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How to Plan & Execute a Dinner Party

How to Plan & Execute a Dinner Party

I catered for many years, so I’ve planned many menus and events. A lot of people ask me about hosting parties – seems like a lot of folks would like to entertain but feel a little daunted by it.  So I thought I’d outline some ideas and tips – here goes.

 First Things to Consider:

  • What’s your style?  Would you like to host a cocktail party, a casual bbq, a small dinner party, a buffet?  There are so many possibilities, but you should choose the style that feels more comfortable for you, your home and your schedule.  Is there a theme?
  • How many guests can you comfortably accommodate?
  • What do you want to serve?  Will you cook it all?  Will you ask others to bring something (sometimes your most valuable contribution is location and organization, friends and relatives are generally more than willing to contribute once the ball is rolling).  Will you cook some/buy some prepared?


  • Determine a date and guest list and extend invitations.
  • Develop your game plan, in list form please, including everything that needs to be done before the party to ensure your calmness and the party’s success.  There’s almost no detail that is too small.  Once your list is complete, schedule the tasks (I like to start with the day of the party and work backwards. In other words, which tasks must I complete on party day, the day before, week before, etc.)  If you are a novice host/hostess start with a simple menu that requires little last minute effort.  Get your table arranged the day/night before, leave only last minute shopping until party day.
  • Remain calm and make your guests comfortable in your home.  Friends and relatives will be honored you want to share your table and your time with them, so don’t sweat the food too much.

A Small Holiday Dinner Party

"Christmas 2012"      "Christmas 2012"      "Christmas 2012"

Dick and I hosted a small holiday dinner party for 8 friends (total of 10 at the table), and I’ve outlined the menu and game plan here.  Recipes and instructions are in separate posts.

We decided on an Asian theme simply because it’s not traditional holiday fare (we figure everyone will get enough of that closer to Christmas).  I did include a couple of our favorite holiday items (the cheeseball and chocolate cake).  I like this menu because it’s really tasty and although it does require preparation time, much of it can be done well in advance, leaving me to enjoy the party too.

Tasks Schedule (working backwards from party day)
Party Day
  • Frost the cake
  • Marinate cucumbers
  • Mix the Asian Slaw
  • Cook the rice (begin when guests arrive – it takes 40-60 minutes to cook brown rice, depending on type and amount you are cooking.
  • Finish cooking curry (it was pre-cooked and ready to go in the oven)
  • slice and heat bread (slice early, wrap in foil and set aside til ready to warm)
  • last minute shopping for bread and cilantro
  • last minute house pick up
  • set up drinks area and pre-dinner snacks, including cheese ball with crackers
Day Before Party
  • Arrange the table (we will serve the rice and curry on the plates from the kitchen; slaw, cucumbers, bread and chutney will be on table.)
  • Chop vegetables for slaw
  • Prepare dressings for slaw and cucumbers
2-4 Days Before Party
  • Make chutney
  • Make Curry, cool well and cover tightly, store in refrigerator until day of party.  This is not a difficult recipe but it does require some time, especially if you are making a big batch, so allow enough time.
  • Bake cake layers (this can be done 1-2 weeks prior to party, wrap tightly and freeze)
  • Prepare cheese ball, refrigerate.
1-2 Weeks Before Party
  • Extend Invitations
  • Make shopping list (for food, beverage, decorations, etc.) and determine what can be purchased ahead of time and what needs to be purchased at last minute.

The most important thing:  Enjoy your party!

Invest time and effort before your guests arrive so that you feel confident and in control when they arrive.  If you’re relaxed and having fun, most likely your guests will too, and the simplest plan can turn into an entertainment success.

   "Christmas 2012"        "Christmas 2012"
So, Party on.

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