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Dinner Party Planning Tips for Newlyweds

How to Make your First Dinner Party a Success

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Friends at a Party

Friends Chatting at a Party

Getty Images/FoodPix

The wedding is now a collection of beautiful memories and photos. You’re back from the honeymoon and have settled into your life together. Does that mean the fun has ended? Hardly! Now the real fun can begin as you plan together to entertain family and friends in your new home.

You may begin your life as hosts with a housewarming party. A housewarming party is usually an open-house event where you lay out a buffet and guests will drop in to visit during a range of hours you’ve specified on your invitation. It’s a casual form of entertaining, and much of your time will be spent giving guests a tour of your new home. A housewarming party is a less personal way to entertain as you might have completely unrelated guests dropping in at the same time.

A housewarming party isn’t that different from the kind of parties young newlyweds may have done in their single lives whether it was a dorm party or big bash with your roommates, except the food will be better and your home should be cleaner! But the type of entertaining that may be new for a couple is to host a dinner party, a more personal type of event. Your guests may be family, friends or a combination of the two. At this party you’ll invite a select group of acquaintances, not everyone you’ve ever known, your meal may be a little more formal and you’ll set a nicer table. But don’t let the thought of that scare you away from trying this type of entertaining. You don’t need to set the table with a full set of flatware or serve a 7-course meal for your first dinner party. Casual is more in style than ever before - just don’t let casual mean sloppy. You’ll want to exercise more effort than you did for your dorm parties.

You may be wondering at this point why you would take on a challenge like this one? Well, for one thing, you may have already received invitations from recently married friends where they entertained you in their new home. Good etiquette dictates that you should return the invitation. You will also find that by taking turns entertaining in your homes, you and your friends can socialize more inexpensively than if you were constantly going out to restaurants for dinner. In a more personal setting, you can get to know one another better, hang around longer, and not feel that you need to rush home once the waitperson has asked you to pay the check. Finally, you need an excuse to use those place settings, serving pieces and crystal you received as wedding gifts!

After you’ve made the decision to entertain, obviously you’ll want to host a successful event that everyone enjoys, including yourself. Without much experience, you may not know where to begin, so that’s why I’ve prepared these tips for first-time entertaining newlyweds.

1. Start small in all ways. That means keep the guest list to a manageable size. Prepare a guest list that can comfortably fit in your home and at your dining table. Don’t plan a 7-course meal, unless you’re a chef and know how to pull that off. Don’t buy expensive ingredients and wines unless you can truly afford them. Otherwise, you won’t be able to/or want to do this again for many years. Send out your invitations two weeks before your party.

2. Prepare a schedule for your party that gives you much more time than you think you will need. From planning the menu, to shopping for groceries, to pulling out your serving pieces, to setting the table, and finally cooking the food, allow for double the time you think it should take. As time goes on and you become more comfortable you can be more spontaneous with your hosting.

3. Clean and prepare your home or, at the very least, clear away the clutter. While you shouldn't worry that guests you invite to your home will be pulling out the white glove test, you should make sure your home is comfortably clean for them. That means your powder room, at a minimum, should be presentable, surfaces should be cleared of papers and junk, and dust bunnies should be sent away. During the planning stages, not 15 minutes before guests are due to arrive, you should think about how you will set up your dining table and other seating areas, and whether you will need to borrow chairs.

4. Pull out all of your nice serving pieces days before your party so you don’t have to open boxes of wedding gifts to find that perfect platter to serve your paella entree. Since you’re hosting this party in the months following your wedding, it’s always nice to use serving pieces or other entertaining items that you know your guests gave you as gifts. They’ll be excited to see that you like them.

5. Plan recipes that you feel comfortable preparing. It’s sometimes easiest to prepare the recipes you grew up eating in your parents’ home. You know how they should turn out, and you can always call up mom for encouragement as you cook. Whatever you do, don’t try out new recipes on your guests, unless you’re an experienced cook who is always successful with new recipes.

6. Serve appetizers and drinks that can be prepared in advance. That way they can be set out for your guests to enjoy while you finish preparing the meal. If your timing is off, and you’re running late, you won’t feel the pressure that your guests are starving, waiting for their meal.

7. Remember that the most important thing is to enjoy your guests. Don’t let yourself become so caught up in cooking the meal that you can never leave the kitchen except to serve. These are guests in your home, not customers in a restaurant, and they accepted your invitation to enjoy your company.

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