The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Five tips on throwing a stress-free, successful get-together

diningThe trend of hosting dinner parties has gained momentum faster than a badly cooked crème brulee – due in part to emerging television shows like Dinner Party Wars and Come Dine With Me.

And so the question of the day is, how do you become a great dinner party host or hostess?

Images of socialites throwing lavish parties in their homes are a common stereotype of dinner parties that may prevent the thought of throwing one. But while it doesn't have to involve the same amount of drama as reality television shows, it's safe to say the overall experience can be rewarding.chesseplateThese five tips can help guide you through the Thanksgiving weekend. Photo: Ashley Tymko

Whether throwing a themed dinner party at Thanksgiving or Christmas or holding an intimate gathering; preparation, presentation and participation matter greatly in these circumstances.

If you're already getting flustered by the three Ps, we've got you covered. Three experts in the fields of etiquette, event planning and culinary arts share their tips on how you can be a great dinner party host.

Planning a party

While you may not be planning for a royal visit, it's still necessary to organize where you want your dinner party to go. If everything is set up the way you want it to be you'll spend less time stressing about things that should have been done beforehand.

Time is of the essence in a dinner party situation; there are still choices to be made. Pam McCarthy, from Five Star Events, said that there are many things you have to make sure of — like your home being clean and accessible, bathroom stocked and having enough parking in front of your home or specifying where your guests are supposed to park.

"If it's an adults-only party you want to put away the toys and the Lego and if it's a family party you want to bring the toys and the Lego out," McCarthy adds.

Operation Socialization

Dinner parties always encompass a variety of guests, new and old friends of the host. Though it may be exciting for you to watch your friends interact, beware of socially awkward moments.

Certified etiquette consultant Janet Watson of The Etiquette Class advises that as soon as your guests start pouring in, specifically if people are new and don't know anyone, offer them a drink so that they have something to do with their hands and don't feel as awkward.

"Make sure that you're always scanning your party, and that people aren't standing by themselves in the corner looking lost and lonely. Introduce people when they come in, say a little bit about them so that you can get conversations started," Watson says.

"Once the conversational ball is rolling then you can move on to the next group of people or the next person and make sure that everybody feels comfortable."

She also says that as the host, you shouldn't have too much to drink because you want to be able to keep an eye on your guests who are having too much to drink so that they don't do anything that they shouldn't at the end of the evening – like drive home intoxicated.

A main menu that will please

Food for thought definitely matters when surrounded by interesting discussions among your guests. As a host, fussing with meals should be the least of your worries if you've planned ahead. If you're not a Rachel Ray in the kitchen don't sweat it — you can still wow your guests, according to Nicole Kammerer of Nicole Gourmet.

"Make it simple but use good ingredients; think of things you can do ahead that are easy to reheat so that you're not distracted while your guests are there," Kammerer says. "It doesn't take much to wow your guests. It takes four or five ingredients to make a great dish."

"Make sure that you're always scanning your party, and that people aren't standing by themselves in the corner looking lost and lonely" - Janet Watson, certified etiquette consultant

She says to avoid things like cooking to order because you won't have time to taste it and make sure it's right, which could result in you cooking up a disaster. Also, don't leave all of the cooking to the last minute. Kammerer advises that when it comes to the presentation of the food, which is just as important, the Internet is a great resource from which to get some ideas.

Be considerate of your guests

As the host, you should have a good idea of what to avoid and what not to avoid when it comes to your guests -- especially when it regards what you plan to serve as food and beverages. Accommodating your guests through what you plan to serve at the dinner party is something that McCarthy finds important.

"If you're having a bunch of East Indian and Muslim people over, you're not going to serve ham, so it has to be applicable to your guests," McCarthy says.

NYCUHowever food is not the only thing that you may or may not have to accommodate depending on your guests — other things like fragrance and scents are significant as well.

"A lot of people really seem to be sensitive to fragrances these days so I try to keep down the scented candles," Watson says, adding that you should be conscious of that fact. Though it's nice to have candles burning don't overdo it and mix scents together.

"It may bother some guests and cause them to get a headache."

Also having a large gathering of guests in your home will cause the temperature in the room to rise. Watson says she always likes to turn the temperature down a few degrees to accommodate that.

Remember the purpose of the dinner party

Picture a host slaving away in the kitchen with hair frazzled, looking flustered and spending more time checking on the meals than the guests. Focusing on the food is a common mistake that happens at dinner parties.

"Some people forget the point of why they're having a party and it's all about the food and the table decorations," Watson says. "You've done your planning; you have everything in place; now it's time for you to enjoy your evening and have fun with your guests and have a good time."

After a night of entertaining, fine dining and feeling a sense of contentment, your worries about hosting a dinner party should turn into your dream come true after following these tips. Though you may have to do some work in planning ahead, it will all pay off in the end.

If you're organized and have everything on hand, Watson reiterates the many benefits of hosting a dinner party: an evening with your friends, meeting some new people, learning a few new things and just enjoying life.

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