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Many people I talk to say that they avoid entertaining because they never feel relaxed enough to enjoy their own parties. Today, in Part I of her guest post, blogger Rachel Myerson from Kitchenbug shows you how a little bit of planning can help you relish a lovely evening with friends in your own home.

Dinner parties can be the cause of grey hairs and lost sleep, but guess what? This doesn’t have to happen.

With planning, realistic expectations and asking the right questions, you can enjoy your own dinner party as much as your guests.

Pre-Party Planning

• Step 1: Ask Questions

First, ask yourself:

  1. What is my budget?
  2. Do I want my dinner party to be formal or informal?
  3. Who do I want to invite?

Once you know who is attending, ask your guests:

  1. Do you have any allergies, dietary requirements, or foods you dislike?

Yes, that is the only question they need to answer. Your job as host/ess is to spoil them, not annoy them with questions.

• Step 2: Plan

The most important step to enjoying your own dinner party. Done well, you can minimize surprises that may occur during cooking or at the party, and feel calmer on the night of.

1. Plan your menu.

  • Pick a theme: Spanish, Italian etc, to help shape your menu.
  • I found the perfect planning tool to help me shape my ideas: Kitchenbug, an online recipe platform which can instantly analyze the nutritional information of any recipe on the web.

Kitchenbug allows you to organize your collected recipes in boxes according to theme, course, food type – anything that helps to organize your ideas. For instance, I created an “Indian Vegetarian Feast” box to plan an informal Indian themed dinner party, and a “Brunch!” box to inspire me when I need to feed people on a lazy Sunday morning. Kitchenbug can help you find the right recipes for your guests specific health needs such as gluten free, dairy free etc..

KitchenbugMake your life easy!

2. Plan the ambiance.

  • Continue your food theme with decor. A Moroccan theme could involve draping scarves over your ceiling to create a tent effect, and sitting on the floor on colorful cushions.
  • Or, keep it classy with flowers (nothing too high, or it could stunt the conversation around the table), candles or a pretty table runner etc.

Dinner Party

  • You can plan a playlist weeks in advance and cross something of your list. I prefer jazz, something upbeat but that fades into the background.
  • A seating plan is only necessary if you are throwing a large party, or the guests don’t know each other.

Stay tuned for Part II – advice on preparation, and how to conduct yourself on the big day.