You’ve decided to host a dinner party, but you don’t know where to begin? You want to make guests feel welcome, but you’re not quite sure of the right way?
For her next post in this Hadley Court series, Celebrating Gracious Living, guest contributor Lynda Quintero-Davids has put together her top tips for being a gracious hostess and making your guests feel welcome in your home for a dinner party.
The key to hosting a dinner party is planning – every last detail – and by doing so, plus being able to relax and enjoy your guests when they arrive, you will help put them at ease, helping guests feel comfortable and welcome in your home. From planning the menu to accommodating everyone’s taste, to setting the mood with the right ambiance, to making eye contact while engaging in conversation, to greeting your guests at the door, by attending to the details of a well -appointed bathroom, all these things go into making guests feel welcome in your home – plus it is also a part of being a gracious hostess. Here are a few tips, including a few gentle etiquette reminders to help guide you in your desire to create a welcoming atmosphere for your dinner party guests…
Keep calm and plan on
A well planned soiree will keep you calm, and when you’re calm, your guests will sense it and feel at ease. Decide in the beginning if your dinner party will be catered or will you be preparing everything yourself. When planning your menu, keep in mind open and honest communication. For example: ask invited guests if they have any particular food allergies and let guests know in advance of any required dress code.
Shop in advance
After guests are invited and the menu is selected, take an inventory of ingredients you may already have on hand: Create your shopping list and purchase items needed at minimum a day in advance. Preparing any parts of your menu ahead of time will allow you time to mix and mingle with your guests. Remember, they are also in your home to spend time with you – not just eat and run.
Be an elegant & gracious host / hostess
Also plan enough time to get yourself guest ready – dressing up also makes your guests feel extra special. Be sure to be at the door when guests arrive, welcoming them with a smile. Plan an area to place coats, purses, and, if possible, to plug in their smart phones and devices. After this, let guests know where the bathroom is located, introduce the new guests to existing guests, and ask them if they would like a beverage.
Offer guests a choice
Be sure to have to have not only alcohol, but a non-alcohol beverage to offer guests (for example sweet tea or infused water). Also keep in mind when setting your table, to perhaps provide bowls for pits, tails and shells. Don’t overlook the importance of a clean and well stocked bathroom – Make sure your bathroom has plenty of t.p., soap and hand towels before your dinner party. Add mouthwash, moisturizer, Q-tips, floss in a pretty and discreet basket. While you’re at it, place a plunger, a scented candle or a scented spray and matches in a discreet location, too. As a host, taking away any feelings of awkwardness from guests will help make them feel welcome and comfortable in your home during a dinner party.
Addressing Dietary Needs:
Although it is the responsibility of the guest to let the host know about any allergies at the time of the invitation, as the host, a simple phone call to guests can take away awkwardness and begin to make guests feel comfortable. Let the guest know what you were planning on serving, which can segway into discussing any dietary needs. As a host, have a simple back up recipe, or have something just fpr them. For example, if you’re serving ham and your guest doesn’t eat pork, take care of their need by serving them a roasted chicken breast. The same can be applied for dessert: as an option to regular and decafeinnated coffee, have teas available. Additional help to navigating food allergies or dietary restrictions can be found on a modern etiquette design series at Design Sponge.
Little details make such a difference. Save wine, champagne and sparkling cider bottles and reuse them to serve other beverages or water.
From the One Hope Home Dinner Party – They chose to serve a signature cocktail using sparkling wine, Pear and Thyme Fizz, and incorporated pears into the decor. In all, as a host, planning your event is just thinking ahead of anything you can possibly do to help make feel guests welcome, relaxed, calm and at easy in your home.
Set the Mood: Create Ambiance
Keep everything from the theme to the ambiance simple can ensure a welcoming atmosphere in your home, however, don’t overlook the details. The ambiance is the mood created from your dinner party theme, for example Italian Night in winter or an Outdoor Setting in Spring. For Italian night inside, consider using dim lights and candles. Lighting is a huge factor in creating ambiance. Lighting need not only be inside: Welcome guests to your home with a luminary lit trail, either on a long side-road or driveway entry. This is especially helpful to guests visiting your home for the first time, if they are driving in an unfamiliar area, or if your home is located on a more secluded property vs. a gated community.
