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How to host the perfect dinner party

We chat to Nathy Gaffney, etiquette expert and co-author of King Island Dairy’s new e-book, How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party and Prepare the Perfect Cheese Plate.

How to host the perfect dinner party

1. The invitation isn’t dead. 

Whether it’s via post, email or Facebook, invitations are one of the easiest and most effective ways of creating a sense of anticipation for your guests. The invitation gives your guests a first impression of what’s in store, so consider your design and packaging carefully.

A good rule of thumb to remember is the more formal your dinner party, the more formal your invitation should be. A Facebook event can be a good tool for casual dinner parties, but they can be easily missed and forgotten. On the other hand, a handwritten card with a quirky gift such as a cocktail umbrella (for a tropical themed party) or map of a travel destination (for a farewell) is not so easily forgotten.

2. Finesse the delicate art of conversation. 

If you’re planning to entertain guests that don’t know each other very well, it pays to have a few icebreakers and conversation starters up your sleeve. Make a mental note of which guests have common interests, such as work, hobbies, where they live or who they know, and endeavour to introduce these guests á la Bridget Jones’s Diary style.

Don’t forget to engineer a thoughtful seating arrangement too. Consider the different personality types attending – an introverted guest may feel more comfortable sitting next to another introvert rather than an outspoken extravert. Are there any networking or matchmaking possibilities within the group? This part of the planning is alchemy – it’s all about creating the right blend that everyone will enjoy and benefit from. If you’re not confident in this area, ask a friend to assist you.

3. Get out of the kitchen.

We all want to wow our guests with our culinary skills, but there’s nothing worse than being stuck in the kitchen the whole night, willing that last soufflé to rise.

To ensure you don’t miss out on the company of your guests, make sure you’re not over ambitious with your choice of menu. Stick to tried and tested dishes that are easy for you to prepare; utilise slow cookers to get you out of the kitchen; and consider share plates to remove the hassle of serving each person.

My top tip – don’t skimp on the cheese plate as it’s easy to prepare and always impressive. A decadent wheel of ripe blue cheese, drizzled with truffle honey and served with succulent, fresh figs is sure to put everyone in a good mood.

4. Use your creative license to thrill.

The trick to hosting a great dinner party is understanding how to create an ‘experience’ for your guests.

Be creative and consider the details – lighting, music and décor set the mood and create an atmosphere that will put your guests at ease. Think about the layout of your entertaining space – is it conducive to group conversations? You may even like to consider humorous touches to your décor to spark conversation.

5. Be prepared.

From burnt dishes to last minute cancellations – dinner party hiccups can occasionally pop up. In fact, King Island Dairy’s recent study revealed one of the greatest deterrents to hosting a dinner party was a fear of guests cancelling at the last minute .

The key to overcoming problems is to prepare for these challenges. If your dessert is a disaster, do you have a tub of ice-cream on hand? If a guest cancels at the last minute, can you ask someone else to bring a friend? And if your guests stay longer than anticipated, can you offer them a spare bed for the night?

Most importantly remember to remain calm – a good sense of humour and a cool head will serve you well in most difficult situations. Don’t forget, some disasters can turn out to be great dinner party memories.

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