5 secret ingredients for a great evening

5 secret ingredients for a great evening

Planning a dinner party can be as equally stressful as attending one. Here are some tips to make the night go smoother for everyone involved.

5 secret ingredients for a great evening
5 secret ingredients for a great evening

1. Bring a non-edible hostess gift

The key to choosing the perfect hostess gift is to bring something that will please the hostess without disrupting the flow of the party.

  • Don’t bring flowers — she’ll have to leave her guests and go searching for a vase.
  • Don’t bring a dessert — she probably already has every crumb of the meal planned out, and she’ll feel obligated to serve what you brought in addition to what she already had planned.
  • Instead, present her with something fresh and delightful, such as homemade chocolate, gourmet teas, cocktail napkins or candles.
  • Better yet, send something ahead of time that will add to the festivities, such as a floral arrangement.

2. Pinch pennies with pasta

Pasta will stretch a dinner like no other food — both in terms of cost and quantity. One cooked pound of pasta mixed with grilled vegetables and chicken will serve six to eight guests for very little money per person. Compare that to the cost of a leg of lamb or other higher-end meat dishes.

To hide the fact that you have chosen pasta to cut costs, give your dinner party an Italian theme. Serve Italian wine and bread, throw some red-and-white-check tablecloths on your tables and make a tiramisu (or other Italian dessert) to top it off.

3. Dine with both ying and yang

You may think a dozen guests with similar interests equals one successful dinner party. Not so — the secret to a rollicking evening is usually a quirky collection of opposites. If you want a dynamic, delightful dinner, mix it up a bit. Invite both your conservative neighbour and your bohemian brother-in-law, for starters, and see what happens

4. Master the art of the empty invitation

Learn when to give an empty invitation and learn when an invitation is empty. Few people would admit to giving one, but there are some invitations that are offered purely out of social grace, not out of a genuine desire to see someone again. These “empty invitations” are particularly prevalent at the close of a social event such as a dinner party.

For instance, if you just met someone at a dinner party and they offer to let you stay at their home the next time you come into town, that’s an empty invitation. If you tried to take the person up on it, they would likely tell you their house was full that weekend.

5. Your parting comments

Similar to the empty invitation is the empty parting comment, such as “Let’s have lunch” or “I’ll call you.” These comments really mean, “I like you as a person, but I probably won’t call.” To avoid confusion, if you are the one giving the empty invitation or parting comment, substitute it with a more general phrase, such as “It was good to see you.”

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