Nobody said hosting a dinner party was easy, but it’s definitely not as stressful when you know how to effectively manage your time.
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Dinner parties are my favorite way to share my culinary creations with friends and family over a few glasses of wine and plenty of laughter. However, planning a successful dinner party can be stressful in the days and hours leading up to your big event.

I was recently invited to a dinner party through a friend of a friend. It seemed like an exciting opportunity to meet new people and enjoy a decent, home-cooked meal… However, I arrived at the host’s home (at the specified dinner time) to find that she and other friends were still in the kitchen frantically cooking dinner. I offered to lend a hand and was understanding (because hey, entertaining can be tough) up until the two hours passed and the food was still not ready to be served—at which point, I politely excused myself and left.

I am sure the host had every intention of getting the food prepared in a more timely manner, but, as a guest, waiting longer than one hour to actually eat anything is a stretch—especially on a “school night” (i.e. Sunday to Thursday). Planning and executing a dinner party takes a bit of preparation ahead of time. The last thing that you want as a host is for your guests is to have their stomachs growling while you cook in a stressful frenzy. Time is of the essence, and when it comes to hosting a dinner staying relatively on schedule is important. Here are a few tips for making sure you do.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning a dinner party entails curating a menu, inviting guests, setting a date, and organizing your home. Give yourself an ample amount of time to figure out what you want to cook (choosing recipes with make-ahead elements will definitely help) and also gather dietary restrictions/preferences from your guests well before the scheduled date. Write out a list of all the ingredients that you need and take inventory of what you already have. About 2 to 3 days before the big night, go ahead and confirm your guest list and shop for all of your necessary groceries. Designate the place in your home where you want your guests to gather upon arrival, as well as where they will eat. Go a step further and pull out all of the serving platters, serving utensils, and decorative elements the day before so you won't be scrambling to look for them at the last minute. Just remember, the punctuality of your dinner party will rely primarily on how well you have planned ahead.

Keep Your Guests in The Loop

There is no way to foresee any hiccups in your cooking itinerary; therefore, if you feel yourself running behind, don’t hesitate to let your guests know that you’re behind schedule, and that the start time to the party has been pushed back.

Definitely Have Things To Sip and Nibble On

Appetizers are crucial to have ready as your guests arrive. Choose snack options that require little to no cooking. You merely want to assemble ingredients and let your people enjoy. A cheese board or crudités platter are both easy options to pull together. Arrange various cheeses, fruits, crackers, cured meats and raw vegetables on a wooden serving board or butcher’s block to serve to your guests as they trickle in. You can also prepare a signature cocktail that’s pre-mixed and placed in a carafe so guests can help themselves.

Ask For Help

When you feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to phone a friend. The goal is to largely finish the cooking before your guests begin rolling in. Helping hands in and out of the kitchen are generally essential to making this happen without hiccups, so you might as well plan in advance. You can ask a couple of close friends to arrive early and have specific tasks ready for them in order to free up your hands and attention to focus on the main dishes. Assembling the appetizers, putting out drinks, arranging the food on serving platters, and basic tidying up are all tasks you can delegate to others. You can also ask that guests help by bringing certain items such as ice, bread, a bottle of wine, or even dessert if you have a friend who’s a rockstar when it comes to sweets.