There is nothing like the elegance and social delight of a well organised dinner party. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago I attended one that was the polar opposite of that. What a debacle! The poor stressed-out hostess spent most of her time in the kitchen and we barely saw her all evening. So much for the pleasant exchange of witty conversation I had looked forward to. In an effort to appear like an efficient multitasker, this poor woman sacrificed both hers and her guests enjoyment by not getting the basics right.
Dinner parties are tricky at the best of times. Get it right and your guests will be eagerly anticipating your next invitation, get it wrong and you may just become a social pariah where invitees conveniently remember they have something else better to do on that night. Let’s take a look at a few of the necessary ingredients which go towards pulling off a social evening with panache and style.
By Eada Hudes
Call in the Experts
THE number one lesson I have learned in all my years of planning dinner parties is to let someone else worry about the details – I have one job, to make sure that my guests have a good time, and I can’t do that worrying about food burning or who hasn’t got a drink in their hand. If you call in an exceptional company who can be relied on to oversee and manage everything (personally I use the Melbourne caterers Diamond Blue Catering) then you can be assured of high quality food and service which will make your dinner parties the hot ticket amongst your social group, work colleagues or associates.
Delightful Guest or Boring Pest
If a dinner party is all about pampering and entertaining your guests, then choose those guests wisely. We can’t all have the razor-sharp wit and the humour of Oscar Wilde, but make sure at least some of your guests do. Consider the demographic and temperament of guests when planning a seating chart, and if it is unavoidable to invite the chronically boring or the terminally tedious then I’m afraid you may have to sacrifice yourself and sit them at your side. They may tire you with their long, pointless stories, but at least they won’t ruin your guests’ evening.
It’s a good idea to invite guests who have a common interest or mindset. Down-to-earth, footy-loving, beer drinkers and discerning (yes, sometimes pretentious), wine-sniffing art lovers may not be the best combination when it comes to creating lively conversation or even peaceful good-humour. As delightful as each type of person may be, for an enjoyable, felicitous social evening, it’s wise to put careful consideration into the dynamic of each soiree. Oh, and for future reference, if they use the term ‘soiree’ this gets them a berth in the pretentious group!
Set the Scene
Remember to create atmosphere. For formal dinners, lower the lights and put on some music and candles or for more casual events focus the lighting on the table to bring some sparkle to the glasses and cutlery. Ensure to keep the music at an appropriate level – it can be frustrating to be battling to hear one another speak.
Relax and Enjoy
Above all make sure you are at ease, comfortable, and ready to enjoy yourself. Guests will take their cue from you, so if you are worried and distracted it will definitely be reflected in the atmosphere. Plan some suitable entertainment just in case the conversation slows down. Depending on your guests’ tastes, you may like to have a poker set on standby or alternatively, some dance music at the ready.
As I mentioned earlier, your guests’ enjoyment should be at the forefront of your mind when arranging a dinner party. Guests generally come ready and willing to be entertained and enjoy themselves; they just need you to make them feel relaxed, included and valued. Perfecting the art of the dinner party can boost your social life and create a new and exciting world of entertaining – all from the comfort of your own home.