How to Host a Dinner Party


Dinner Party Guest List

Be careful with your guest list -- you don't want any drama around the table.
Be careful with your guest list -- you don't want any drama around the table.
RonTech 2000/iStockphoto.com

­Many people become so focused on the menu for their dinner party that the guest list becomes almost an afterthought. While the menu is important, nothing is more critical to the success of a dinner party than creating the right mix of guests. A good host will take the time to evaluate potential invitees and decide whether they will have the right chemistry not only to get along, but also to create an interesting evening full of conversation and laughs.

First decide how many guests you can handle. This not only means evaluating the available space in your home and at your table, but also determining how many guests you can successfully cook for. Many people will say that the ideal dinner party will include six to 12 guests. This is a great rule of thumb but can be modified depending on what you can afford and how confident you are in your cooking. It's always better to start small so you can enjoy the party and not feel overwhelmed.

After you've se­ttled on a basic guest list, you'll need to pick the right day and time for the party. Avoid weekdays, especially if you're a first-time host. It's just too complicated to prepare a meal and get the house ready when you've been dealing with work all day. Set the time of the party to give your guests time to mingle before dinner, but try to pick a time that's early enough so no one has to rush through dinner and conversation.

For more formal events, or those around holiday times, you'll want to send invitations about a month before the party. For smaller, more casual get-togethers, it's OK to provide only a few days' notice. Invitations should include party location, date and time. Explain that dinner will be provided, and ask your guests to notify you of any food allergies along with their RSVP. Include information on theme, costumes or dress and what guests should bring with them, if applicable. Be sure to specify whether guests can bring a date or their children along, too.

When hosting a smaller or more casual party, an invitation by phone is generally sufficient. If you'd like to be a bit more formal, consider having custom invitations printed at a specialty paper shop. The variety of choices is virtually unlimited, and custom cards add a touch of elegance and creativity to your party invitations.