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Four Weeks to the Perfect Dinner Party - A Dinner Party Checklist by Allens

16 Dec 14 By: Lene McGuinness

Everybody loves a good dinner party, apart from an unprepared host.

If you’re not properly organised, a simple dinner party for 6 to 10 people can become a horrendous ordeal. It’s up to you to prepare a fantastic meal and entertain guests at the same time; not to mention have a good time for yourself. Before long, you’re quite literally spinning plates and that could end in disaster.

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Thankfully, help is at hand.

Our step by step Dinner Party Checklist starts a month ahead of the day and will ensure that by the time your guests arrive you’ll be ready, stress-free and happy to enjoy their company.

Four weeks Before

¨  Choose the date and time

You’ve decided to have a party so most importantly you need to make sure that the people you would like to attend are actually free.  Depending on the nature of your event, you’ll no doubt have earmarked a certain guest list. Deciding who’ll be around the table and how they will interact is perhaps just as important as any other part of the process.

¨  Choose a theme - or choose to not have one

Whether you’re keen to host an elegant soiree, a merry knees-up or a simple cosy supper, you’ll need to plan your theme well ahead of the event for the best effect. Think about the date, the season and the occasion; then think about what kinds of decoration could be used make it extra special.

¨  Estimate the Cost

Once you’ve chose a theme you can cost out each party element to make sure it’s realistic.  Include your entertainment, decor, and the food – these are all things that will make your party special and memorable.

Three Weeks to Go

¨  Send invitations

It’s up to your whether you’ll send your invitations by post or email. Remember, that the right invitation can set the tone for the event. It’s also essential for conveying the important details of the party; time, date, dress code all details that may be decided after you have already established who is coming.   

¨  Order the Flowers

Flowers are guaranteed to lift a room and improve the general ambience.  Ensure you get the flowers you want by ordering them in advance.  You can buy them later on but you may be more limited in your selection. Plan to pick them up the day before the party.

¨  Check whether you need any hire equipment

Allens can help with any equipment that you require; china, cutlery, glassware, linen, furniture and kitchen equipment.  The beauty of hiring in from ourselves is that you don’t need to store it all at home. We’ll deliver a day or two before your event and pick up a day or two after.  The best bit is that you just need to remove the worst of the food debris and we’ll do the rest – you don’t even need to wash up!

Two Weeks to Go

¨  Plan the menu

If you’re keen to keep your plans as stress free as possible, keep the menu fairly simple.  Choose meals which can be prepared ahead of time to limit the amount of time you’ll have to spend in the kitchen during the party.  Work out a timeline for your food preparation into things that can be prepared a day or two before, what can be prepped ahead on the day, and the timings for preparation during the dinner party.

¨  Make a shopping list

Split your shopping into decorations, drinks, non perishables, frozen foods, perishables and last minute items.   If you’re unsure how much drink you’ll need, think 3 bottles of wine per four guests.  You don’t have to go out and complete your shopping at this point, but it’s a great idea to place an order with your butcher, fishmonger or baker ahead of time to ensure they have what you need when you need it. Then plan when you need to get everything else and take your time. 

¨  Create Place Cards

If you want to take even greater control of the chemistry amongst your guests, why not draw up a seating plan.  You may want to mix those less familiar with one another together to prevent separate groups of guests emerging during dinner. Set our place cards to enforce the plan.

One Week to Go

¨  Do your shopping

With just a week  to go, it’s time to go out and buy all the non-perishable or frozen food items and any party decorations or equipment that you’re not going to hire.

¨  Clean the house

You’ll feel better doing one, long house clean in preparation for the party, but you won’t feel great if you leave it until the last minute. A better idea is to clean the house thoroughly a week in advance of the event and then maintain it for the next seven days with a quick, daily once over.

¨  Make a party playlist

Choosing the right music for your party can be fun. If you’ve chosen a specific theme, you’ll want to choose music which compliments it. So how much music will you need? Typically, you’ll want a long enough playlist to last for the duration of dinner to give you one less thing to worry about. After dinner, guests might want to select their own songs or CD’s. Whatever you choose, remember that you don’t want music to hinder conversation, so take the volume or the type of music into account.

¨  Arrange your dinner area

While you don’t have to redecorate your home ahead of a dinner party, you might like to rearrange the furniture you have to suit the occasion, removing any clutter and ensuring that guests can move around the space easily and comfortably.  Spare a thought for lighting, too, and choose candles to improve the soft lighting and ambience of the space.

¨  Make a space for coats and other items

If you’re designating an upstairs room or private area to coats and bags, you shouldn’t forget to prepare this space too.

One Day to Go

¨  Pick up the flowers, perishable items and any last minute bits and pieces

¨  Do as much of the cooking preparation as possible.

¨  Do a small final clean and touch-up

Day of

¨  Chill the wine

¨  Set the table and arrange your party decorations

¨  Set up the drinks

¨  Start any food preparation you are able to.

¨  Check your bathroom areas and replenish any necessary supplies

2-3 Hours before

¨  Empty the dishwasher for your own bits and bobs

¨  Set aside a space for dirty dishes and glasses

¨  Finish prepping food before guests arrive

¨  Set out nuts and party snacks

¨  Get dressed - It’s time to change into your party clothes, to look and feel your best.

Thirty Minutes to Go

¨  Light the candles, and or dim the electrics and turn on the music

¨  Uncork red wine bottles to allow them to breathe

¨  Pour a glass of wine for yourself.

Once your friends have arrived, you can be relaxed in knowing that you have all things in hand.  You just need to put finishing touches to the cooking and serve - Bon appétit!