Dinner parties are different than other parties, and quite a bit more nerve-wracking to plan and execute. They are not impossible, however, and are very satisfying and memorable when done correctly. Unlike other parties, which tend to put the emphasis on a holiday, a certain occasion, or, possibly, the entertainment offered, dinner parties are largely about the mix of people and the food. Dinner party planning often starts with a desire to serve a certain dish or desert! It is hoped that the guest mix will be compatible and the conversation interesting, and that every guest will enjoy the food.
Dinner parties tend to be smaller and more intimate than other types of gatherings. They also provide a chance for the hosts to break out all the good glassware and china and enjoy it. If the host does not own good dinnerware (or owns too little), it can always be rented. The same is true for table linens. Many hosts choose to rent such things because it is simply easier and more efficient. The mix of guests is an important factor in dinner party planning. Table conversation will provide the bulk of the entertainment, so it is well worthwhile to insure that compatible people are seated near one another.
Some dinner parties are given for business reasons, some as an approach toward establishing a friendship, and some are simply a way for old friends to sit and visit. The host must decide what foods will be served, then shop and prepare in plenty of time so that he or she is actually available to visit with the guests. Dinner party planning usually involves drinks and perhaps some finger foods before dinner is served. Once dinner is served, guests are usually seated by the hosts. After dinner, it is customary to move to a living room or other area for coffee or drinks.
The most important thing to remember when hosting a dinner party is that it should be relaxed and comfortable. Dinner party planning tends to concentrate on the food, especially at the eleventh hour, when guests are about to arrive. The well-versed host knows to get every possible detail done beforehand, so that she or he can mingle, restart lagged conversation, and actually enjoy the feast that has been prepared. Guests take their cues from hosts. So remember that a relaxed host who is honestly enjoying the company will find that the guests are doing the same.