Top tips for entertaining guests

Stressing out about your next get-together? Don't be intimidated; whether you're planning a cocktail party, a formal dinner, or a cozy reunion with old friends, the better prepared you are, the greater your party will be.

Top tips for entertaining guests

Preparations should begin long before the day of the party. How will you invite people? What will you need?

Before the party

  • For a small circle of friends, an invitation by phone is fine. For larger or more formal events, a written invitation makes the occasion a little more special.
  • Think about your needs well before the occasion: for a fairly large guest list, will you need bistro tables where people can stand, plus additional glasses or silverware? Also, you can rent or buy folding chairs and tables at a reasonable price and enhance them with tablecloths and chair coverings.
  • Once you have your shopping list ready, pick up your drinks and non-perishable foods a week or two before the party to reduce last-minute stress. Buy perishables two to three days before the party and store them in the refrigerator.
  • You can make place cards and table decorations before the party, as long as you're not using fresh flowers.

Meal planning

  • Take into account the season and the number and types of courses you're serving when preparing a menu. The more courses you plan, the smaller the portions and the lighter the individual menu items should be.
  • Make small, easy-to-grab appetizers for a cocktail party, since people usually have only one hand free.
  • For parties of six people or more, avoid pan-frying so that you're not chained to the kitchen — opt instead for a roast, stewed meat, baked fish, or poultry.
  • Avoid making dishes for the first time when entertaining. This is especially true for people with less cooking experience.
  • Lighten your workload on the day of the party by planning to serve food that can be prepared one to two days in advance. Soups, many desserts, and salad dressings can be kept in the refrigerator until guests arrive.
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