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On Hosting A Fabulous Dinner Party

Have you ever agreed to host a dinner party for friends or business acquaintances and thought - Oh God! Where do I begin?

Or, perhaps you've hosted intimate get-togethers in the past and they just didn't feel as fabulous, effortless or technically seamless as you'd have liked. If you've ever found yourself in either predicament - worry no more. Here are a few easy steps to ensure your next dinner party reflects the luxury lifestyle you've adopted and want to be seen enjoying.

Step 1: Hire a caterer

Unless you genuinely are a fantastic cook and a master at keeping to timings, there really is nothing worse than having to worry about cooking on top of everything else you'll need and want to do before your guests arrive.

Speak with a caterer who comes recommended by someone you trust and together you can decide on a menu and drinks package with waitstaff (including a bartender, if possible). They will advise you on a seasonal menu once you've provided them with a budget. Thus, be sure you've worked out your catering budget prior to getting in touch.

Note 1 - To ensure you have sufficient beverages available, I recommend ordering your wine and champagne from someplace like Majestic. You can order as much as you'd like and return any unopened bottles for a full refund. Alternatively, you can speak with your local wine specialist or caterer and see if they will honour a similar deal.

Note 2 - Depending on how sophisticated and/or formal you'd like this dinner party to look and feel, you may want to consider having menus printed by a stationer and put at each place setting. For that matter, you may want to consider place cards to instruct people where to sit as well.

Step 2: Hire a cleaner

Similarly to Step 1, you will not be keen to spend the start of your fabulous day hoovering or polishing when you could be spending it with a pampering spa treatment.

If you don't have a housekeeper, hire a cleaner to come in and do a wonderfully thorough job either the morning of or the day before your party. Just make sure everyone in the house understands they must not make any kind of a mess once the cleaner has come and gone!

Note - if you have any ironing you'd like done, be sure to ask the cleaner to do these as well. Rather than sending everything to the dry cleaners if all your items require is a bit of ironing, having the cleaner do it will save you both time and money.

Step 3: Review the state of your tableware

If you feel your tableware is looking and feeling a bit old and tired, it's time to go shopping for something new. Look over your table linen, stemware, glassware, dishes and cutlery very carefully. It's not unusual to have a daily set and a party set or even different sets for different times of the year.

Whatever you buy new, be sure it matches and/or complements the other items on the table. If the cost of all new tableware is a concern, speak with your caterer as they may be able to provide something just for this occasion that looks quite special at a very low cost.

Note - Consider your servingware as well and ensure the serving pieces complement or match the rest of the table set.

Alternatively, if you do plan to use the tableware and serving pieces you already have, be sure to check the state of your silverware and stemware in particular. If it needs polishing in advance, you'll want to add this to your timeline and consider who you might want to ask to do it for you. (Perfect task for a housekeeper, a teenager or, at worst, you could ask your cleaner to do this as well and just add another hour to their time.)

Step 4: Hire a florist

Nothing brightens up a table or a room the way flowers and candles do. I would strongly recommend hiring a brilliant (i.e., highly recommended) local florist to create a few key pieces for wherever your guests will be.

Speak with your florist about what you'd like the flowers to add to each space (e.g., colour, height, natural energy, an impressive display, a lovely fragrance, etc.) and see if they can provide candles as well.

Be sure to consider flowers for your table centrepieces and lovely arrangements for the foyer and powder room. You may even consider adding some arrangements by your front door.

Step 5: Consider the background music

Whether you plan to have live music or play music directly through a sound system, have a think about what kind of music you'd like in the background throughout the party.

If you're hiring live musicians, make a list of specific songs you'd like played or the style of music you'd like them to stick to. Agree in advance on break times to ensure they will coincide well with your dinner plans. You may want to ask them to play music out of a sound system whenever they do take their breaks just to avoid any lulls.

Or, if you intend to be the DJ yourself, create a good mix that will last beyond the full length of the party. (It's always ideal if the music doesn't repeat.) Test your sound system earlier in the week to avoid any nasty surprises as well. Consider it your AV check.

Step 6: Pre-party luxury down time

Whether it's time in a sauna, a hot tub or relaxing with a good book, be sure to make time before the party to just relax. You want to be your best (and calmest) self when your guests arrive…. Not running about like a headless chicken!

To save time and possibly expense, I'd recommend looking into a home spa treatment. There are plenty of home spa companies who will not only do massages, facials and manicures in your own home, some will also do waxes and eyebrow sculpting! The options are nearly endless if you know what you'd like.

Note - Be sure to have your outfit and all the accessories all planned out well in advance. You don't want your Luxury downtime ruined by the sudden last minute realisation that you've run out of tights without runs in them or that your partner has lost his cufflinks!

Step 6: Run through your timings, start to finish, beginning with the end time.

If you'd like your party to start winding down by about 11/11:30pm, think about what time you'll be serving coffee and dessert. You should also consider the following:

  • How many courses will you serve and will there be entertainment before, during or after dinner?
  • How long do you want your cocktail hour to be while people trickle in and have a glass of something while they chat to one another and get comfortable?
  • What time/day will the silverware be polished and the table set? Will you do this yourself or will you have help?
  • What time would you like the caterer to arrive? The florist? The musicians? Often they will say at least 1-2 hours before the 1st guest arrives but if you'd prefer the flowers to be delivered a few hours earlier (being mindful of any potential wilting that may occur). Do note that the musicians may say that they require additional time to set up and do a sound check in the space.
  • What time will you need to get yourself (and your family) ready based on the expected arrival times?

Assuming you've got your team in place as well as waitstaff who can start pouring and handing out drinks as soon as the first guest arrives, think about everything else that needs to be done and create a checklist. Your checklist may include dimming the lights, lighting candles,double-checking the table setting is to your liking, cooling down the room a bit more than usual via the air conditioning or opening the windows, ensuring there is enough space for the live musicians (if you have them) or that the music you've prepared is playing through the sound system, etc.

Several days before the party, confirm all of the timings with your suppliers so they can plan accordingly and brief their teams. Setting out timings in advance will also enable you to plan the rest of your day ahead of the party. If you do decide to go for spa treatments, try to book those in a few weeks in advance, especially if your party is over a weekend. The best providers book up early.

Note - If you won't be using the dining room for several days before the party, I would highly recommend preparing the room and the table a day or two in advance. The fewer things that need to be done on the day, the better.

Cheers to a fabulous, luxurious and seamless dinner party!

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