Arranging a larger dinner is very exciting. In recent weeks, I have presented here what you need to think about when it comes to planning food, menu and cooking when making a bigger dinner. My plan is to make a YouTube video next week that summarizes this and I started looking around at what others have said on the subject. Something that surprised me was that everyone who talks about dinner parties or arranging larger dinners such as a wedding dinner, either focused entirely on the food or did not talk about the food at all. I think the food is the most important thing of a dinner, but to have a good dinner you also need to think about some other things to. To get it perfect, you need to integrate the food with everything around that makes the party. Here are 6 things to keep in mind to get a perfect dinner party, regardless of size.
Think about what is important for this particular dinner party. Whether it's a small dinner at home with friends, a fiftieth birthday party or a wedding dinner, you want a common thread through it all. If the focus is other than the dinner itself, as at a wedding, you still want the dinner to feel like part of the same wedding and not like a break when eating. You want everything to be connected and the easiest way to do that is to set a theme. The theme can be the person of honour who celebrates it birthday, or have the year of birth as the theme and put a feeling of 1971 throughout the party. (Coordinated such a party a couple of years ago, with a customized menu and contemporary clothes, super fun!) Whatever the theme, make sure that all parts of the event fit in and be integrated into the theme. Set the mood with a playlist, table setting and decor, and set up what is most important for the person of honour. If the most important for that person is to dance, then do not let the dinner get late. If the person is a food nerd, then there doesn't even need to be room to dance and mingle afterwards.
Ask for help!
Sure, you can solve most things yourself, but a person can not do more than one thing at a time. And when it comes to dinner parties, sometimes more than one thing needs to be done at a time. Ask for help regardless of the size of the dinner! If you arrange a small invitation for the friends, ask your closest friend to come an hour earlier, so she can welcome the other guests if something unexpected should happen in the kitchen just when the doorbell rings (which it feels like it always does). If you are organizing a wedding dinner, engage your friends as early as possible in the planning and see what they would like to help with. New friends are great to ask if they would like to help serve at a wedding dinner, as they rarely expect an invitation when you have just gotten to know each other, but are happy to attend your wedding in some way. No matter the size of the dinner you are planning, ask for help!
Think about how you plan to serve the food. This depends on your budget and the atmosphere you want at the party. I am extra fond of table service, where you take yourself from large dishes and pots, which creates a family feeling. But it is not always doable or suitable to make such a serving. That is why I want you to think about this point before thinking about table setting and decor. The most decisive factor on how you choose to serve often depends on what is possible in terms of space, table and accessibility. Setting up a buffet is nice, but the guests need to be able to move from their seat to the buffet easily and also that the buffet can be prepared without having to disturb the guests when setting the food. When table serving, larger tables is often needed and you can not have a lot of decorations in the way. The easiest way is usually to do plate serving, but then you need space in the kitchen to plate, and enough people to serve, as well as chefs who can plate and get it out fast enough to be served at the right temperature.
To set the mood, table setting and decor are often the primary thing. Before setting the table, think through what is to be set up and where. If you are doing a buffet, think through how everything should be exhibited and put out underlays and cutlery. A buffet table often looks better with different levels, which can be achieved by placing drawers under the tablecloth and plates of different heights. At the same time it should be easy to take the food and to be easy to change the dishes if needed. Think through the full flow, so guests easily can grab the food and get back to their seats.
When you have thought all through and set up crockery, glasses and cutlery, then it's time to do decorations. I really recommend doing it in this order, as I always think about the practical side first. I have been involved in many dinners where the client only focused on decor. When I got to the venue to fix food and serving only a couple of hours before the food is to be served. Then I have had to move or even remove part of the decor for serving to work. It feels so dull every time it happens, as people often put a lot of time and effort into getting just that look. Many times it would be possible to solve, if the client had thought about the practicalities in advance. Do you want lots of flowers on the table and it is important for you, have plate serving without accessories on the side and all beverages served. However, it will require significantly more servants, but is all about what is important for the person of honour. To get a real wow feeling, make sure that the light and music also match your theme with a pre-selected spotify list and moderately dimmed light.
This important thing that we so often forget to think about in advance. When you arrange a dinner, you think mainly of the guests and what you serve is the important thing. However, if it is a wedding dinner where there is mingling and dancing afterwards, the guests will also be disturbed if the dishes is left on the table when the dance begins. I also think that the person that organizes the dinner should be able to enjoy the event. And standing with tons of dishes after all the guests have gone home is never fun. It can ruin the feeling completely after having a fantastic dinner party, since what you remember most afterwards is how you toiled with the cleaning half the night. If you think this through in advance, everything will be easier! If you host a dinner in a venue with limited washing capacity, it is often better to rent crockery (which should only be scraped off and stacked) than to use crockery that can be borrowed and must be washed. If you choose to wash yourself even if the machine capacity is limited, be sure to get help from several friends.
Make sure you have a plan for what needs to be taken care of and how it should be taken care of. At larger dinners, there is often food left overs, have drawers ready to take care of it. Maybe send with the guests who want, or distribute it among those who helped. Make sure you know where to put everything and what needs to be fixed during the evening and what can be left for the next day. With this planned in advance, you will always be able to enjoy whenever you host a dinner party.
If you are planning a dinner and need someone to talk to, do not hesitate to contact me.
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See you next week, then I will talk about how to plan a memorable menu!
Have a wonderful week!