Whether you’re a total rookie or a seasoned host, we’ve got you covered with all of the key hosting steps to tick off your list so you won’t have to worry about a thing!

Work backwards.

When preparing a menu, think about which courses will take the longest to prepare and and which ones take the longest to cook. Plan around those. This will make timing your courses easier and help to budget oven and stove top space.

Write down cooking temperatures. Yes, with actual pen and paper!

Unfortunately, not everything cooks at the same temperature. Make sure to take note of which dishes take longer, which ones need time to cool before eating, which ones require a certain oven location, and the varying cooking temperatures when you're menu planning.

Plan ahead.

Dinner parties don’t just happen. Make categories of tasks that need accomplishing two weeks before, a week before, three days before, the morning of, and in the hour before, so you can see it all in front of you and physically tick each off when they are accomplished.

Don’t overcomplicate. Keep it simple, silly!

If you’re a rookie, there is no reason to make a full 12 course meal on your maiden voyage. Pick 3. Serve either an appetizer, main, and dessert, a bunch of small, snackable dishes, or little hors d’oeuvres, an appetizer and a main. You can dress it up with plating and decor.

Plan for Plan B’s.

Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro when it comes to dinner parties, everyone should have Plan B’s for your more work-heavy dishes and finicky decor. No one will ever turn down a fun pizza if one of your dishes doesn’t turn out and fruits and veg always make great centerpieces if you’re in a pinch. Make sure to take note of this in the planning stage so you can have your understudies ready and waiting in the wings.

To quote High School Musical, “Stick to the status quo.”

A dinner party for 10 is not the time to try a new dish. Best to stick with the old reliables when you have guests. Save the experimentation for a solo Sunday or a fun friend date playing in the kitchen.

Make your budget early…but leave a little wiggle room.

Budgeting is hard and dinner parties do have a tendency to get a bit pricey. Rather than shopping then figuring out the $$$ afterwards, budget out your menu as you make it to make sure you’re not overspending. If you have one dish that requires fancy meat, opt for a salad of seasonal vegetables to limit other costs.

Budget your time, too!

Like money, time is also a limited resource. Stay on budget with the clock by having one cooked dish and one bought like a rotisserie chicken.

Make your grocery list as soon as possible.

It’s all too easy to over shop, but it’s just as easy to run out of things that you pay less mind to. Use this guide to see how much ice, wine, butter, and other oft-forgotten essentials you might need.

Have a schedule, but be flexible.

It’s always comforting to know what’s coming next, but it’s also important to know that a dinner party is a living, breathing thing, with living, breathing people. Things will change, so let your plan be malleable. It’s always best to make your lists and plans with pen and paper. That way you can see everything in front of you and feel the triumph of crossing something off the list when it’s done.

Always have a non-alcoholic alternative for drinks.

Sometimes your guests won’t want a cocktail but it’s still always nice to have something to hold while chatting. Luckily, there are so many fun mocktail recipes out there to try!

Pick a theme.

If you don’t know where to start, picking a theme always helps narrow down the decisions you have to make…and it’s fun. Check out our options here for a little inspo!

Time your courses!

When timing your courses, keep in mind which ones need to be served hot, which need a few minutes to cool down before cutting or serving, and which can be made a few days ahead and kept in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready. Also make sure that there are a few menu items that don’t need cooking to ensure a steady flow to the meal and that there are no mid-meal surprises or dashes to the kitchen to stir or unstick.

Figure out whether your meal will be plated in the kitchen, served on the table, or done buffet style.

This will help you make sure you have all of the necessary dishes and utensils as well as the space and necessary tablecloths and mats to protect your table or floor.

Plan ahead for an extra head.

Hosting a dinner party means expecting the unexpected. When you're shopping, cooking, and setting up, always plan for one more guest than you're expecting. You never know who will just happen to be in town or who you'll run into at the grocery store.

Freezing is key.

Deciding to make something early and pop it in the oven when you need it isn’t cheating. It’s just smart. This is where casseroles, lasagnas, and other baked dishes like moussaka come in handy.

Prep non-food bits the day before.

Hide your unmentionables, set the table, plan your outfit, set the schedule for the evening, load the dishwasher, and take out everything you might need to get ready the day (or a few days) in advance.

Always let people know what they can bring. Don’t leave it up to the guest.

If you’re making a meat heavy meal, let them know they can bring a bottle of red. If you didn’t make a dessert, let your guests bring something sweet.

Make sure you have enough disposable tupperware.

If you’re going to want to share some leftovers at the end of the night, make sure you have enough containers and totes that you don't mind sharing (and probably never seeing again). Limited fridge space is no joke and everyone loves a midnight snack.

Empty your dishwasher and sink.

Cooking all day means that you've probably used an ungodly number of dishes. To ensure that you have enough left for serving and eating, it’s best to have them all cleaned and on hand. Also, there is nothing more stressful than waking up to a mountain of sticky plates and pans in the morning. Chances are that your sink will be back to full by the end of the evening, so better to limit toppling potential at the start.

Clean and clear as you go.

Counter space is like gold, especially when you live in a small apartment. Clear as you go so you can optimize how much you have to work on and serve with.

Account for tempering time.

Remember that certain things need time to temper. Keep butter and certain cheeses out to get to room temperature before you’re ready to serve them.

Blow out the scented candles!

After spending all day toiling over a 9-hr red wine braised short rib, you want to smell that, not a Bath&Body Works vanilla-scented candle. Make sure to have unscented candles on the table for an atmosphere that doesn’t take away from the meal.

Have your playlist prepared.

When you're guests arrive, you should be able to enjoy being the host, not the DJ. A playlist is an easy thing to prep or pick in advance. If you have a theme, plan the music around it. Otherwise jazz, oldies, and classical are always safe bets.

Test your lighting.

You don’t want it to be too dark that you can’t see the food or your company, but you also don’t want bright, dentist-white lights. Enough for good photos of your meal and tablescape, but not so much to conduct a surgery is a good happy medium when it comes to lighting.

Mise en place, always!

Seeing everything out and measured is always helpful, and also a good way to make sure you have everything you need.

Make sure you have a new bin bag in the rubbish bin.

Dinner parties create more waste than you could possibly imagine. Prepare yourself!

Stock your bathroom!

There is nothing worse than having to interrupt a dinner party to ask for toilet paper. Make sure your bathroom is fully stocked before your guests arrive.

Sit down!

When you’re attending a dinner party and don’t know many people, there is nothing more nerve-wracking than the host (your one friend) spending the entire night in the kitchen. Don’t be that host. Make sure that you have enough ready before people arrive so you can be the ringleader and team captain making introductions and setting the tone.

Don’t exhaust yourself.

Remember that dinner parties are supposed to be fun. Enjoy the fruits of your labor! If you're tired and stressed, your guests will feel it.

Introduce, introduce, entertain.

Do your guests know one another? Think of a few conversation prompts, icebreakers, or easy games to play at the start of the night to get the chitter chatter flowing.

Know your menu.

Make sure to know what all you’re cooking with so you can have the answers ready when asked about allergies or dietary restrictions.

Curate the coat situation.

Think about a designated coat area so your guests’ purses and jackets aren’t strewn all over the house.