A stress-free dinner party? Is that possible? You bet! As long as you focus on planning and organization.
Pick a date for the dinner party in advance. Definitely two weeks in advance if you are going to send invitations, but no less than one week so you have time to organize. Six to eight guests is a perfect number for a stress free party.
If you mail invitations be sure to ask for an RSVP (response) by a given date. If you don’t hear from someone, don’t hesitate to call and ask if they plan to attend. The same holds true if you have left a phone message that one of your potential guests has not returned.
Plan the menu. To keep the dinner party stress-free, keep it simple. If you want to try a new recipe, try only one new thing. If possible, experiment with the recipe a week before the party so there will be no unexpected surprises the night of the event.
A pleasing menu will include one appetizer to serve before your guests are seated at the table, the main dish, a vegetable, a starch, a salad and a dessert. Pick one of the dishes to show off a bit and keep the others simple. For instance if you choose to do Beef Burgundy, you may decide to offer mixed nuts for an appetizer, steamed broccoli, rice, green salad, and sherbet for dessert. The beef burgundy will require some time and effort, but the others will be fairly easy to prepare and serve.
Five Days Ahead
If you are going to serve wine, purchase it early. Choose the glassware you plan to use and make sure that it is clean, with no spots.
Make a list of everything you will need and go to the grocery store. When you unload the groceries, put everything you will need for the party in one spot.
Decide what you are going to wear and make sure it is clean and pressed.
Four Days Ahead
Plan on the serving pieces you will use and the dishware. Now is also the time to decide on a table arrangement. Do you want flowers on the table? A bowl of fruit is attractive, as is your shell collection. Candles add sparkle to the table. If you need to iron a tablecloth do that at least four days ahead of the party. Set the table if you don’t intend on using it until the party or gather everything you plan on using as close to the table as possible.
Three Days Ahead
Make the salad dressing. Most salad dressings will be fine in the fridge for three days. Clean the vegetable, wrap in a clean cloth and refrigerate. Carefully read the steps of your “show off” dish and divide up all of the steps for the next couple of days.
One Day Ahead
Wash the salad greens. Wrap them in a clean cloth and refrigerate. Set the table, if you haven’t already. Tape the menu inside a cupboard so that you don’t forget anything.
Clean your guest bathroom. Dust and vacuum the rooms that your guests will be in.
Early in the day, finish the “show off” dish. Tear the greens into a serving bowl. Prepare the cooking utensils for the starch and vegetable; and place the dessert in the serving dish you plan to use. Set the table if you haven’t already done so.
Do any food prep that can be done early in the day.
Wash all of the dishes that you can possible clean up before the party and run the dishwasher. It helps to wash a load of dishtowels too, because you’ll need those after the party.
One hour before the guests arrive
Line the serving pieces up near where the food will be prepared. Put water on the table. Put out the appetizer, unless it has to be refrigerated until the last minute. GET DRESSED.
Light the candles. Check on anything in the oven. Greet your guests. When they arrive, treat them to your company. That’s what they really came for. Relax and enjoy yourself. Remember, catastrophes often make memorable evenings, so don’t fall apart if something doesn’t go as planned.