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15 Simple Dinner Party Ideas

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

Credenza with sweets and coffee tray
David Meredith
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Dessert in the Living Room

Relocating for sweets and coffee lets guests stretch their legs and switch up conversation partners.

Abandon the mess. Walk away from the dinner detritus with everyone else. It makes guests feel relaxed and lets you seem chill, even if you’re not.

Build a framework. Set up your dessert infrastructure—plates, napkins, forks—on a side table before the party. In the kitchen, stash a filled creamer in the fridge and have the coffeemaker ready for action. Serving only decaf saves a lot of trouble and makes most everyone happy.

Cheer at the finish line. At the holidays, Champagne after the meal is a nice surprise. It’s one of those delightful little touches that people remember.

Make minis. Fend off “just a sliver” requests (and unwanted diet banter) with smallish desserts—cupcakes, brownies, or cookies—that guests can serve themselves, without comment or cajoling. (They’re also a natural choice after a big feast.)

Pretreat. To really spoil guests, set out a warm-up to the dessert course—fancy chocolates or salted caramels—while you ready the baked goods. (Don’t forget the desserts that guests brought!) Sweet cheeses and nuts with a dessert wine provide the right coda for the sugar-averse.

Toscana two-tier centerpiece, $790, tabulatua.com. Spheres creamer with wicker handle, $49; Domus French-press coffeepot with large wicker handle, $155; and Spheres sugar bowl with wicker handle and spoon, $55: shophorne.com. Tourron mug in lemon (similar to shown), $30, michaelcfina.com. Festival cocktail napkins in mustard, $23 for four, sferra.com.

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