Hosting a Dinner Party | 8 Things I Learned

white flowers

After living in small spaces for so many years, I never thought I would have a breakfast room and a formal dining room.  It is a luxury that I don’t take for granted, so now that we are a little more settled in Georgia I wanted to have some new friends over for dinner.  I’ve never had that many people over for a seated dinner and happily accepted the challenge!

Many of you asked for the menu, tablescape details and so on.  And I definitely learned a few things along the way I thought I would share.  So much of this was a learning experience and now I’ve learned some things I’ll incorporate for next time, like purchasing a linen runner for the dining table, insisting guests take home extra dessert, etc.  But let’s get into the top tips I found helpful –

1.  When recipe planning, think of one pot dishes.

There are so many articles out there with outlined supper club recipes (like this and this), but I really wanted to try to find something that would be a one pot dish and delicious.  I wanted to feel confident in what I was cooking and not have to keep my eye on several different dishes.  I went with this penne with shrimp and herb cream sauce, a big salad and french bread.

It’s also thoughtful if you can ask the guests ahead to make sure you aren’t missing any allergies or dietary restrictions.  In California we had friends who were gluten-free, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, kosher… it’s best to ask upfront so you are prepared!

2.  Do a trial run.

The week before I made the main dish for Christian because I had never made it before and you do not want to try a new dish at a dinner party.  Always do a trial run so you can know to add a little extra of this, a little less of that, etc.

3.  Make your dessert (and anything else you can!) the day before.

I made pies for dessert because I knew I could make them the night before, including the whipping cream.  One less thing to think about!

4.  Write out your timeline.

This was a suggestion from my mom and a really great one.  I wrote out a timeline for the day that went along the lines of:

12PM – peel the shrimp

3PM – chop herbs, chop salad toppings

5PM – work on cheeseboard and setting out appetizers, light candles, turn on all of the lights, preheat oven

You get the drift.  Down to lighting the taper candles on the table, I wrote it all down on a small sheet of paper because when everyone is at your house and your chatting and having wine… it’s so easy to forget to light the votives or warm the bread, etc.  You know how it goes!

5.  Pull out all the fancies.

I have had our formal china sitting in my childhood closet for six years, I couldn’t wait to pull it out!  These kinds of occasions are literally why you have all of your entertaining pieces.  The platters, the salad bowls, the silver… use them and enjoy them!

I literally didn’t even mind doing the dishes while listening to podcasts because it meant I was using all of these beautiful pieces as they were intended to be used.

6.  Label the trash can.

In the future, I will make or buy a pretty sign and temporarily put it on the drawer.  For now I just put a very classy sticky note on the drawer that is the trash can and it worked like a charm.

7.  Do you have an extra sink?  It could double as an ice chest.

I didn’t have the time to photograph it, but I filled the bar sink below with ice and put the Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé, Topo Chico and beer in it.  Easy and a little extra fun.

8.  Check the water pitchers!

At the end of the night I noticed all three water pitchers were empty.  It was so busy (in a great way) that I never thought to refill them with ice and water.  Next time I’ll know to keep my eye on them and refill them more often.

dining roomtiffanys vasekids tablewet bar

dining room featured and linked here (including china) | bar to be included in den reveal coming soon!

breakfast room featured and linked here | water pitcher and s&p shakers – McCarty Pottery, also love this one and these | dinner plates | salad plates – discontinued, love these | linen napkins | water glasses | flatware – discontinued, love these

One last element I haven’t yet perfected – figuring out how to move guests out of the kitchen.  Our downstairs is basically a big, open circle between the foyer, dining room, powder room, breakfast room & kitchen, den and living room.  Yet everyone still tends to naturally gather inside the kitchen.  Perhaps because this is where the hosts typically are?  I’m still trying to figure out how to set things up in a way that takes guests into the den and living room to sit and relax.  I’d love any suggestions from those of you who are seasoned entertaining pros!

Thank you so much for reading! And if you have any dishes that have worked well for a large dinner party, I’d definitely love to hear.  XO –

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