This post is part of the Party Primer Series. Answers to all of your party and event planning questions.
If you’re having a dinner party (or any party, really) the focus is going to fall to one thing – the food. Believe me. All the amazing decorations, music and entertainment in the world can’t make up for bad food. So before you even begin to worry about what you’re going to serve, start thinking about how in the world you’re going to prepare it.
Traditionally, of course, the hostess takes on the task of preparing the entire meal for her guests. If we want to get really traditional, the hostess’s private full-time cook makes the meal, but since so few of us employ our own cooks these days (and if you do, let me know! I’ll be over for dinner!) we are left with a blank slate when it comes to preparation.
There are several common ways to go about preparing and serving your guests a meal. I’ve listed these choices these in order of most difficult and time consuming to least.
1. Prepare the entire meal by yourself; the least fun and most time consuming of all your options, knowing that, it can also be the most rewarding, if you’re the kind of person who likes a lot of compliments and praise.
2. Prepare the entire meal with the help of your significant other; this is only a good option if you both like to cook and already do so together regularly. Forcing your boyfriend to cook Coq A Vin for your parents the first time the two of you are in the kitchen together will cause chaos and tears.
3. Prepare the entire meal with the help of a good friend; try not to drink so much wine that you’re completely sauced before dinner. Harder then it sounds.
4. Prepare part of the meal and purchase the rest from Whole Foods or your local gourmet grocer, then complete the prep yourself; I like this one.
5. Prepare part of the meal yourself and ask your guests to bring sides, appetizers or desserts; commonly known as a pot-luck. This is fine for casual events but I don’t recommend it for fancier occasions.
6. Order carry-out from a reputable and reliable restaurant; don’t try to pass it off as food you’ve cooked yourself. You’re not fooling anyone.
Tell your guests that you’ve got the drinks covered if they’ll bring over some food because you don’t have a thing in the house. No. Don’t do this. Ever. Seriously.
8. Go to a restaurant; not usually recommended with groups larger than 6, unless advanced plans have been made, or its a slow night or off hours.
Honestly, any of these is a perfectly fine way to enjoy an evening with your guests. The choice is yours and depends on your skills in the kitchen and the atmosphere you’d like to convey for the event. Going all in and preparing the entire meal from scratch may be a fine option for you if you’re skilled in the kitchen and want to show off a bit.