Be the host/hostess with the mostest without going crazy. Here’s how.
You want great guests for a great party
Eight is the magic number for a successful sit-down get-together. It’s tempting to have all your favourite people in the same room so they can discover what they have in common other than you. But unless you’re running singles mixers — and even then — nobody wants to spend their free time making awkward small talk with a bunch of strangers around the table. Instead, pick established groups and inject some fresh blood to spice things up or, settle on a guest you can count on for a lively party, then build your guest list around her or him.
Invite, RSVP and remind — in advance
Send your invitation a month ahead and confirm your guest list three weeks in advance — too early and they will forget, and if it is too late, they might already have other engagements. Two or three days before, send a reminder (simply text to say you look forward to seeing them). This way, you still have enough time to find a filler should someone drop out at the last minute.
Let the drinks flow
Two things you do not want to run out of are drinks and ice. Make a big-batch cocktail like an easy sangria or this strawberry wine punch and have them in large pitchers around the room so guests can help themselves to refills. You can go with watermelon soju as the Koreans do — the watermelons double as giant bowls, and save you from having to find storage space for the massive drink jars or dispensers. The conversation improves when everyone is a bit more relaxed, plus no one will mind if there are minor slip-ups or delays with the food. Do have a thirst-quenching non-alcoholic punch for teetotallers and anyone taking a break from the alcohol. Switch to wine when dinner is served.
Set the stage with music and lighting
Make a party playlist and make it long enough so it does not loop too many times throughout the night. Keep the music at a volume low enough so your guests do not have to raise their voices to be heard. Go for ambient lighting by dimming the ceiling lights and placing groups of votive candles around the room — nobody looks good in harsh fluorescent light. Unscented is best, especially at the dining table. You don’t want to distract from the aroma and taste of the food.
Start with nibbles
Serve up appetising light bites. You will always have at least that one ravenous guest that you need to keep at bay while you plate up dinner, and it is always nice to have something savoury to go with the drinks. Opt for easy-to-eat options like smoked nuts, bruschetta, good olives or pâté on dainty wedges of crusty bread.
Plan to have as little to do as possible
Don’t be in an apron, running in and out of the kitchen the entire night. It makes for stilted conversation, plus your guests will be uncomfortable and feel obliged to offer help. Opt for a main course that does not require much attending to, like a slow-roast. A braise or stew that only needs to be warmed up is also an excellent choice, because it can be pre-cooked and actually tastes better after a night in the fridge. Alternatively, you can also serve up some fancy dishes ordered from restaurants and cafes that are now offering home delivery options.
Take dietary limitations into consideration
Find out beforehand if your guests have any allergies or dietary constraints. You don’t have to cater to every crazy diet out there but you do want your celiac-affected or vegan guest to have more options than just salad and wine.
Do serve dessert
It ends the evening on a sweet note and it serves as an end to the evening, whether you want to call it a night or to move on to the cosier wine-on-the-couch part of the party.