Throw a Fancy Dinner Party
Good food, good drinks, good company -- key elements for a great dinner party. Our foolproof plan for throwing an elegant dinner party includes tips for pairing wine, setting the table, and preparing a menu so you can be the host(ess) with the mostest.
Everything In This Slideshow
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Few events bring together friends and family quite like a successful dinner party. With careful planning and a few chic table settings, you can create an inviting space for guests as well as a divine dinner menu.
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Opt for paper invitations with an RSVP date. The handwritten greeting will set the party's tone early, and give both you and your guests a chance to account for any scheduling conflicts.
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Stock Your Bar
Impress your discerning drinkers by keeping a well-stocked bar. Start with the basics -- hard alcohol, including liquor and liqueur; bitters; fruit juice; and carbonated beverages -- then expand to include seasonal flavors and garnishes.
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Table Setting 101
Placing flatware properly on the table shows guests you care about presentation and their ease of enjoyment. For a formal dinner party, add a wineglass, salad plate, and additional silverware for dessert. Before serving your final course, be sure to clear all unnecessary plates, utensils, and glasses.
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Charming Napkins and Table Linens
Ditch the paper napkins, and dress your dinner table in its finest. First, choose between a charger and place mat; each prevents spills while providing a luxe layer. Lightly pressed cloth napkins tied with twine give a relaxed vibe.
Unique Name Cards
Make each guest feel special with a personalized name card. Keep the card holders fresh and fun, such as these golden spray-painted animals, to minimize the stuffiness of assigned seating. Here's how to make them.
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Centerpiece Idea: Fresh Flowers
Fresh flowers bring simple but sophisticated style to your table setting. Even grocery store blooms look beautiful when snipped and floating in a basic white bowl of water. Arrange them with floating votive candles for a modern look.
Centerpiece Idea: Stunning Succulents
Don't feel like fussing with flowers? This gorgeous centerpiece featuring small succulents, moss, and stones comes together in just 30 minutes. Make the masterpiece in advance, then pair the plants with a glass hurricane and a candle for a unique garden glow.
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Modest Mood Lighting
Few elements set the mood more than a few glowing candles scattered about the dinner table. Use low votives to keep from obscuring guests' sight lines. Choose neutral-tone containers to allow your party color scheme to show off.
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Pantry Raid: Prep, Prep, Prep!
Prepare as many ingredients as you can in advance, whether that means cleaning fish, chopping herbs, or washing produce. Be sure to check (and double-check!) your pantry inventory a night in advance. When the inevitable occurs and you find yourself without an ingredient, stay calm and turn to our clever substitutes.
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Show Some Label Love
Consider any dietary restrictions or food allergies by labeling appetizers and charcuterie. Dress each place setting with a printed menu so guests know what to expect throughout the evening.
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Easy-to-Assemble Hors D'oeuvres
Allow yourself to join preparty conversation by preparing simple appetizers that can be made in advance. These striking yet simple open-faced sandwiches require just rye bread, soft cheese, and seasonal toppings.
Appetizer Suggestions: Make-Ahead Blue Cheese-Pine Nut Puffs; Bruschetta; Stuffed Olives.
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Become a Wine Whiz
When paired correctly, wine has the ability to enhance and exaggerate the flavors of food. A basic rule to follow: pair light meat, such as chicken, with white wine, and red meats with red wine. For dessert, you'll want a wine that's just a touch less sweet than the dish; try a Moscato. Still unsure of what to serve? Share your menu and budget with a wine shop or beverage depot for guidance.
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Elegant (but Easy!) Entrees
When it comes to serving dinner, go with what you know. Keep the ingredients simple rather than complicated; now is not the time to experiment with a new recipe. Cooking for a crowd can be intimidating, so start early and clean as you go.
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Dessert: Simple Yet Sophisticated
The last thing you want to do when dessert rolls around is spend more time in the kitchen. For large gatherings, serve a big-batch dessert recipe that can be made in advance and spruced up with an elegant garnish. Flowers are a quick solution for low-key layer cakes.
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