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Best tips for hosting dinner parties?

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We're thinking of hosting a dinner party with 15-30 people. Any tips? I can't decide if this is easy when viewed and planned correctly, or if it's nuts and insane and hard. :)


Catering or bringing in the food is definitely an option, as dh doesn't want me to have to cook.

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We do 15-20 fairly often. I make a couple of hot things (a casserole and something in the crock pot - meatballs?) and then everything else is cold (salad, veggies and dip, cheese and fruit and french bread, hummus and pita, shrimp, etc). We make a fruit salad for dessert and usually a cake from a local bakery). We don't have room for table service so it's always a buffet. DH looks after cocktails, wine, coffee and tea.


We usually serve the cold stuff at the beginning with drinks in the living room, invite people to the dining room to pick up hot food and salad, and then serve dessert and coffee in the living room.


This is pretty informal, but it's our style and people have a good time. Teens usually fill a plate and disappear into the basement to play Rock Band or watch a movie with my kids.


Have fun!

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We're thinking of hosting a dinner party with 15-30 people. Any tips?


Kudos! I wish I entertained more often. However, we *are* in a supper club (that has been meeting monthly since 1870!) of 16 couples (give or take), so I do have to (um, GET to) host every 16 months.


My advice would depend on what type of function this will be - very casual (paper plates, BBQ-type) or sit down/tablecloth "real meal" type.


I'm assuming you're talking more about a sit-down meal, so here are a few (random) tips gleaned from several hostings so far:


-definitely hire someone to serve or oversee the food, if possible (I have not wanted to cater the dinners per se, so do a lot of the cooking myself, but I have had a friend who calmly cooks for hundreds help out especially on the night of). That might mean plating the food or overseeing the buffet (or serving *from* the buffet line - for a little more portion control). It also means that you and your guests aren't having to hop up and down carrying plates around, or getting drink refills.

-make sure your help has enough help of their own - you don't want table 1 finished with dinner while table 5 is just starting.

-keep the drinks simple - iced water (and iced tea if you're feeling like you want the extra step) - and keeping pitchers on the table is easiest, imo. Coffee for dessert/after (I'd also recommend just making decaf, unless you are <40 yrs old! It seems that almost everyone wants decaf, and those that wd prefer caffeinated don't seem to care too much - but I'm not a coffee drinker, so that might be wrong - maybe decaf does taste different!). Because I'm a hot tea drinker, I like to have hot water and a few tea bags available, but not everyone does this.

-avoid "messy" foods (e.g., lasagne), or foods that are too time/temperature-dependent (if you do it yourself). We've had good success with grilling marianated flank steaks and slicing them and then serving at room temp - or even cold.

-have someone available to help with clean up (again, if you have a caterer, that wd be included, I imagine) - we're always just exhausted at the end of the evening, and facing 40 plates, etc., etc. takes away the glow of the evening!

-candles make even a simple table look nice - and are cheaper than buying flowers!

-several of the couples in this group don't have room for 30+, and set up card tables, folding chairs, etc. all over the house. Rather than being odd to sit in someone's study or den, it's actually sort of nice to have smaller, more intimate groups. It has seemed to me that tables of 6-8 (or 10 at most) are ideal for promoting conversation. (I actually have no room to even set up tables, and just use a local community room - but that has it's own problems.)


If you have other questions, please post - these are just suggestions off the top of my head, but I have a folder full of notes from these dinners!


Also, check out http://www.ellenskitchen.com for more ideas.



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I keep drinks, finger foods, and entrees in separate areas to help minimize congestion. For large parties, I find it also helps to have a snack foods like nuts in every room. I don't know what your budget is, but you can also rent tables and chairs if necessary.


Is this adult only? If not, hire a good baby sitter to help keep children occupied.

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When I've done it, I've prepared food ahead of time, and only those foods which can be eaten by hand. You might be surprised how impressive that can be, lol. I don't have room to seat everyone at one table, either, so my guests mill around and enjoy each other's company.


"Main course" foods go in the dining room, beverages on the island in the kitchen, desserts in the breakfast nook.

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Leave yourself practically nothing to do the day of the party. Clean your house, prepare your food (as much as possible), and set everything up the day before.


Make sure that the drinks are on ice for a couple hours before the guests start arriving.


Use food warmers or the warm setting on your oven and do any cooking that has to be done that day well before the party is going to start.


If you aren't using paper plates/plastic utensils, etc. you may want to think about hiring someone to wash dishes for you. Maybe a teenager you know? You don't want to be stuck in the kitchen all night cleaning things up. Trust me, I've been there. :D


We always put a playlist together of music we think our guests will appreciate.


That's all I can think of.....have fun!!

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Thanks everybody, these are the types of tips I was looking for!! You've alerted me to some issues I didn't even realize (decaf vs. regular coffee, etc.), and I appreciate how you spelled how the flow. I think I was being over-amibitous in my thoughts and ideas, so your flows were a reality-check. Yes, he wants this to be a bit formal, and yes, we'll have to put up extra tables, lol. :)

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