The Ultimate Party: A Guide to Planning your First Dinner Party
When it comes to planning a perfect dinner party it is important to start with a plan of action. And the plan begins with the guest list.
If you’ve never thrown a dinner party before, this can be a challenge. That is why the perfect dinner party has to have a plan. Your plan should include:
1 -Who is coming to dinner?
2- What will you be serving?
3- When will you host the event? (Date and time)
4- Where will you host the event (in your home, at a rec center, a restaurant, someone else’s home)?
The first thing you need to do is determine WHO will be attending. This is a must because it will determine WHAT you will be serving. So just who is coming to dinner?
I mean, you have to decide who to invite, right? And the right people will make all the difference to the ultimate outcome. And the wrong people will do the same. If you want to create an event to remember decide the guest list before deciding what to serve.
You need to ask the invitees what food preferences they have, if they’re vegetarians, anything that someone CAN’T have (case in point – people allergic to nuts or certain spices and herbs can have a bad reaction if you use it in your meal).
For your first dinner party, you may want to invite 6 to 8 people.
This is a manageable number. Enough to have an entertaining evening while it still feels personal.
Tip: For your first dinner party, invite people you know and can be comfortable around. It will keep you loose and you’ll get more honest feedback.
Also, most recipes you come across prepare for 4, 6 or 8 people, so it will be less confusing . . .
Note: Although you want your dinner party to be elegant, it doesn’t need to be formal. This is the other reason I suggest you invite all friends (or family) to your first party.
Setting the Perfect Table
You could be saying I know how to set a table or how difficult can it be to set a table? or even what difference does it make which side of the plate the fork goes?
Well it does matter. And the main reason it matters is that it is all about creating a certain mood, ambiance and memory for your guests. If you are hosting a barbeque outside on picnic tables then this probably does not apply. Wrapping your utensils in a paper napkin or inexpensive cloth napkin will do just fine.
For the purpose of addressing how to host the perfect dinner party, we are going to briefly discuss a formal place setting and go into more detail about a casual place setting (which will likely cover the majority of casual dinner party get-togethers you will host).
First, the formal setting: Remember the idiom, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” First impressions are important if only for the reaction they exude from your guests.
A formal place setting done correctly will make your guests feel important and special. As they should. In fact, we have done so much entertaining over the years that the first thing our guests look at is the table. They often say to me they cannot wait to sit down to dinner because it makes them feel so “important.”
While we are not going to go into great detail about the Formal setting, we thought it important to show you a picture of how one family sets their table! The picture (photo credit: Wikimedia) was taken in the State Dinning Room in the White House. Notice the impeccable attention to detail from the number of utensils to the floral décor, linens and more.
There are so many ways to set a table, depending on a number of factors. Formal settings will differ from non-formal. Your dinner party needs will depend on Who is Coming, What is being Served, What type of atmosphere you are, How much you have budgeted for the event, etc.
You will need to know certain things before you can properly set your table. Will there be soup, salad, both? Wine? What kind of wine? What main dish are you serving? Will you serve bread and butter?
Here is what you will need to consider for a Less Formal or Casual Setting:
01 Allow for 24″ to 30″ for each place setting. This will help avoid over-crowding.
02 Place settings should be 1″ from the edge of the table.
03 Place silverware in the order of use. What is to be used first is placed farthest from the plate, and so on.
04 Knives are placed to the right of the plate, with the knife’s cutting edge facing the plate. Spoons are placed to the right of the plate and to the right of the knives.
05 All forks are placed to the left of the plate, in order of use. If salad is to be served with the main course, or if the salad fork is to be used as a dessert fork, it is placed to the right of the dinner fork, next to the plate.
06 The bread and butter plate is optional at a casual dinner party, so don’t worry if you don’t have them. If you are planning to use a bread and butter plate, place it to the upper left of the dinner plate and lay the butter spreader horizontally across the plate, with the blade facing the plate.
07 Knives are set to the immediate right of the dinner plate, blades facing the plate.
08 A soup spoon, if needed, is set to the right of all knives.
09 Forks are placed to the left of the dinner plate in the order of their use, from the outside toward the plate.
10 Dessert spoons and forks can be brought to the table with the dessert plates.
11 Water glasses (if used) should be set just above the top of the place knife. The wine glass is placed slightly to the right of the water glass.
12 A cup and saucer can be brought to the table along with the teaspoon with dessert.
13 Place a folded napkin to the left of your forks.
TIP: Set the table the night before. This way, there’s one less thing to worry about while you cook. If this is not possible, then organize your dishes, flatware, glasses, etc. So that when it’s time to set the table, everything is ready at your fingertips!
How to set up a Formal Setting for a Celebration or Holiday:
01 Utensils are to be placed on the table in the order it will be used; silverware that will be used first should be set to the farthest left and right sides of the plate.
02 Knives should be placed with their cutting-edge towards the dinner plate, except the butter knife which should be laid flat on a bread plate.
03 The dessert fork and/or spoon should be centered above and parallel to the dinner plate. It also can be brought out when you serve dessert as well.
04 Salad plate or soup plate can be placed on top of the dinner plate. If you are serving both salad and soup then leave the soup bowl on top and move the salad plate to the left and right above the forks.
05 The bread plate should be placed to the right and slightly above the salad plate.
06 Dinner plates should be placed about 2 inches from the table’s edge, centered on the place mat or squarely in front of the chair for a proper place setting.
07 When serving multiple courses, the host may want to serve each course on separate serving plates.
08 Clear dishes and utensils after each course is finished by all at the table.
09 Water glasses should be placed above the dinner knife, with other drinking glasses arranged neatly nearby the water glass and to the right.
10 Mugs and saucers may be placed on the table to the right of the knife and spoon.
11 For large dinner parties, especially weddings it is a good idea to use Name Cards. The card should be placed above the dessert utensil and to the left of the drinking glasses.
12 During dinner always offer salt, pepper and dressings before you serve yourself. Also, when leaving the table remember to leave your napkin folded and on the arm of your chair.