Here’s a handy guide to help make hosting a ‘soirée’ a great success…
1 Step one, get organised with a ‘master’ to-do list as well as a shopping list. Also put together a guest list, where you can keep track of contact info, RSVPs and any special dietary requirements. Make it clear whether children are welcome or not.
2 Plan a stress-free menu and clear out the fridge and freezer to make room. Choose recipes that can be prepared ahead of time (even frozen), with just warming and assembly required on the day. Purchase all of your non-perishables early on and then wait until the day before the party to buy salad greens, fresh bread, dairy, seafood, etc. Opt for sauces and dressings that can be prepared beforehand and refrigerated, and do as much prep (chopping, dicing, marinating and rinsing) beforehand, so you’re not saddled with it all at the last minute. Your aim is to be free to enjoy your own party and not be tied to the kitchen the whole time.
3 Make sure the front yard and garden is presentable for outdoor entertaining, clean the house from top to toe (tackling any piles of clutter), clean and polish up the glassware, crockery, cutlery and silverware you plan on using and wash and iron your table linens if necessary.
4 Take inventory of the cookware and serving dishes you’ll need. A good idea is to label each dish, so you’ll remember what you plan to use it for on the day.
5 Be considerate and inform your neighbours about the party. Let them know if cars will be parked outside their house – better still, invite them to join you!
6 Kit out the guest bathroom with clean hand towels, soap, an extra roll or two of loo paper and add a scented candle or fragrant diffuser.
7 Whether you’re hosting indoors or out, tone down the lighting to make it as soft as possible using lanterns, candles and floor lamps, etc.
8 Compile a party playlist. The music should be upbeat, in-keeping with the theme if you have one and feature enough tracks to last throughout the party.
9 When stocking the bar, plan on three bottles of wine for every four people, with three to four cocktails per guest (this is usually sufficient for a two- to three-hour dinner party).
10 Buy and arrange flowers the day before, so they’ll still look pretty and fresh. And keep your table settings simple. For instance, tie plates and cutlery together with pretty ribbon or fabric, handwrite name tags and tie them to the stem of a bloom or add a vibrant napkin for a pop of colour. Set the table/s the night before or first thing in the morning.
11 One to two hours before party time, set out appetisers and snacks that won’t spoil. Wrap them tightly to ensure freshness and tear off the wrap when the first guests start to arrive.
12 Arrange furniture so that your guests can gather together and also move around easily. Pack away any precious items and breakables.
13 If you’re setting up a buffet table, make sure that it’s accessible from all sides. Set up the bar away from the food and have a separate coffee and dessert station for later on. Quick idea: If you’re planning on preparing cheese platters, label each one (name and flavour), so guests know what they are.
14 If kids are welcome, set up an area for them to have their own fun. Cover their table with brown paper and place crayons or chalk in jars to keep them occupied. Plastic or disposable tableware is the way to go here to avoid any accidents.
15 Have a designated out-of-sight area for dirty dishes and glasses; keep extra dustbin bags handy, as well as a ‘clean-up kit’ for breakages and spills (drying cloths, a mop, broom and dustpan).
Finally, don’t forget that as the host you set the tone for the party. Give yourself time before everyone arrives to freshen up, slip into something fabulous and open the door with a big smile – and cocktail in hand, of course. Enjoy!