You've planned the food, the table setting, the decor . . . but don't forget the music! Music is a magical mood setter – it's a way to set the stage for your guests as they arrive and it can be used to transition the evening along. With the rise of MP3s it's never been easier to create a playlist that will take you from aperitifs to dessert.
Years ago, I used to make mix tapes for my parties. (Yes, I'm that old.) And let me tell you, crafting a mix tape was a lot of work! You had to play the songs in their entirety, dubbing them onto a tape, then try to create a seamless pause between songs ... and then of course a song would always end up getting cut off at the end of the tape.
Now in this modern age, having music planned for your dinner party can be as easy as planning a playlist or two. For my own parties, I like to put together two playlists; the first is a happy, dance-y mix of music that I play while guests arrive and enjoy a round of cocktails and the second is a selection of more mellow music to play while enjoying the meal.
Of course, two separate playlists is my personal preference on the matter. You could also create one long playlist to last through the evening – or even a shorter playlist that will play on repeat.
If you want to really plan how the party progresses, you could also time the music to specific events. For instance, if you know you want to start ushering the guests to the dinner table thirty minutes into the party, you could plan a specific song to play fifteen songs into your mix. When you hear the song you'll know that's your cue to start gathering the guests.
If you're not a particularly musical person and your collection consists of one promotional CD you got in the mail, you could ask your friends to make playlists or mixes to bring to the party. This is a fantastic way to get your guests involved in the party planning. (And it's an especially good way to keep those who may not be particularly skilled in the culinary arts involved.)
One final note on selecting dinner party music – know your audience. If your great aunt Ida, you know the one who used to be a nun, is coming to the party, perhaps it would be better to forgo that new Cee Lo Green song on your mix. While the point of prepping a playlist for your party is to expose your own musical tastes to your guests, there's no reason to offend anyone.