Entertaining 101: How to Be a Good Dinner Party Host

By Valeria Nekhim, The Vivant

Jackie KennedyA host's job begins long before dinner party guests take their seats, and ends only after the inevitable end of the evening cleanup. Make no mistake, hosting is by no means an easy undertaking, but if everyone-including said host has an amazing time-it will all be worth it. Trust us.

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What are some rules to follow to be the perfect host? We've narrowed it down to a list of key points every host should consider if you're willing to plan ahead and put in a little effort.

1. Create A Guest List. The smaller the gathering, the more important it is to have the right mix of people. While some say it's good to invite people with plenty in common, others maintain the conversation is more interesting if guests have diverse backgrounds and opposing views. Take some time to think about what each of your guests can bring to the table so to speak, but ultimately follow your instinct.

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2. Know When To Invite People. Etiquette experts suggest inviting guests three to six weeks in advance for a formal dinner party, and a few days to three weeks for an informal soirée. It's perfectly acceptable to send out e-vites, or to telephone people, just be sure to be clear about who's hosting, what kind of party it is, why the party is being thrown (if there's a reason), when and where it is (provide maps if necessary), and the RSVP details.

3. Create A Schedule. Save yourself time and nerves by planning and jotting down when you'll actually be doing everything that needs to be done for the big night. For instance, since chopping vegetables is often the most time consuming part of a recipe, it makes sense to do it the day before, leaving you with more time to relax and regroup the day of the dinner party. If you know when to shop, chop and eat, you'll not only feel better, but you'll be more productive, and be a better host to your guests.

4. Decide Which Guests Will Sit Where. There are many views on the best way to seat people to stir up good conversations, but at the end of the day you know your companions best. Some guidelines to consider: Place chatty people at the center of the table, and on opposite sides. This way, the conversation won't be constricted to one part of the table. Seat close friends apart to encourage new connections and to make everyone feel equally included. Focus on finding links between people. For instance, does your best friend and your boss have similar taste in music? If so, they might thoroughly enjoy each other's company if they're sitting side by side, or across from one another if the table isn't too wide. Play matchmaker by seating individuals you think might have a spark together.

5. Mingle, Mingle, Mingle. As the host, it's part of your "job" to make everyone feel equally important and to create connections. This often means helping to start up conversations between invitees by bringing up things they share in common. Also, it goes without saying, but make sure you talk to everyone, and spend equal time talking with all of your guests.

6. Don't Stress About Cleanliness -Except For the Bathroom. While it's unlikely attendees will be roaming your entire house during a dinner party, most are probably going to need to use the restroom at some point. That said, they're likely to judge the cleanliness of your entire home by the state of your bathroom, according to Cosmpolitan, so once you've designated which bathroom (if you have more than one) you'd like diners to use, it would be wise to do a thorough cleaning. And don't forget to have extra toilet paper, towels, and plenty of hand soap!

7. Have fun! You play a big role in setting the overall mood of the evening, and if you're stressed and not having a good time, guests will sense that and might act accordingly. Besides, what's the point of putting in all this work if you're not going to enjoy yourself? Keep in mind that invitees will probably not notice many of the details you're obsessing over, so take a deep breath and have fun!

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