I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes in the craziness of life, weeks and months seem to get filled up and fly by without much quality time spent with friends and family. What used to be hanging out every weekend when we were single or newly married, is basically a couple times a year now that many of us have children of our own. We have one group of friends in particular who are pretty much zero maintenance- meaning no one really cares if our homes are spotless when we visit, and eating dinner together usually means ordering pizza or wings.
I had a thought a couple of months ago, however, to host an official dinner party for these friends, and make the night special and thought-out, down to the last detail. I sent out actual invitations on paper- not on Facebook. I started planning the menu and I went shopping for decor. I bought some new festive salad plates and simple bronze chargers that brought some rich fall color to the table. For dinner plates, I just used my white everyday dishes from Crate and Barrel. I also bought some new glass tumblers from Pier 1 that were on clearance, to add another layer of color and texture to the table. For a centerpiece, I used some pretty gourds and some sparkly non-scented candles from the dollar section at Target.
As for the menu for the night, I made a stuffed pork loin that was rolled up, tied, and roasted for an hour and a half. De-lish. I also made green bean almondine, roasted butternut squash, and a harvest salad with balsamic vinaigrette. The cherry on top however, was this amazing pumpkin spice buttermilk cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. A great Pinterest find. I HIGHLY recommend it. This was the second year I’ve made it and both times were a huge hit. It is extremely easy as well, which is good for someone like me who has an uncanny knack for messing up cakes.
For an extra touch of something special, I bought these miniature glass jars from the Target dollar section (are they cute or what?) and filled them with Halloween-inspired candy- since our party was on Halloween weekend. Each jar had a chalkboard top which I was able to personalize and I tied a cute little scarf around each one. I also made up this easy chalkboard menu because I knew everyone was going to ask me what we were having for dinner as soon as they walked in the door. I tried to anticipate as much as possible beforehand for this dinner party so that once our guests arrived, I could sit back and relax into the night. And the best part was, I DID!
After dinner, we moved into the den for some coffee, dessert, and Catchphrase- our group’s game of choice. We laughed a lot, got caught up on work, family, and daily life, and the evening was a smooth success. The best thing I did for this dinner party was the planning. I really tried to think of everything so I could relax as much as possible that night. After all, all I REALLY cared about was spending time with my friends. I wanted to give them a special night for all the hard work they do everyday, and the more relaxed I was, the happier our guests were.
So if you plan on hosting friends or family over for dinner this holiday season (and I recommend it), here are some of my tips:
Dinner Party Planning Tips
1. Plan a delicious yet simple menu that can be done 15 minutes or so before your guests arrive, giving yourself some time to pour a glass of wine and relax a bit.
2. Use shortcuts where you can- you don’t have to make every item on your menu from scratch. The main point of hosting is quality time with loved ones, not being a culinary genius.
3. Make recipes you are comfortable with or have tried successfully before.
4. Allow guests to help if they want to- but with simple tasks, like opening a bottle of wine or slicing some lemons for water.
5. Try, try, try your best to save major clean-up for after your guests leave. Clearing the table and putting cold stuff away in the fridge is one thing. Scrubbing pots and pans and packing up leftovers is best saved for later.
6. To make your guests feel really special and thought of, have a personalized place card at their seat and make them a small and inexpensive gift to take home. These little things make a big difference, and add a bit of a wow-factor.
7. Take some time the week of your party to create a playlist for the evening. Ours was a fun mix of classics and new favorites. I put my husband in charge of this one. He loved doing it and it made him apart of the night (like husbands really care about that).
Autumn Dinner Party Essentials
If you’re looking for a few items to spruce up your table and make it extra fall-y, check out this round-up of a few of my faves below. And make sure you Pin-it for later!
I hope these tips were helpful and have maybe inspired you to invite some friends over! It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. It’s the thought that counts, and if you have sweet friends like mine, you won’t regret it! Happy entertaining!!
Click the picture below to view Target’s new Hearth and Hand Collection by Magnolia