The dinner party is back and as glamorous as sitting around a table at home gets. It’s a party with dinner. Drinks. Flowers. Music. Low Lights. Great china. Not cosy, as much as an 80s-style affair with world class style-statement glass, china, cutlery and linen. Dinner parties are deeply personal. The rules are your rules. The food is your food. Absolutely no goodie bags allowed. It’s not a shop opening or corporate event. And definitely no children allowed.
At its most fundamental, a dinner party is an act of generosity: Come to my place; share my bounty. Of course, it’s rarely that simple. Here are the rules:
No group emails. It should be a mystery who else is coming. Guests shouldn’t decide whether they’ll come based on who is on the guest list.RSVP Quickly and, commit to it.
Before Anyone Arrives
It’s about atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere, music is essential (it gives soul to a space) and lighting is key. A harsh lamp can kill the mood in one switch, flat. Keep it romantic and soft. Dim the lights. If you don’t have a dimmer, turn off a light or two. Next, grab as many candles as possible to create a winter wonderland within minutes.
A good guest is rarer than a good hostess. A dinner party must have eight people. Six doesn’t give you a diverse enough group. Not all should be friends – no excitement. And not all should be strangers – too corporate. Not all should be married but, of course, all can be single.
Anything from silk palazzo pants to a cocktail dress. Men should wear some kind of blazer. This heightens the glamour.
Do not arrive early. For this there is no exception. Walk around the block, go and pick up some fresh flowers, anything. It is rude and it puts your host in an uncomfortable position. Hosts must be ready when they said the evening would begin. It sounds pretty simple, but it’s a common mistake. For guests, the most important piece of advice? Be on time. Leaving early is to be avoided, as it suggests that the party has failed.
Never ask anyone to take their shoes off when they enter your house, however luxe the floor. Early in the evening is the best time to get help – getting introductions right, serving drinks, taking bags – the first few minutes is when you need to stay and loosen up your crowd.
Nothing makes people more relaxed than a grand gesture in a glass when they arrive. Spice it up with generous slugs of gin, tequila, or, of course, good champagne. Alcohol is the great ice-breaker. Limit the choice, you don’t want to turn yourself into a bar tender.
To set up all of the food and drinks quickly and properly, lay everything out on trays—silver or wicker —displaying all of the glasses, putting out a large bowl for ice, all the alcohol, jugs for mixers, and small bowls for canapes. Opting for a white colour scheme is a foolproof, elegant bet, and if you take a basic bunch of roses or peonies cut them, place each in a single bud vase and display en masse, you can instantly transform a tablesetting (and room). They’re the little touches that can make the difference.
When it comes time to feed a party, it can be easy to panic. But keep it simple. No one really cares. You don’t have to have rich foods. It’s the notion of getting people together who you love. Go for shared platters on the table or laying out food on side tables that people can help themselves to – too many staff with oversized platters can feel overly formal. Any guests with dietary intolerance should eat before and never mention it..
A test of a fabulous dinner party is how much time elapses before anyone has to say, ‘So, what do you do?’