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15 Simple Dinner Party Ideas

Clever tips and foolproof strategies for making holiday (or any-day) entertaining a breeze. 

Red white and gold dinner table
David Meredith
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Move to the Dinner Table

Spirited conversation is a dinner party’s bread and butter, but sometimes it needs a nudge.

Manage moods. At holiday time, people tend to arrive hungry (and ready to indulge), so don’t make them wait too long for the main event.

Make a scene. For easy ooh factor, use a white tablecloth, white dishes, and just one or two rich accent colors (say, cranberry and amber). Flowers and centerpieces should be tall enough to talk under or short enough to talk over.

A place (card) for everyone. Seating plans may seem formal, but they actually make guests more comfortable. Think about who would benefit from particular placement: small children (seat near a parent), couples (split them up to encourage mixing), and hearing-impaired guests (reserve a quiet corner chair or seat them front and center, depending on personality). Then fill in the blanks.

Set the sideboard. Turn a console into a convenient, arm’s reach refilling station. Load it with wine, carafes of water, and spare utensils to eliminate supply runs.

Be present. Each time you get up to fetch something, you essentially abandon your guests. A host’s primary duty isn’t to feed people (really!) but to spend time with them. Serve family-style, and forget cleaning up midevent. Carrying plates to the kitchen is one thing; but once you turn on a tap, you’ve doused the festivity.

Welcome red-wine glass in gray (on sideboard), $15, crateandbarrel.com. Goblet water glass in amber, $20, billycotton.com. Stonewashed Belgian linen tablecloth, $89, rh.com. Spruce candelabra (on sideboard), $885, thefutureperfect.com. Tall cylindrical ceramic vase in red (similar to shown), $95, atwestend.com. Match Convivio soup and pasta bowl, $107, gracioushome.com. Pomegranate place cards, $45 for 12, mrsstrong.com. Molten pitcher, $199, michaelaram.com.

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