Food tastes better when it’s enjoyed with friends and family. That perfect pairing of good food and good company is the reason many of us end up uttering those five simple (and slightly stress-inducing) words: “let’s throw a dinner party.”
If you’re a natural host or hostess at heart, chances are you’ve thrown a dinner party or two in your time. But for first-timers, pulling together a successful soiree can be… overwhelming.
The good news is your get-together doesn’t have to be daunting. We’ve created hundreds of amazing gatharings across Australia and have collected some top tips for hosting along the way.
So here it is: a simple set of dos and don’ts to help you throw a stress-free, fun-filled dinner party.
Do: Set expectations early
The first and perhaps most important of our dinner party dos and dont’s: setting expectations with your guests.
When you’re inviting people, lay it all out on the table: what would you like your guests to bring (maybe a bottle of wine, if anything at all)? Is this a formal dinner party, or more of a casual dinner party? Do your guests have any dietary requirements? (we’ll touch on this one again later)
You certainly don’t need dinner party invitations for casual dinner parties. These days, a group chat or email/SMS thread is the most common way to keep everyone in the loop.
Don’t: Forget the beverages
You’d be surprised how often drinks are forgotten when all the pre-party focus is on the food!
Beverages are something you can take care of ahead of time: stock up on white wine and red wine (best done after you’ve set your menu so you can pair wine to match) as well as a good range of non-alcoholic options, and pop them in the fridge the day before.
While we’re on the subject, let’s talk fridge space. If you don’t have a dedicated drinks fridge, be conscious of your shelf space and be sure to leave room for food that needs to be kept refrigerated.
This is a good time to check you have a water glass and wine glasses for all of your guests. You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen washing wine glasses between white and red if you’re pairing wines to your menu.
Do: Create a party atmosphere
Dinner parties without playlists are basically just board meetings. Formal dinners, cocktail soirees, housewarming parties – the tone will be different for each, so plan your playlist wisely.
Having background music should, in our opinion, be a non-negotiable rule for dinner parties. If you’re not comfortable being DJ, nominate a music-loving friend to spin tracks for the evening, or set up a shared playlist where all guests can add songs before the party.
Another element that adds to the atmosphere is party etiquette. You want your guests to feel at home – mi casa su casa and all that – but this doesn’t mean table manners go out the window. Depending on your level of formality, you may like to set some etiquette rules for your guests.
Dinner party etiquette in 2021 doesn’t mean knowing which fork to use first or standing up when someone leaves the table; it’s more about a ‘no phones’ policy, or not eating the gluten-free option until your gluten-free friend has had their fill.
Don’t: Neglect the table setting
Set the table, set the scene. Your dining table is where the magic happens and you want your guests to get excited about the delicious times ahead as soon as they walk in.
Setting the table should be done before your guests arrive. Lay down some nice table linen (if you have it) and placemats. Your dinner party table will look most impressive if you put the full dinnerware set out for each guest: plates or bowls for mains, appetisers and desserts stacked from largest to smallest.
When you’re setting the table, make sure there’s enough room to fit the serving dishes when dinner begins. If not, you may want to omit the dinnerware and style simply with cutlery, glassware, and finishing touches like linen napkins.
If you’re a little minimalist in the home decor department, just look to your pantry for table styling props: little bowls of olive oil, balsamic and sea salt add a Mediterranean touch, while sprigs of rosemary and dried fruit can jazz up any cocktail glass.
Do: Be mindful of timings
A good dinner party is like a ballet: there’s a flow that tells a story. It starts quite relaxed, introducing the scene, before building up to a crescendo, and coming down for the final act.
Setting rough timings when you’re inviting people to your party is a great idea, as it helps your guests feel at ease during the night (i.e. nobody will be asking “is it dinner time yet?”) Pop the bottles and put out quick and easy canapes or a simple dish of small bites for guests to nibble on as they get settled.
Ask your guests to arrive no more than an hour before you intend to serve your first course. That will leave breathing room for those who roll in a little later, but not be so long that people start to feel impatient.
Your private chef, if you’re using Gathar, will let you know how early they need to arrive to start cooking (usually 2 to 3 hours before the first course is served, depending on the menu).
Don’t: Dismiss dietary restrictions
We’re more aware of dietary restrictions than ever, meaning it’s rare to have a dinner party where there’s not at least one allergy or preference to consider.
Take your guests’ dietary restrictions seriously. Dismissing a guest with coeliac disease as someone who simply chooses not to eat gluten is a serious faux pas.
Of all the dinner party tips we can offer, this one is the most important as it involves your friends’ and families’ health. Ask for guests’ dietary needs early on so you can plan accordingly, but be sure not to fuss over them on the night. As long as there are options for everyone, your guests will be grateful.
Do: Consider leaving it to the pros
That’s what we’re here for! There’s nothing worse than planning an amazing dinner party and being stuck in the kitchen all night missing out on all the fun.
Invite Gathar over so you can get out of the kitchen and back to the party! Having dinner party catering from a qualified chef means both guests and hosts will be treated to a memorable and seriously delicious night.
Our passionate and talented Culinarians can design a dinner party menu for whatever type of gatharing you’re planning: from intimate to extravagant, BBQ to degustation.
Leave the mise en plus to us so you can focus on simple tasks like popping the champers and creating the perfect playlist. Bon appetite!