For an Outdoor Dinner Party
For an outdoor dinner setting, consider using string-lights across the patio and maybe even a fire-pit for guests to enjoy make s’mores for dessert. Use additional covered folding tables or barcarts as extra serving space. Include a playlist of relaxing tunes (jazz is always nice) connected to outdoor speakers, to further enhance the guest experience. For larger gatherings, repurpose outdoor living chairs to create a conversation area and rather than using folding chairs outside, consider using a mix of upholstered indoor chairs, even benches – This can add unique charm to your gathering, and again make your guests feel comfortable and welcome in your home by making them feel special.
Set The Table
Another way to make guests feel special at your dinner party is to use your favorite stemware, dishes and silverware – even linen napkins. Maybe you’ve collected Wedgwood or Transfer-ware over the years – a dinner party would be a perfect time to use them, and maybe even share the story behind them. If you’re hosting a formal celebration, be sure to also read my previous post here on Hadley Court: Top Tips For Setting A Formal Table.
Planning a pretty tablescape with your treasures will help make guests feel special. Plan in advance how guests will be seated. The idea is for guests to be able to take their seats in a calm and relaxed manner. At Your Table suggests: “avoid a last minute scramble by deciding before hand and either have place cards or suggest to each guest where to sit as they enter the room. If you are confident and decisive, people will feel much more comfortable than if you keep changing your mind as they hover behind a chair and you move everyone round until you are happy with the arrangement. So do all your experimenting with placements before the guests arrive.” For additional reference in planning your dinner seating, see: 7 Tips For Seating Guests at Your Dinner party Table
Mind your manners: Get unplugged
No cell phones, and that’s a non-negotiable. Make a point of talking to everyone, not just the person you find fascinating on your left. And really listen when someone is talking so you can engage in the conversation. Also, relax and enjoy yourself-if you’re having a good time, others will too.
The art of conversation
Guests should always be aware of current events to help encourage casual conversation. Review Internet news pages, read the newspaper, or listen to news radio to get caught up on current events – however avoid discussing any controversial topics. Think about what is trending and popular, so you’re in-the-know and ready to participate in the conversation when the time comes.
10 Year Dinner Anniversary Party for donna hay magazine
No tweeting while eating
While parents may have a “phone prison”, as a host, you may consider placing a tray on a table at the entry, foyer, or area where coats and purses will be collected. Frame a politely written or printed message to “Please place devices here until later in the evening”, and place by the tray on the table. This way, guests can enjoy the conversations, food and wine, uninterrupted by any distractions. For larger dinner parties, set aside a time when photos of all the people can be taken, perhaps even create your own #hashtag for all to share later. Read more Dinner Party Etiquette Tips from charles-the-butler.
gold monogram black tray from etsy
Have a sensitive awareness
Make sure guests feel welcome throughout your dinner party. Without hovering, look after each guest as much as you can. If you notice that a guest has an empty glass or if there is a person standing alone, quickly remedy the situation as quickly and cheerfully as possible. Having the sensitive awareness for the feelings of others is just as Emily post calls having good manners. For additional etiquette tips for the host and guest, visit Emily Post. For additional modern etiquette tips on gracious living, entertaining and celebrating, also refer to Emily Post books:
About the host / hostess gift:
A host or hostess gift is a lovely way to thank them for their hospitality. Bring an uncomplicated gift, such as a coffee table book, tea towels, a nice candle, or a bottle of wine. When you bring a gift to the host of a dinner party, don’t expect it to be served while you are there. Remember that this is a gift, not an accompaniment to the meal. If the hostess wants you to bring a dish to share, she will ask you during the invitation.
Parting Gifts for Guests:
Send each guest away with a parting gift. There are many dinner party gift ideas for guests. The gift can be personalized, perhaps an monogrammed silver frame, or it can be general, such as a small gift basket. If you have time, another personalized gift to make is a Gratitude Jar. It should just be something reminding your guests of the great evening they shared with you. Having an accurate count of guests will ensure that you have enough gifts. Make sure the gift is ideal for both men and women, or have separate gifts for each. Additional gift guidance can be found here.
I hope these tips help put you at easy for hosting your next dinner party and help you to make your guests feel welcome in your home. For additional guidance, also apply my previous guest post in the Celebrating Gracious Living series, Top Tips for Setting a Formal Table. For more image inspirations for entertaining, join Hadley Court on Pinterest here. Leslie hopes with these gracious hosting tips in mind, you’ll be ready to welcome guests into your home for a dinner party, in gracious Hadley Court style.