Dinner parties make for a fun way to enjoy the company of friends and family as you dig into tasty food and enjoy delicious drinks. Yet, hosting a dinner party can sometimes seem like a tall order. With the right preparation, however, it doesn’t have to be a source of stress. It all comes down to knowing who to invite, what to cook, how to scale a recipe, and how to present it all nicely.
1) Plan Your Guest List
Who’s on your guest list can have just as much of an impact on the dinner party’s success as what food is served. Factor in how large the space is; it won’t be so pleasant for your guests if they have to spend the evening crowded together at the table.
Also, consider not only how big your budget is but what’s a manageable amount of people for you to cook for. You may want to invite a big group, but perhaps you only have the financial and physical capacity to cook enough for a fraction of those people. Keep this in mind before inviting your guests.
Next, when it comes to the mix of people you invite, don’t worry about whether or not everyone already knows each other. Part of the fun of a dinner party is the opportunity to make new connections. That being said, it is worth looking at how many couples versus single individuals you plan to invite. A ratio skewing in favor of the former may leave the singles feeling like they’re being forced to pair up, or cause the lone individual to feel left out.
2) Decide What to Cook
Choosing your dinner party menu gives you the opportunity to get a little creative and really set the tone for the evening, but with so many recipes out there, how can you possibly choose? Here are some considerations for narrowing down your decision:
- Theme: Is your dinner party casual or fancy? Are you going to stick to a certain type of cuisine? Is there a specific occasion for your dinner party that should be reflected in the menu?
- Courses: Will you be providing appetizers? Dessert?
- Time: How long do the recipes take to cook and how much time do you have before the dinner party to prepare?
- Equipment: Do any recipes call for cooking equipment that won’t be available in your kitchen?
- Price: Will any of the ingredients required in the recipe be out of your budget?
- Allergies and Dietary Needs: Do any of your guests have an allergy or dietary restriction that needs to be factored in?
3) Scale the Recipe
Once the menu is set, scaling the recipes to fit the guest list comes next. Depending on how many guests you have, you will likely need to scale the recipe that you’ve found, as most recipes are only provided with measurements to serve 2-4 people.
One option is to manually change a recipe’s measurements. For example, doubling ingredients for a recipe that serves four to suit a dinner party of eight. But, when the conversions aren’t that simple, it may be easier to to use a handy online recipe converter that’s specifically designed to scale a recipe for you.
Depending on the recipe converter you choose, you’ll be able to adjust based on unit type (such as ml to oz, oz to cups, or lbs to kg) and number of servings. Some recipe converters may require inputting each individual ingredient, while Gigacalculator’s tool conveniently let you insert the URL of the recipe and it will scale automatically.
4) Buy Your Ingredients
Before heading to the store, create a list of all the ingredients you’ll need for the dinner party, based on the new specific measurements you’ll have after scaling the recipe. Leave out any ingredients from your shopping list that you already have in your kitchen.
To make your trip through the grocery store as efficient as possible, you can organize each ingredient based on type and where they can be found in the store, such as produce, dairy, meat, etc.
Plan your shopping trip with at least a couple of days as a cushion before the dinner party, so there’s enough time to double check that you have everything you need. Ingredients with long shelf lives can even be purchased weeks ahead of time.
5) Prepare the Dinner Party
Now, it’s showtime! To make the cooking process as smooth as possible, have all the necessary utensils and cooking appliances out and ready to go. Then, get ready to prep the ingredients.
Washing, peeling, chopping, and doing all the like several hours before (even the day before, in some cases) can make your life a whole lot easier when it comes to actually starting the recipe. Get an idea of which dishes take longer to cook, in order to come up with a rough schedule of what needs to be prepared first. An essential part of hosting a dinner party is having all the food ready at once.
Before guests arrive, set the table with the place settings and any additional decorations. Make sure the dishwasher is empty for easy clean-up afterwards, tidy up the kitchen, and take out the trash. You may even want to set up a playlist to complete the atmosphere of the dinner party, or light some candles.
Wrapping it All Up
Anyone can be a successful host with a little bit of planning and preparation. And, when you can scale your recipe, you can always invite more people than you initially intended.
So, cheers to a fun, stress-free evening, and bon appétit!
Cindy is a freelance writer and editor with previous experience in marketing as well as book publishing. Along with her content writing for a diverse portfolio of clients, Cindy’s work has been featured in Thrillist, The Points Guy, Forbes, and more.