If it’s not planned as an evening that is supposed to put those party scenes in the last The Great Gatsby movie to shame, there is really nothing to worry about.
For this post I was thinking about something with more of a salon flair in a rented cosy space many of us find ourselves in these days.
These are the questions I’ve come up against most often and the (hopefully soothing) tips to put them to rest.
What if the guests won’t like it?
Since the people you invited responded to your invitation, this means they want to come. The fact that they want to come means they are looking forward to spending time with you and having you as a host. Assuming that your invitees are also nice, normal people. If there should be the oddball who thinks it’s cool to point out what you’re doing in your kitchen is “wrong” and that your choice of napkins is hilarious, ban this person from your social calendar. With no explanations. They are not worthy!
I don’t really cook, what do I do?!
Cook together! Nothing too complicated, so you and your hungry guests won’t spend too much time in the kitchen. The Web is going to be one of your best friends here if you need to do a bit of research. Simply Recipes is a fun blog filled with easy and attractive choices. Throwing in a favourite snack from eating with your family might also be a good idea.
Cooking together is an excellent solution for many reasons. If you’re having your dinner party on a week night after work, as I regularly do, food will obviously be prepared faster and you won’t have to cook alone. It provides immediate small-talk and conversation topics, which is practical if there is someone among your party you haven’t talked to too much yet. It also helps people relax, and everyone feels like they contributed to the tasty meal that ends up on your table.
And if the meal does not end up tasty after all, there is always the option of laughing about it and ordering in. So keep the number of a tried-and-tested pizza place with delivery handy, as well as a bottle or two of nice wine.
A bit of organizing?
For the above to work, it’s good to have an idea of where your party actually stands on cooking, as well as regarding some other skills in the kitchen. Some people don’t cook, some don’t cook too much, some feel awkward in other people’s kitchens. Tactfully chat to your intended guests, and plan a little ahead. The person who you know feels nervous about cutting vegetables can help toss the salad. If someone loves to bake, show them how your oven works and leave them in charge. A friend of mine worked for while in a bar and she’s very good at pouring drinks, so that’s what I usually ask her to help me with.
If I have a small apartment?
This means you’ll be able to invite only a certain amount of people…and then mix it up anew the next time! Fear not, we’ve all been there. Check beforehand if you can move your furniture a bit to make more room around the dining table, and don’t be shy in asking your guests to help. Most of them will probably gladly offer it themselves. If you don’t have enough chairs, see if someone can bring an extra folding one. If you have a couch, you can move your table so that one side stands along the couch, thus providing extra seating opportunity.
If you don’t have a table and don’t have chairs, but still want to throw a dinner party, set up a buffet, throw around some cushions on the floor or use a carpet for seating. I’ve done this and it worked, though I certainly made sure the food was good!
Whether it’s just for the food or with outfits and decorations added, a theme can give some direction to your planning, and thus make cooking and organizing decisions easier. Share the theme with your guests, since in this case it’s very easy to make the dinner happen potluck-style.
Final tip: relax and laugh!
It’s Your Place. Even if something will break, burn, spill or one of the guests will not react to your witty conversation – so? Things happen, big and small. It’s just a dinner party, and if you’re enjoying yourself without overdoing it with the expectations, chances are everything will be fine. I once accidentally dropped a pickled gherkin in to a guest’s glass of white wine while in the middle of a very long story. After a few seconds of silence, we both laughed and later he said it was the best glass of white wine he’d ever had.