With summer and the promise of longer days around the corners, it makes sense that people are itching to get out in the sunshine. Impromptu gatherings are a hallmark of this lovely season, whether it be around a great big fire roasting marshmallows or sitting on a patio with friends, enjoying the balmy twilight over sangria. But no matter how informal you decide to make your hangouts, there’s always some degree of planning involved.
This planning is ramped up to a whole new level with dinner parties. For the unorganized among us, it may even trigger a horrendous flashback or two of a roast duck gone awry. Not only do dinner parties involve more planning than your average party, but it usually runs your budget up pretty quickly.
Or does it?
After all, who said dinner parties had to be planned down to the nitty-gritty details? Who said it had to cost you a chunk of your child’s uni fund? Whoever it was, we’d care not to associate with them, as dinner parties can be cheaper and more spur-of-the-moment than you might think. So how can you pull off such an effortless soiree?
1, Plan a budget
Right–we just got done mentioning how you don’t need to plan as much as you think. While this is true, mapping out a budget before diving into the details will save both your wallet and peace of mind. If you’re not sure how to fit a dinner party into your existing budget, take a look at your monthly expenses and see where you could cut corners. For example, skip one of your weekly lunches out and put those funds toward your budget. You can adjust this depending on how much you want to save. In the end, it’s more responsible for thinking ahead about logistics like this than flying by the seat of your trousers.
2. Cast your net a week in advance
No, we’re not talking about serving week-old fish to your guests; that’s a little too low-budget for most people. But once you’ve set your budget and decided how many people you want to invite, casually mention the idea to your guests a week in advance. It’s early enough to potentially lock them down for the coming weekend without making it feel too event-y. Once you’ve piqued their interest, remind them a couple of days later, mid-week perhaps, that you’ll still be throwing the dinner party and would love to have them come. A week’s notice with a gentle reminder or two throughout the week sets a laid-back, no-obligations vibe, which in turn makes the dinner party itself even more enticing.
3. Family style
Individual plating is for the caterers, which we assume you are not. But it’s not like you’re trying to reinvent the dinner party; all you want to do is have some dear friends over for great food, great drinks, and a few laughs. Keep it casual by serving your main courses family-style, or in sizable portions that everyone can pass around and share. Not only is it easier for you to prepare, but sharing food from the same pot or plate creates a beautiful, communal intimacy. Besides, who wouldn’t want to bond over plentiful helpings of delicious food?
4. Simple decorations
Don’t order that Swarovski chandelier just yet; a laid-back dinner party calls for laid-back decorations. If you already live in a clean and nicely-decorated home, then you may have to do very little at all to add a touch of whimsy to your home (and also, we’re pretty envious). But there are few simple touches you can add before your guests arrive to add coziness, comfort, and style to your dinner party. Fill everyday objects like mason jars with fresh-cut summer flowers, or light a candle or two in the kitchen or outdoor seating area. Add a beautiful note of understated class to your table with top restaurant quality tablecloths from Richard Haworth; you don’t have to splurge on fine china to feel like you’re fine dining.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Asking guests to bring their own alcohol not only takes the pressure off of you to provide every available liquor or beer under the sun and saves you a fat chunk of money, but guests can choose what they want to drink and how much of it by bringing their own. Everyone gets what they want while you, the chic and industrious host, gets a break.
Now that you’re armed with a few savvy tips on how to throw your own “impromptu” dinner party, you’d better pack a sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch–you’ll be needing that lunch money for your next dinner party!