Dinner parties have come back into vogue, though we think they never really went out of style! Today’s dinner parties aren’t formal, stuffy affairs, instead, they’re casual gatherings of friends over good food and good conversation. Hosting a successful party doesn’t require mad-hostess skills, or even a large dining room table and matching fine china and color-coordinated, themed décor custom selected for the occasion. All of those things are nice, and if you’re so inclined, go for it. But they’re not required. The most important element of any dinner party is simple – a relaxed, hospitable host who’s ready to enjoy an evening with friends.
Gathering people around the dinner table is especially important today. Though we are electronically “plugged in” almost constantly, we often lack those in-person moments. A dinner at home can be a celebration of all things green – you have complete control over the menu, the decorations, and even the tableware. Most of all, it’s a celebration of friendship. How can you create that wonderful, relaxed, effortless party atmosphere? It’s easier than you might think! It’s not a formula, but these tips will go a long way to reaching that goal and they’ll work whether you’re entertaining 1 or 101 guests.
Embrace fabric – forgo the paper napkins and reach for sustainable cloth napkins instead. They’re greener, feel nicer and add a special touch to your table. Ditto on the tablecloth – a nice tablecloth covers a multitude of sins, like a less-than-perfect table.
Dim the lights – we love those dimly lit restaurants for a reason. Turning down the lights feels intimate; it forces us to focus on those around us and reduces the distractions of the world. If your lights aren’t on a dimmer, or you’ve got big, bright overheads, turn them off and substitute small table lamps instead.
Flame on – light some candles, the flames add movement and warmth. Opt for ones with minimal or natural scents so they don’t conflict with food. Container candles are easy to scatter around the table, and tea lights are perfect for tucking into a hurricane.
Color it up – bring in something colorful, aside from the food. Make sure there are fresh flowers, or colorful trivets under the food, or use brightly colored dishes. This doesn’t have to be fancy, a simple, seasonal sprig of greenery can work.
Turn up the tunes – whatever your style, don’t forget the music. Keep the volume low enough to talk over and select a playlist that’s longer than you think you’ll need. Set the mood and tone with appropriate music to fill in the silences and add a sense of movement to the night.
Water everywhere – make sure there are water glasses at each place setting, and handy pitchers full of plain water. It’s amazing what a difference the availability of simple water makes in the progression of a meal. Ditto salt and pepper, make sure both are readily available on the table.
Plan to relax – create a menu that allows you time with your guests. You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen all night long, so think about do-ahead dishes, things that can be kept warm in a crockpot, or dishes that can be partially pre-made then assembled quickly at the last minute.
And now, enjoy your guests and bon apetit!