Bon Appétit! Fête Fantastique
Well, hello. It’s so nice to see you. Here, let me take your coat and purse. I’ll put those in the back with the others. Gene is in the kitchen fixing everyone a cocktail. Feel free to head back there, and I’ll be with you in a minute. Dinner should be ready in about thirty minutes. Until then, make yourself at home. So glad you could make it!
Does this sound like you, or does it sound like someone you aspire to be? Welcome to the world of the Dinner Party, dear reader.
There is an art to a well-crafted dinner party. Juggling the nuance of planning the menu, table setting, seating arrangements and even background music can be daunting enough without adding in the element of a holiday or special occasion. Whether you want to host your first evening soiree or you’ve been invited to one, this article hopes to highlight what is expected of both host and guest.
Decide how many guests to invite. Intimate gatherings of six to eight guests help keep the conversation flowing. “Eight people is a great number,” says Jennifer Rosenbach, JLNO Sustaining Member. “It’s enough so it’s not awkward and not so many as you have to make multiples of each course. And everyone is still able to talk to everyone else.” Next, set the date and contact your guests personally to see if they can attend. Beverly Reese Church, JLNO Sustainer and author of Entertaining Celebrations and Seasonal Celebrations, says, “I am still a big fan of hand delivered invitations in this digital age - it makes a statement that your guest is special!” Once you know who’s attending, set the menu – taking any dietary requirements into consideration. If there will be a theme, consider your table setting and décor. Fresh flowers always add a nice touch, and remember to consider the florae from your own backyard - the epitome of locally sourced and organic.
You’ll have a lot on your plate the day of the event, so plan ahead. Most side dishes can be made up to a week in advance and heated the night of, a signature cocktail can be made in batches and the table can be set the night before. Once the day of the party arrives, tend to the décor, chill the rosé, find that perfect playlist on Spotify and prep the main dish. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Your guests will appreciate the work you put into creating such a memorable evening.
The most important thing a guest can do to make a dinner party successful is to simply RSVP. “When you are attending a sit down dinner, a place has been set for you. It is so important that you confirm to the hosts that you will be there, and if you see that you are going to be unable to make it, let them know ASAP,” states JLNO Active Jill Holland. After that, and this is key, make sure to arrive on time. Holland adds, “The host has gone to a lot of trouble, and people have gotten babysitters. Being tardy affects the timeline for others.” Host gifts are always a sweet gesture. Jennifer suggests “champage, wine, flowers, chocolates...something small to say thank you for a delicious meal.” Finally, come ready to sing for your supper. Conversation is what makes a dinner party sink or swim, and your contributions will help keep the ship afloat.
More than anything try not to stress yourself over making everything perfect. Beverly provides this reflective food for thought: "Entertaining is a gift you give to your friends and family, and we love opening our home for the numerous hallmark occasions we celebrate in our lives."
Bon appétit, mes amis, and laissez les bons temps rouler!