialising in charity fundraisers. Stuart runs a PR agency based in Cheshire.’
It’s not necessary to buy gifts for your guests. Though small touches go down a treat. Demi bottles of Prosecco with name tags make for great table settings. Or mini goody bags containing aspirin and an extra slice of dessert will be welcomed the morning after!
Whatever style of dinner party you’re planning, remember that the focus is on the experience, not one single detail… or yourself. So have fun planning, find your inner creative and let the evening unwind whichever way it happens. A stressed hostess does not impress!
Wordsmithery by Siân | We Are Perception