Preparing A Dinner Party

I have dinner parties usually once every other week, sometimes more often. So I have some useful suggestions and tips to help you prepare for your next dinner party; and help decrease your stress so that you can enjoy the party as well. That statement right there is one that we, as hosts, often forget. It is just as important that the guests enjoy themselves as it is for you to enjoy yourself. In the end, your guests will most likely naturally have a good time if you are having a nice time as well.

The first key to a successful dinner party is the menu and theme. Now, before you try to out do yourself, we need to think about how much time you have to get ready for the party. Be realistic, the time you have must include:

- Cleaning up the house (only where your guests are going to be)
- Grocery Shopping
- Cleaning up after cooking
- Setting the table
- Decorating
- Time for you to get ready
- "Just in case time" (if you don't plan for something to go wrong, it will)

Now that you know what you have to do and the time you have, you need to create the menu. Do not make yourself insane by trying to prepare dishes that you have never done before, now is not the time to experiment. Stay in your comfort zone. It is okay to use "cheaters" as I call them, and those are things that are already prepared or require very little effort. If you are planning to make an Italian dinner and you only have a few hours left to cook, clean up, set up and get yourself ready then the "cheaters" in this menu are going to be the sauce, the bread, and/or the pasta. You aren't going to make these from scratch, there is no time. So you have a few choices:

- Call your favorite restaurant and order a few sides (for the above example, that could be the bread and sauce for the bread, possibly the dessert)

- Look at the grocery store, you are going to buy packaged pasta and jar sauce. Try to buy the best.

- Make a nice dinner salad, instead of cutting it all up yourself, they now have packaged salads. There are many varieties of packaged salad to choose from.

- Call a catering company - if you have no time to cook, but want the dinner party, call the caterer. No one has to know but you. Catering does generally need to be scheduled in advance, so don't try to use this one as a last minute option.

For the set up for your dinner party, you have options there as well. Luckily, I have a teenager that I make help, and she enjoys it. If you don't, consider hiring a local student to come help you set up. Call the neighbor kid and offer to pay him or her to help you set up for your party. Two or three pairs of hands are always better then one, especially in crunch time.

If it is possible, try to prepare as much of the food as you can before hand. Ok, to be honest I am terrible at that. My best friend is wonderful at that. If you are making dessert, do it the day before. Prep the food the night before and stick it in the fridge so all you have to do is get it out and start cooking it. If something requires a marinade, it is always better to marinate it longer.

Ok, dinner is done and the table is set. You need to go get ready - your guests are going to be here soon. Relax and enjoy your time with your guests over the wonderful food you have prepared and the environment that you have created.

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About The Author, C. Steendahl
For more ideas on menu planning, themes and more short cuts for dinner parties and entertaining visit http://www.menuplanningcentral.com/entertaining.html