Or, How to Host a Dinner Party
It's no secret that I love to host dinner parties. You might think that hosting a dinner party is simple - have people over and serve them food. However, a lot goes on behind the scenes and taking a few extra steps in the planning can make it more fun for everyone involved (including the host).
By popular demand, I'm going to write a series of posts with dinner party hosting tips. These are all based on my opinions, the wisdom of Ina Garten and other fabulous hosts I know, and things I’ve learned from hosting a zillion parties. (For those of you who hate hosting, don’t fret - I’ll also include some tips for guests.)
What is hosting?
For me, a dinner party is a broad concept - it might be a little fancy or it might be a casual potluck. As a host, it’s my job to plan the gathering and make sure everyone has fun at the gathering. The most important part of hosting is making people feel comfortable. These tips are all designed to do so. Of course, as stated above, this is all from my experience so I make no claims that these approaches will work for everyone. Feel free to try them all, ignore them all, or choose and adapt the ones you like.
Many people might call this the “etiquette” of hosting and attending parties. The term “etiquette” has some problematic connotations - a lot of what we consider “proper etiquette” today is antiquated, gatekept, rooted in classism, and rather pointless in my opinion.
Here’s how I’d like us to think about hosting etiquette instead: it’s a set of practices that people can use to help others around them feel comfortable and at ease. This can take many forms, but some simple examples are anticipating needs (e.g., telling people where the bathroom is before anyone needs it), being clear about expectations (e.g., letting people know what they should bring or if they’ll be expected to chip in to help pay for the food), and being inclusive (e.g., making sure your menu accommodates dietary restrictions). What we’re not going to do is judge people for using the wrong fork for their salad or putting their elbows on the table.
Another fun way to think about hosting is subtly and benevolently manipulating your guests to ensure they have a good time - in other words, creating conditions where people feel happy, comfortable, and fun. And of course, well-fed.
Stay tuned for future posts that cover inviting guests, choosing a menu, preparing the party, the party itself, and clean-up!