How to: Throw a Dinner Party in A Pinch

The Thanksgiving Edition 

You have 10+ confirmed orphaned friends. You have slightly decent cooking skillz. You just received a boatload of amazing kitchen gadgets for wedding presents. You, my friend, are poised to be the best Party Hostess of 2013.  Now what? Here are a few simple party tools that work well in a pinch and leave a lasting impression.

ONE

An easy to use online invitation. I prefer Paperless Post. The event management tracker is worth the pain the guests have to go through to click through the invite (yes... that was a pain for one of my guests #lazyass). And it's prettier than email. I'm always about the first impressions.

Friendsgiving Invite from Paperless Post

TWO

Start menu planning immediately. For our Friendsgiving 2013 party, I decided a potluck would be fun, since we have a bunch of European friends attending, and honestly, less stress for me as the host. I decided to cook the turkey and make the mash.

  • Did you know you need at least 1.5 lbs per guest?
  • Another tip: make some of the food ahead day before - in my instance the mashed potatoes. The only thing I need to do on Thanksgiving Day is watch the turkey and ensure the environment is inviting, including a happy hostess.
  • On the happy hostess. Be sure to be low stress when guests arrive. There is nothing like showing up to a party with a stressed out hostess. It stresses the guests. You want your guests to have fun not be indentured servants.

THREE

 Break the ice with booze and greet guests in Style With a Signature Drink. A few ideas.

  • Pictured below is is a gorgeous cider champagne cocktail from Style Me Pretty.
  • I think I will keep it simple and inexpensive and just serve Prosecco.
  • Always have water or a non alcoholic drink available for those who are non drinkers. I have a snazzy new soda maker I've been dying to use and is perfect in this instance.

A Signature Cocktail To Greet Guests - Style Me Pretty

FOUR

Add simple little touches that rival Martha Stewart's decorating prowess.

Golden Pumpkin Name Tag

  • A can of gold spray paint and mini pumpkins go a long way. Use for place holder / name cards at the table
  • Wrap napkins and silverware in twine
  • Gather leaves from the yard (or in my case the sidewalk) and use for table decor or name tags
  • Colorful potatoes, corn, really anything works for Thanksgiving.

FIVE

Engage the group during the meal with games.

  • Utilize that pile of paper sacks from Trader Joes and make "I am thankful for" placemats.
  • Wine Taste while you are eating apps. This is a tradition carried over from my In Laws and their friends. This year we are asking our friends to bring a red wine, under $30, from the region nearest their home.
  • Play Blind Man's Bluff after dinner. You know the game where you stick a card on your forehead and guess the character, place, etc in Inglourious Bastards?

I am Thankful For Game for the Table While Eating 

 SIX

To press the Hostess with the Mostest thing...

  • Always look the part. You don't have to wear your heels and fancy dress, be comfortable but chic. The perfect uniform here.
  • After the prep and when dinner rolls around - leave the mess until your guests have left. Don't do dishes and tidy too much in front of guests. It's the first signal the party is over. If you are like me, messes make you crazy so be as organized as possible. Have several places for dirty dishes and trash designated for those who like to clean up after themselves. Clean as you cook, and ask a co-host who understands your OCD tendencies to help you tidy.
  • Before guests arrive, put on your favorite festive playlist, your lipstick, and have a drink to relax!