There’s a lot that goes into hosting a dinner party. But it’s the small things that can really make an evening absolutely unforgettable. Take these simple, straightforward tips into account when you’re planning your next soiree to guarantee it’s fun and relaxing for your guests and for you.

Keep It Intimate

The ideal size of a dinner party is 6-8 people. Any more and you practically become a caterer. When you limit your guest list, you’re not only helping yourself logistically, you’re also creating a more exclusive-feeling event.

To help reduce confusion, use seating cards strategically. Seat guests with larger personalities towards the center because they’re more likely to help extend the conversation to both ends of the table. It’s also thoughtful to seat guests next to someone they either know or would be interested in meeting.

Plan a Simple Menu

When it comes to planning your menu, don’t take on too much. Try to make dishes that work well together, taste delicious and sound impressive, but aren’t overly complicated. Most importantly, cook things you already know how to make. You shouldn’t be searching for new recipes or experimenting on the day of your party. Go with simple, foolproof recipes that you love to make.

Anticipate Your Guests’ Needs

Successful entertaining is a lot about anticipating what will make your guests happy and comfortable. This means more thought on your end, but most of the time you’ll be happy that you were prepared. First, make sure you’re aware of any special dietary restrictions your guests may have. Whether they don’t eat gluten or don’t drink alcohol, make sure you prepare for these special exceptions.

Also, try to do as much in advance as you possibly can. That means food prep, setting the table, making a playlist or getting ice. All the small tasks you do in advance mean your odds decrease of frantically unloading a dishwasher in your bathrobe five minutes before guests arrive.

Pull Out the (Easy) Stops

The meal should feel special without feeling overly stuffy, and it’s the small details that make a big difference. For example, using real china and linen napkins as opposed to plastic utensils and paper napkins will make the ambiance feel special. Having fresh flowers on the table, soft ambient lighting and clean towels in the restroom are all fairly easy to set up and go a long way in terms of setting a mood.

Have Fun!

Your mood and your energy set the tone for the whole evening, so if you have fun, your guests will have fun. And if you stress, your guests will stress. These days, anything goes when it comes to menus, décor and “rules” so just relax, have fun and do things your way. Don’t forget what a “successful soiree” means – it means your guests are comfortable, relaxed and having fun. As long as that happens, then it doesn’t really matter if the chicken was slightly overcooked or a wine glass was broken, does it?

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