What’s the point of having a tasteful, spacious, well-appointed home tucked into the loveliness of Northern Arizona if you can’t share it with friends?
Well, there are plenty of other points, but why not gift those you like and love with an elegant soiree in your beautiful abode from time to time? It’s one of the most effective ways to draw people together, and adding a layer of refinement and sophistication will make the occasion especially memorable.
It also gives you the chance to indulge your own fantasies of being a chef, event planner and/or matchmaker.
There’s a myriad of things to consider when you’re preparing to hold a formal dinner party. These are the basic questions.
INSIDE OR OUT?
Most formal dinner parties are held indoors, in part because the weather is one huge variable you won’t have to work around, especially in the winter. Outdoor entertaining is enjoyed by nearly everyone in warmer months but creates a more casual vibe unless you go to great lengths to undo your guests’ expectations.
Four to six people is the minimum for what can be considered a dinner party and is a good number for your first, especially if you and your family are preparing all the food. If you’re content with focusing on the main dish and bringing in the rest of the food you can think about expanding that to 10 or more, and more still for a catered event, if you have the space and tableware to accommodate everyone. Inviting an even number of guests works best, and more than eight warrants splitting them into two or more tables for ease of conversation. Once you finalize the guest list, mail paper invitations about two weeks ahead to establish a tone of formality and a dress code, if you choose.
FOOD AND DRINK?
Don’t get too adventurous with the menu unless you know most of your guests would enjoy it. They will always appreciate you knowing about any dietary restrictions they have ahead of time. Stick to dishes you’ve already had success with, and try to provide at least one vegan dish aside from the salad. Use the same conservative approach if it’s being catered. Most guests will be expecting wine and/or cocktails, but make nonalcoholic options just as easily available. And don’t rely on guests bringing bottles as gifts to supply the night’s libations!
White or off-white tablecloths are the best for understated beauty and for displaying everything on top of it. Base your place settings off of examples for formal parties, though you can use a little creativity as long as you include any utensil or wine glass anyone might possibly need. Use your prettiest plates and cloth napkins (be sure to have a few extra of these on hand). Fresh, seasonal florals should be on display, either in one large vase or try a few lower ones, to keep them below eye level. Use enough candles as you can safely manage to create a warm, all-inclusive bubble over the evening.
Other aspects to plan ahead include:
- Seating arrangements
- Bathroom accessibility and supplies
- Keeping drama to a minimum