Stay Sane While You Entertain: 10 Tips for an Unforgettable Dinner Party

With the help of these tips and tricks, you’ll pull off the hottest gathering while staying cool as a summer cocktail.

The temperature is climbing, the sun is out and you can feel the old yearning to host a friend-filled gathering returning. There’s no denying it: Summer is the season of the dinner party. To keep you sane while preparing to entertain, we’ve collected 10 tips and tricks for keeping a cool head from prep to champagne popping.

  1. Decide who to invite plus when and where you’re hosting. It’s important to consider how large of an event you want to oversee, how much prep time you will need and whether any of your invited guests have dietary restrictions to consider. Stay on top of your soirée-planning strategy by mapping out your “who,” “what,” “where” and “when” from the jump so that you know how to apply your resources. You can even use a scheduling app like GoHappy to find a date and time where everyone is free!

  2. Make a preparation timeline from two weeks before to the day of your party. Nothing throws off a party mood like finding yourself faced with hosting an event of unanticipated scale or scrambling at the last minute. To make sure you really are the hostess with the mostest, break down the planning and procuring of everything from ingredients to invitations to decor at meaningful intervals.

  3. Balance the splurge-and-save. A few key touches immediately elevate your space without breaking the bank. Take a cue from colorful designer and stylist Bri Emory of Designlovefest and design menus highlighting the courses of your meal. Include common allergens to keep your guests informed!

  4. Get seasonal with decorations. Opt for farmer’s markets to gather bold blooms for a floral centerpiece on your table, or channel all the earthy goodness of the season with this strawberry chocolate wreath centerpiece.

  5. Set up appetizers and drinks off to the side of the main gathering area. Cheese plates with garnishes and spreads ready-to-go is a great way to serve appetizers without having to navigate mingling guests. Have white wine and rosé chilling in buckets so that those of your wine-loving friends who decline red don’t have to wade through people to the fridge.

  6. Savor the season by tapping nature’s own rotating flavor palette. Make your dinner party even more *spirited* with a bright and citrusy cocktail, like this refreshing “Magic Juice” sipper.

  7. Stick to recipes you’ve made before, or that seem fancy but are secretly easy. You can also minimize prep and stress following a big dinner with this clever dessert bar idea—combine after-dinner drinks and dessert into one by adding some liquor to make it a little more adult!

  8. The devil is in the details, so stock up on extra napkins and ice. Light a perfumed candle in the bathroom and another in the main room just before your guests arrive.

  9. Set the mood, then relax and enjoy. The day of your party, make sure everything is clean, the trash is taken out and candles are lit. Queue up your playlist and pour yourself a glass of wine about 20 minutes before guests arrive. The planning is over; now it’s time to party!

  10. After everyone eats, hold off on doing dishes—nothing kills the party mood faster! Reward yourself for your hard work by staying in the moment. Oh, and grab seconds on dessert.