Entertaining guests in your home can be incredibly enjoyable. But if you don’t do it frequently or are new to it, it can be wrought with stress. So take the pressure out of entertaining with these easily applicable tips, and enjoy your party as much as your guests.
First things first, plan in advance. This can’t be emphasised enough. If you leave getting ready until the last minute, it’s going to get stressful, fast.
Think about what you want to achieve from the evening. Then ask yourself if that’s realistic. Plan your evening from start to finish, and make sure you are capable of achieving that plan. If you think you might struggle with any element of the evening, consider outsourcing them.
For example, if you want to serve a 5-course meal, rather than resign yourself to the kitchen for the entire evening, host a memorable dining experience in your own home by hiring a private chef to do the catering for you.
Think about the guest list
Who you invite to your party is key to making it go with a bang. Know what you want to get out of the evening and write your guest list accordingly because while you want the food to be exquisite, who you invite will make or break your evening.
A few tips:
- Don’t worry about everyone knowing one another, that doesn’t matter. Everyone’s a grown-up, you can introduce people and leave them to get acquainted.
- Ensure there is a common thread that imbues your guests. Your guests don’t need to know each other, but they need to have some overlap, more than just knowing you.
- Don’t invite people all from one walk of life. Make it interesting and mix things up.
- Create a seating plan. This might seem too formal, but it takes the awkwardness out of people hovering around the table, wondering where to sit. You’re the host here, so make people feel at ease and assign them a place to sit.
Create a menu
The people at your party will make the event memorable, but having great food will always add to the ambience. Whether you’re cooking for your guests yourself, or you’re hiring a private chef to cater your party for you, think about the food that you want to serve.
Choosing your menu can seem daunting if you’re new to entertaining, but by figuring out a few things before you get started can help:
- How many guests are there? The fewer guests there are, the more complex your menu can be because it doesn’t require too much effort. If you’re catering for more than 6 people, a complicated menu with lots of different parts can get stressful very quickly.
- Are there any dietary requirements? If you have a couple of vegetarians, rather than make a separate menu for them, why not make the whole menu vegetarian?
- How formal is the evening? If you’re wanting to impress your boss or host clients, then serving your go-to comfort food probably won’t cut the mustard. If it’s a fine dining experience you want to recreate, you could always call in the professionals and hire a private cook to prepare your meal in your kitchen for you – leaving you to focus on being the perfect host.
- How long do you have to prepare the meal? If you’re hosting your dinner party after work, you won’t have hours to get ready. So if your menu needs plenty of preparation, consider doing the work in advance, or just tone it down.
Planning the actual menu itself is simply a question of combining a good balance of colours, textures and flavours across a starter, main and dessert; taking into account your budget, the occasion and the season too.
A few points to note:
- Keep things simple with a starter, main and dessert. Use snacks as appetisers to stave off any hunger pangs.
- Stick to the seasons – if it’s summer, make light salads, not hearty stews. If it’s December, hold off from serving strawberries for dessert.
- Plan your menu around your main dish. If you’re serving an Asian-inspired main course, let the starter and dessert complement it. If it’s a heavy pasta main, have a light starter and a palate-cleansing dessert. The key is balance.
- Make only one complicated dish. You don’t want a complex menu if you don’t do much cooking. You’re meant to be entertaining, and there is nothing fun about a stressed host.
- You don’t have to create every element of your menu from scratch. Rely on local produce to supplement your meal – bread from an artisanal baker, organic wine from an independent wine supplier, cheese from the cheesemonger. A few high-end pieces can really tie your meal together and guests will love being spoiled.
Finally, remember, if something goes wrong, don’t stress. It’s called ‘entertaining’ because it’s supposed to be fun. No one is expecting perfection – and if in doubt, serve bucket loads of wine and everyone will have a great time.