Maybe The Great Gatsby is to blame, but an extravagant dinner party always feels a bit like an age-old dance.
There is a magical quality that comes along with the great company, delicious food, fun drinks, and a comforting ambience. It is a lavish and lovely affair that exists in-between the palpable hum of good conversation and the scent of freshly baked pastries.
It also requires plenty of planning and preparation to pull off, especially if you want to enjoy any of it while it’s happening.
The kitchen ranks supreme as the space of most importance for any extravagant dinner party, whether or not it will be doubling as the eating area.
It is certainly important to have at least one clean and stocked restroom readily available for guests, but in terms of making the night flow seamlessly, the most crucial space to prepare well is the kitchen.
Begin your preparations by cleaning and paring down. Remove clutter and stow personal items (like children’s drawings) to avoid any damage and to create a visually clean space.
Counters and floors should be completely cleared and wiped down, and appliances will need some attention as well.
When hosting an extravagant dinner party, it is likely that your appliances will come under some heavy use, so maintain them in advance to prevent any issues from arising.
Aside from disinfecting and cleaning areas and appliances like the microwave, refrigerator, stovetop, and faucets for hygienic purposes (and so no one loses their appetite), it is also a good idea to run any cycles that will help preserve the life and effectiveness of your machines.
Set the oven to self-clean, empty and refresh the ice bin, and thoroughly clean your dishwasher, which will likely endure lots of use come clean-up time. If your time is tight (we hear you), you may want to plan a cleaning schedule to tackle all of the small projects in the days leading up to your extravagant dinner party.
Just remember to do something like cleaning the microwave towards the end, if you use it regularly, so you don’t have to waste time on repeat cleanings.
Once the foundation of your kitchen is clean and in basic party-shape, it’s time to think about the mood of your soirée. What will the food be like? Is there a theme?
Select one or two elements to centre your atmosphere around. Choose smokier lighting for a more elegant, nighttime affair and floral arrangements that complement your chosen mood.
Consider items like place cards and disposable cocktail napkins as further possibilities to accent your party with particular colours, patterns, or vibes.
The dinner setting itself is also something to spend time considering, and the best ideas may depend on whether or not the kitchen is serving both as a food prep station as well as a gathering hub, providing the night’s seating.
If the party is taken outdoors to eat, for example, different choices may be preferable for decisions like where to stock a bar or coffee station, what type of lighting to use, and what sort of table dressings might be best. Alfresco dining also requires consideration of any potential weather impacts and common insects, like flies and mosquitoes.
Depending on the shape and size of your eating surface, you may opt for a runner and a bare table, rather than a traditional, full-coverage table cloth. Take into consideration guests’ outfits when making these functional dinner table decisions, as well.
If guests are going to be wearing more restrictive clothing types, make arrangements for seating and standing to help accommodate those conditions. For tables that need coverage, individual placemats will afford more legroom and less distress for guests in full-length dresses, while the tabletop remains protected.
When deciding what to pre-place on your table arrangement, consider the flow of food and beverages. Will guests already have a drink in their hand before they sit down to eat? If so, consider leaving only a water glass. If not, you may want each guest to have their own wine glass to fill, or you may want to have a bar nearby so that selections may be made right near the table.
Also, If food is going to be in a buffet-style, at or near the eating table, leave plates, flatware, and napkins at each setting. For situations where food will be plated and then served, or otherwise catered, keep plates in the kitchen or near that source to avoid having to collect and carry place settings back and forth.
Within the cooking space of your kitchen, consider the flow of traffic regarding your guests. If you plan to have hors d’oeuvres, think about the placement that will maximize conversation and not create any overly crowded areas.
If you and/or others will be working in the kitchen as guests mingle nearby or right around you, consider what cookware you may want to move to a handier position so as to not have to cut in-between people or pull out the step stool.
It may also be a great idea to create a cooking schedule, which can help in planning what culinary tools need to be accessible at certain points throughout the evening and what can be prepared in advance.
Extravagant dinner parties tend to have more expert menus, and whether you are cooking from scratch or warming things up, you will need to have space and patience to handle your menu safely.
As such, plan your kitchen layout both offensively and defensively. Cater to guests’ potential needs and wants with easy access to food and drink and try not to force them to do too much work if possible. For example, the excessive plate-carrying mentioned above, not being able to find a trash receptacle, or not having a place to put their beverage down will certainly be annoyances to guests.
Protect yourself, as well, though! If you need a certain amount of space while you are commanding your kitchen and executing your party plans, be sure to set up a virtual boundary for yourself. Place snacks and reasons to linger beyond your working bubble and work confidently knowing that you have a plan.
There is undoubtedly a lot to consider and plenty to prepare when it comes to throwing your own extravagant dinner party, but it is a memorable experience that can continue to bring happiness for years to come when you really get the chance to enjoy it as it’s happening.
Overprepare in the kitchen and bask in your timeless night with the ones you care about.