Hosted my first large dinner party ever, in my tiny apartment! It went pretty well, but I definitely have some pro tips for next time. Things I’m glad I did and things I would do differently.
First of all, I couldn’t believe how much work it was, and I made very easy dishes I had made before! The menu did turn out well: pasta with turkey bolognese, roasted green beans, and brownies for dessert.
Things I’m Glad I Did
1. Start thinking through logistics a week in advance. I.e. for this party, I needed insulated cups for hot cider and didn’t have enough mugs for all of my guests. So I bought some cute green insulated cups online for the party.
Really think things through. Less obvious was I also figured out I didn’t have the right lid for my slow cooker to keep the cider warm, and ended up having to borrow a friend’s. But I wouldn’t have realized this unless I actually tried a test run with water two nights ahead of time.
2. Start the cooking BEFORE the day of, and even with that, you’ll need ALL DAY to prepare, plus you’re going to have to make a second trip to the store, probably even a third. Give yourself a break, it’s going to happen, so don’t stress about it!
3. Cook all of the dinner food ahead of time, then start heating it up right before guests arrive. Pasta sauce and pasta (separately) can sit on the stovetop on low and by dinner they will be mostly ready after cocktail hour. Make sure to check in on them once or twice to make sure they are heating well. Next time I might try something casserole-y that I can make ahead of time and just dump in the oven right before party time and set a timer a few times.
3. After all of the dinner food is cooked, you’ll need at least 2.5 hours to item patrol the house, set up the tables, get the appetizers together, and do your beauty treatment.
4. Party hats! Aka fun silly things for guests to wear at the party. I bought some silly cheap Christmas hats at the crap store and they were a hit.
5. Paper plates and cups! Just do it. The dishwasher isn’t big enough to hold all of those dishes, so do yourself a favor and cut corners here.
6. If people offer to bring things, say yes. An extra appetizer or bottle of wine can be really helpful.
7. Have fun planning! I mostly adhered to this. It can be a fun process if you let yourself get into the fun aspects of it. Remember, you’re choosing to do this, so it should be fun!
Things I’ll Do Next Time
1. Pro tip: Count YOURSELF in the head count. Daaah!
2. For appetizers, the cheese plate was a total bust. Skip it entirely next time. Hardly anyone ate any of it, and since I’m a germophobe, I throw things like that out if there are any leftovers. I think it’s just hard to deal with when you’re not seated and are milling around instead.
Instead, go for finger foods people can pick up individually. The TJ’s spanikopita when fast! I’d also try some crostini with cream cheese and some sort of savory spread. Or maybe some olives on toothpicks or something. It’s more work, but I think people would actually eat it. And a friend brought spinach artichoke dip that was easy to scoop out with a spoon and eat with chips. Also the sweets didn’t go at all either, so skip those too.
Though I do think if it was a smaller affair where people were mostly seated during appetizers/cocktails, the cheese plate would be a fine choice.
3. Scale your recipes carefully, and double check your math and your supplies! I realized the night before I accidentally bought two instead of three pounds of meat (the packages were 1 lb not 1.5 lb), so I had to go to the store (yet again!)
4. HYDRATE. Get a couple of ceramic or sturdy glass pitchers for water. I was certainly dehydrated and my guests probably were too.
5. A toast! Do a toast at the beginning of dinner, it’s a nice touch:)
6. Pictures! Don’t forget to take some pictures, I always love having them and wish I took more.