8 Simple Ways to Impress Your Dinner Party Guests
Use our simple tips to make your next party a memorable one.
The devil's in the details. It's the little things. Good things come in small packages. Riches are in niches.
If these sayings tell us anything, it's that people are often most impressed not by grand overtures, but by simple acts that show you remembered and you care.
We entertain all the time – both for our clients and for ourselves.
But we don't see much point in inviting friends and family to our homes if we can't be bothered make it really special. We're not necessarily talking fancy pants stuff, here. In fact, we rarely put on our fancy pants. Or any pants for that matter.
But to care about our guests' needs is what hospitality is all about. Got friends who still smoke or vape? OK, gross and dumb, but now’s not the time for judging. Leave some blankets by the door so they can puff in (reasonable) warmth. Have a beer loving friend coming to your wine and cheese? It takes no extra effort to pick up some interesting craft lager when grabbing your wine. Clear out the front closet so friends can hang their coats instead of throwing piling them all on the bed or couch. Little efforts = big impact.
As the holidays approach, you may find yourself playing host. A tiny bit of forethought can elevate your party from ho-hum to hot-damn! and there ain't nothing wrong with gaining a reputation as a party host who just slays it. Every. Single. Time.
Use our eight simple tips to make your dinner parties the talk of the town, and your neighbours fighting for invites.
Greet Your Guests
This may seem like a Captain Obvious statement, but how many times have you arrived at a friend's house, only to have one of their kids open the door while they shout "hi!" from the kitchen – where they will stay buried for the next 45 minutes trying to put the finishing touches on dinner? (Do them a favour – send them this blog).
By taking the time to answer the door, graciously take coats and hostess gifts, offer a drink, and have meaningful conversation, you're showing you guests how much you genuinely care they came.
(BONUS: if you know your guests usually bring flowers, get some vases on the ready so you don't have to waste time digging through cupboards).
Store Bought is Just Fine
We know what you're thinking, "How can I have time to get to the door when I'll be so busy doing everything else?" It's called pre-made and store bought, my friend.
First, do away with the idea that you need to make homemade devilled eggs better than Martha's. It's a fool's errand.
Instead, do like Ina and pick up a few quality pre-made items from your local specialty store. Good meats and cheeses make for a crowd-pleasing board. Everyone loves it, it looks effortlessly elegant (because it is), and it knocks one more thing off your To-Do List.
(BONUS: order a pre-made cheese and charcuterie board from your local cheese monger for an easy and beautiful, no stress presentation.)
Set a Beautiful Table
You don't have to spend a lot of money on special holiday-themed plates or embroidered linen. As we always say, use what you have to make a seasonal tablescape. Glass jars filled with colourfully wrapped chocolates, bunches of flowers or seasonal branches picked from the garden or nearby hiking trail, or even just a simple bowl brightly coloured seasonal fruits will make an eye-catching and sophisticated centrepiece.
We also like to place name cards so guests aren't left searching awkwardly for a place to sit like it's a game of musical chairs. While standard place cards are totally acceptable, take it up a notch by making them a conversation piece. Write names on a tarot card for Halloween, a Christmas carol verse for your holiday party, or the title of a classic novel or character for your monthly book club dinner.
(BONUS: Save yourself a step on the busy event day and your table the night before.)
Serve a Signature Cocktail
Signature cocktails don't have to be complicated. Heck, you can use any old drink recipe that strikes your fancy, and suits the occasion.
(BONUS: Offer at least one thoughtful zero-proof cocktail for kids and abstainers, so everyone feels special and included.)
Hot & Ready
Have you noticed how Starbucks offers to warm your cookie? You know why? Because it's a small but awesome step to showing they care and catering their service to make you happy. Do the same for your guests.
Pop the bread in a low oven for a few minutes before serving. And while you're at it, remember to take the butter out of the fridge (fresh please, no one needs to see the morning toast crumbs wedged in the block), at least 30 minutes to soften.
(BONUS: Pick up a few loaves of frozen, ready-to-bake breads at the grocery store to fill your house with the delicious aromas of fresh-baled bread – shhh... no need to explain you didn't make it from scratch. )
For family functions keep kids busy and out of your hair with their own craft station.
Why not set up a space where kids can decorate their own memento? Ornaments at Christmas, eggs at Easter, or pumpkins at Halloween. Happy kids make for happy parents (and really happy non-parents).
(BONUS: hire a babysitter to keep the kids happy, entertained, and hopefully exhausted at the end of the day. The kids will have a blast and the adults will be grateful for the break.)
As noted in our first point, the cardinal sin of any party host is to keep themselves locked away in the kitchen for hours while the guests awkwardly entertain themselves. Who cares how delicate your goat cheese soufflé is, if we haven't seen you all day?
Pick an easy menu that can be assembled in advance and kept warm in a slow cooker or the oven.
(BONUS: Lasagnas, stews and casseroles that just have to be popped in the oven, cut down on dishes so you're not running off to wash up while the party is in full swing.)
Years ago, a friend made two turkeys for Thanksgiving. One for the dinner, and one so everyone would have leftovers to take home – arguably one of the best parts about Thanksgiving. That generous move impressed me so much it's stayed with me ever since. Buy a few disposable containers and cute paper bags and send guests off with a care package for easy meals the following day.
(BONUS: Candied nuts, pickled vegetables, or homemade preserves (store bought or made by you!) are nice little send offs as thank you gifts.)