The most important tips for hosting a dinner party

The invitation

You can’t choose your family, but it’s a completely different matter when it comes to your friends. It’s best to choose a group of people who get on well. If there are a couple of people who clash, this can soon lead to a bad atmosphere. As such, you should find out beforehand who knows and likes each other. You want your dinner party to be a lovely evening, after all. Invitations should also be issued or sent out at least a week in advance to ensure that as many people as possible can come.

Choosing what to cook

Ideally, you should find out about your guests’ culinary preferences well before inviting them, as at the very least you need to know whether there will be any vegetarians present. It wouldn’t make much sense to prepare delectable T-bone steaks if two of your eight guests don’t eat meat. Food intolerances are also very important – not everyone can eat milk-based products or nuts, and raw fish isn’t to everyone's taste.

Decorating the table

Classic table decorations include flowers and candles in a wide variety of styles, sizes and colours. It’s easy to find something a bit unusual or decoration on a low budget. Exercise your craft skills, and you can conjure up whole themed displays on the table. The important thing is to pay a little attention to the overall look, as well as the dishes and glasses. Just simple sprigs of rosemary and cloth napkins could do the trick.

Making the meal

A meal can usually be made 95% in advance – that’s how the professionals do it. If you’re only putting the duck in the oven as your guests are arriving, then stress is bound to ensue. Always arrange dishes for dinner on warmed plates, as otherwise the food will already be cold by the time that it is served. Wines to go with the food (white and red in summer) should be chilled early enough and find their way to the table at the same time as the paired dish.

The drinks

It’s also worth knowing a bit about your guests when it comes to the drinks. Generally speaking, however, it’s hard to go wrong if you offer a few fruit juices, mineral water, beer, Prosecco and some suitable wines with the food. Guests should always be well looked after, so do top up their drinks regularly. A good liqueur – cognac or grappa, perhaps – is a nice idea after the meal.

The menu

In terms of the menu, it’s best to keep things simple – be mindful of your guests, followed by the time of year and your budget. Serving fresh red mullet to eight people can easily cost 150 euros. If the expense isn’t an issue, then there’s no problem, but otherwise you can still prepare lots of good, tasty dishes on a small budget.