7 Little Things I Stopped Doing for Dinner Parties — and 3 Things I Always Do
When I host a dinner party, I want my friends to get that fancy feeling — like they’re being taken care of and treated like the special guests they are. That means putting a lot of thought into getting everything ready. I’ve learned, however, that not all preparation has a great return on investment.
While you’re fussing over every detail, I promise there will be a lot of things your guests won’t notice. After hosting a couple of dinner parties, here are the seven tasks I always skip — and the three I always prioritize.
Don’t Mop the Floors
Sweep, but don’t bother with anything wet. If your home is generally clean, don’t bust out the mop just yet. For the most part, people are more comfortable keeping their shoes on. With no one in stocking feet, I don’t waste the 20 minutes and light sweat I work up doing a full floor cleaning. The day of the party, I do a quick dry-mop and leave the spray-mopping for after.
Don’t Do Everything All by Yourself
When my friends ask if they can bring anything, my instinct is to tell them no at first. Now, though, I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help. The dream is for my friends to show up without a care in the world. Then time runs short, I haven’t put on my dress, and I realize my partner got a seven-pound bag of ice instead of a 20-pound one. This is the moment I recant my original “I’ve got this” and send a harried text asking for help. Whether it’s asking one person to bring more ice or asking everyone to bring a bottle of wine to cut down on hosting costs, your friends are happy to help.
Don’t Put Out Appetizers
Shocking, I know. This goes against my deepest instincts — if I’ve invited people over for food, then I must give them food immediately! Not true. I found that my friends were more interested in nursing their first cocktail of the night than dipping into hummus I threw into a bowl. If your dinner menu is pretty much ready to serve whenever, then everyone can sit about half an hour after the last guest arrives.
Don’t Change the Menu
Make the same thing for every party. I’m serious. The mental energy you’ll conserve not doing a complete menu overhaul will be tremendous. My partner and I host, at most, every couple of months — just enough time for our friends to forget what we always make and be delighted to be invited over again. This menu is a crowd pleaser in that it accommodates several dietary restrictions, from vegan to gluten-free. Our magic menu scales easily for more people and uses the same ingredients in multiple ways, so you can finally buy that box of Costco tomatoes and use them all!
Our go-to menu includes Greek chicken (which can stay in the oven until you’re ready to serve), Greek salad (making one serving platter with no feta cheese), Mediterranean quinoa salad (again, I leave the cheese out for vegan and dairy-free folks), roasted potatoes, and crusty bread.
The exception to this rule is seasonality. During the winter, swapping out the Greek salad for roasted root vegetables is great when tomatoes aren’t the tastiest. Even with that switch, I’m still making this one menu. That’s all. That’s it. The food just needs to be delish and accommodating, not groundbreaking.
Don’t Clear People’s Plates
When everyone is sitting back in their chairs, satiated and smiling, I prop open the trash can lid, leave the dishwasher door down, and tell people to bus their own plates when they’re ready. Truly, nobody minds and there is a sense of relief that they can help a little after I’ve stuffed their sweet faces full of a delicious dinner.
Don’t Serve a Dessert That Requires Plates and Forks
Cookies. Chocolate chip cookies, to be exact. Every single fork we own is used for a 10-person dinner party. To avoid using disposable flatware or doing a mid-meal dishwashing, I make a variation of this gluten-free New York Times recipe, using only 75 grams of dough per cookie instead of the 100 grams listed. They still look big and beautiful, like bakery cookies, and they fit nicely in the hand.
Don’t Clean the Next Day
Yes, I understand the floors are sticky. I get it, the countertops are a little out of control. I even change around all our furniture to make our living room into a dining room. Embrace the mess by staying on your couch or in your bedroom all day. If you don’t have anywhere to be, take the day off and play video games or read a book or binge-watch a new show. Celebrate the fact that the dinner party went great and give yourself a little break.
Now that we’ve covered the tasks I always skip, here are the three I consider non-negotiables.
Do Clean the Bathroom
I always clean the bathroom. Counters, toilet, and certainly the floor. This will always make your place feel put together and ready for company. If you don’t want to go whole hog and do the shower, I get that. Pull the shower curtain closed, and voilà.
Do Make a Ton of Food
I always make enough food for seconds. (Oh, and leftovers! A couple days without having to cook is rewarding after all the party prep.) I want everyone to feel satisfied, and some friends will serve themselves a smaller portion out of politeness. Having enough food means they’ll actually help themselves to more, because a big ol’ pan of chicken and potatoes is so inviting.
Do Have a Good Time Immediately
Whatever your reason for hosting — to bring your friend groups together, inspire a sense of community, or celebrate a birthday without stressing over splitting a bill — you want to have fun. Once the first guest steps through the door, I make it a point to relax and enjoy myself. If you didn’t get every single thing ready, that’s okay. A house full of guests is the culmination of your hard work, so do what you set out to do — enjoy!