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As we move away from backyard barbecue season and bring our group gatherings indoors, dinner parties have a way of becoming more of a production. From the décor to the drink menu and all of the food, the preparation takes a lot of time and effort. It’s always much more work than you imagined. So, where do you even start? First, relax. Don’t let you next dinner party being a daunting to-do. We tapped a couple of party pros for hacks that will make entertaining an ease.
Think ahead when it comes to prepping your meals, and conquer the hardest components of your menu the day before, says Tiffany La Forge, a professional chef and food writer in Spokane, WA. This includes the execution of casseroles or meat dishes, all of which can be stored overnight in the fridge. Keep yourself relaxed the day of with appetizer compilation and any final cook time.
Serve delicious hors d’Oeuvres
Believe it or not, La Forge says more often than not guests care more about appetizers than they do the main dish. Focus your attention here, instead of on preparing a huge and exhausting meal. “For me, the perfect dinner party starts with a gigantic cheese and charcuterie board with lots of accouterments, a highly seasonal salad, a dip, tapenade, or spread, and something warm from the oven,” she says. Think easy recipes like shrimp skewers, Za’atar roasted garlic feta dip, and crostini with lemon and honey.
Craft DIY drinks
When it comes to serving drinks, opt for punch bowls or pitchers. “This will save you both time and money, and will add an eye-catching centerpiece to your table,” La Forge says. She likes to offer up a seasonal spiced apple cider sangria pitcher, or she creates a champagne cocktail bar with “quirky and colorful additions” for added entertainment.
Photo: C/O HomeGoods
Don’t stress your table setting. Mismatching dishes are surprisingly refined—and much appreciated when you are hosting more people than you have full sets for. HomeGoods Style Expert Marcy Blum says to pick and choose plates that are similar in size and color scheme so that while they are different, they still complement each other.
Instead of arranging fresh flowers, use your food as the décor. “One of my go-to tricks for organizing food on the table is to add elevation,” says Blum, who suggests using a vase for your silverware or for tall foods like breadsticks. “It’s a great way to break up the visuals and make the table more interesting,” she adds.
Consider party favors with purpose
Set the table with a little something your guests can take home. “I love using tea cups from HomeGoods and filling them with goodies. Wrap them in cellophane and tie on a name card, and now you’ve saved time on seating everyone and passing out favors at the end!” It's also a great conversation starter for guests once seated.