Who’d host a dinner party in times like these? Guests ideally wearing masks until seated; chairs spaced two metres apart; hand sanitisers and temperature checks at the door; a disclaimer form signed upon arrival and personal information taken…

While this is the scene in the UK’s restaurants right now, being performed commendably and professionally by skilled wait staff, in the domestic setting, with a little social distancing in place, things needn’t look quite so dystopian. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to plan and prep meticulously for things to be a success. Oh no, if you want to host a dinner party which has guests cooing then here’s how to go about it; our 5 essential elements of a great dinner party.

AN EASY TO EXECUTE MENU

You’d be surprised how little attention is paid to the food during a lively dinner party. You want to facilitate conversation and merry making, rather than dominate the occasion with overly flamboyant food or flapping.

The key to hosting a fancy dinner party is taking the time to be there, in the room, entertaining and charming your guests. Events which can truly be defined as special run like clockwork. Being stuck in the kitchen, fussing over unrisen souffles and burnt pastry is not a classy look (we know from sad experience). 

So, choose items which you can prep in advance, and finish off at the last minute with a fresh, carefully thought out element for best results. That way, you can be in the room and involved, moving around the kitchen with good grace whilst simultaneously carrying conversation if needed, which is what every great host should be aiming to do.

Rather than listing our favourite dishes for such an occasion, might we suggest checking out this extensive list of make ahead dinner party recipes? If you can’t find something to suit your tastes and skillset here, then perhaps you shouldn’t be cooking at all.

WINE WHICH ISN’T AN AFTERTHOUGHT

A fantastic way to get the dinner party off on the right foot is to provide a delicious pre-dinner drink. Nothing says a warm welcome like being greeted with an expertly mixed cocktail, but a nice premium lager or ale is a good alternative for those that are not so cocktail-inclined. It’s the thought that counts, after all. 

After that, carefully chosen wine takes centre stage. The specific selection of drinks you choose will largely depend on what you’re cooking; no one is going to admire your culinary expertise if you pair a rare cut of beef with a Chardonnay, for instance, so consider wine pairing carefully. And remember, it’s also a good idea to provide some non-alcoholic alternatives for anyone who may be driving, pregnant, religiously opposed, a recovering alcoholic, or may simply not be feeling like drinking. 

The online wine sale experts PAF suggest that wine is ‘’more than just a drink. It’s a lifestyle. A lifestyle built on the foundations of people coming together to enjoy experiences with family and friends’’. Treat yours with respect, and pair it thoughtfully with the food, and you’re bound to impress your guests.

THE RIGHT GUEST LIST

Right now, with large indoor gatherings banned, your hand is rather forced on the size of your dinner party. We wouldn’t try to interpret how many people are allowed on the page here; the government advice is, erm, baffling, quite frankly. That said, the excuse to keep things tight and compact is excellent news; no dinner party ever benefited from a crowded, clashing group of guests. 

Success lies not in inviting all the largest personalities, but in harnessing a fine balance of characters, temperaments and tones. 

While a group of similar professions, ages and the rest equates to a harmonious vibe, it’s not going to be the most interesting; all a little too easy, and everyone preaching to the choir, if you ask us. If conversation is to flow like the fine wine you serve, you’ll need a great blend of extroverts, introverts and those in between. Balancing this with current regulations on indoor gatherings, support ‘bubbles’ and the rest might be tough, so for the time being, keep it compact, cosy and intimate and you won’t go wrong. 

TABLE DECORATIONS

If you have a particular theme in mind, go ahead and decorate the room according to your theme. The key here is not to be overbearing; that would tend towards the tacky. Whatever the occasion and cause for celebration, fresh flowers are an excellent addition to a dinner table. They are attractive and add a special touch to your decoration. You could also add some candles to set the mood; there’s nothing better at evoking intimacy than the flickering of a flame.

If you’re wanting to go the extra mile, then check out our tips on giving your dinner table the fine dining treatment.

THAT JE NE SAIS QUOI 

So much time can be spent obsessing over the refreshments at your dinner party that you can overlook the less tangible elements which can define your event. Sparkle some of that magic dust over the occasion by playing the right, lowkey but intriguing music, get the lighting just so, pace your evening elegantly, and most of all, be your charming, beautiful self….it’s why the guests are here, after all!