Entertaining at home should be second nature. However, modern demands on our time coupled with the massive promotion of picture-perfect menus send many of us reaching for a wine glass at the mere thought of opening our homes to our friends and family. For those reluctant entertainers among us, starting simple and small (while keeping it stylish) is the way to gain the confidence you need to increase your guest list and expand your entertaining horizons.
Entertaining for small groups provides a relaxed setting that promises the jovial conversations and lively banter that are often absent from more formal larger gatherings. The delight of entertaining for smaller groups is that cooking mistakes are often overlooked, dinner service is casual, and the guests come looking to relax in the company of good friends — rather than expecting a decadent, multi-course meal. Hesitant about opening your home up to guests? Follow these five steps the next time you plan on entertaining at home:
1. Limit Your Guest List
Invite a small selection of your closest friends, those that you feel most comfortable around and who will laugh with you not at you as your dinner party takes a turn for the worse. Keeping your dinner party to a maximum of six people also ensures that you will likely have plenty of seating and can seamlessly cook without needed a second oven or kitchen helper that night.
2. Consider Your Menu
We all aspire to be the next top chef, but the reality is that when guests come for dinner, they want comfort food that they know and enjoy. Keep your menu simple, relaxed, and fool proof. Avoid complicated dishes and stick with what you know how to cook — that will allow you the time to enjoy the company of your guests. If planning a three-course meal is too much to handle, ask a guest to bring a dessert or salad to complement what you’re serving.
3. Plan Ahead
Planning is the key to hosting a successful dinner party. Do as much as you can in advance to avoid being tethered to the oven or having to make a last minute dash to the shop for butter. If you are relaxed, your guests will be too.
4. Be Prepared for Delays
Start your dinner off with a cocktail hour. As guests arrive, greet them with a drink and a few cleverly placed snack dishes like roast nuts or a cheese plate. This will keep them occupied while you put the finishing touches on your meal and make you look like a prepared hostess.
5. Engage in Conversation
Guests come for good food, drinks, and conversation. With a small gathering of friends, the conversation is more likely to flow freely. But if you’re still concerned about what to talk about or that dreaded silence, read these tips for encouraging engaging dinner party conversation.