Hosting a dinner party doesn’t have to be impossibly complicated and stressful. Sharing delicious food and drinks that you have prepared, with several your closest friends may sound like a lot of hard work — especially given that you could just go out for dinner instead — but it really is worth the effort it requires. Keep the evening simple and fuss-free, and you can be the calmest-ever host, no matter how inexperienced at hosting dinner parties you really are.
Firstly, you need to make sure that this dinner party really is an evening you want to host. If you’re inviting guests because you feel you should; or if you really can’t think of anything worse than spending a couple of hours in the kitchen preparing dinner; or if you have had a crazily busy week and are too tired to stand up, let alone cook for a party, then don’t pressure yourself into doing it. If you’re not happy and excited about the prospect of your dinner party, it’ll show and your guests won’t be happy either.
For the nervous, stressed host, the most important thing to do is to prepare and plan as much as you can ahead of time. Decide what you’re cooking at least a week in advance, and keep it simple. Cook something you’ve made before, and don’t try and cook too much. Make a list of everything you need to buy, chop up the vegetables in advance, make dessert the day before, and be sure to choose an entrée that doesn’t require ‘to-order’ cooking. If there’s too much for you to handle, delegate to your most reliable guests — they’ll be happy to help out, and will enjoy feeling like they contributed to the evening.
To set a relaxed tone, you are going to need to be relaxed. Turn the lights down low, put on a chilled playlist, and welcome your guests in Ina Garten’s favorite, most informal way: by answering the door in slippers. Don’t overwork yourself by cooking up fancy dishes, and don’t worry about being judged for bringing in certain parts of the meal: Appetizers can definitely be found in your local deli, and your favorite bakery is the perfect place to source dessert. Follow these simple tips to be the least stressed host, who throws the best dinner parties.