3 Tips to Throwing a Successful Dinner Party

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This past week was a time of freshening up the home, cleaning up the yard and garden, and getting ready for a big dinner party that’s happening tonight in our backyard!

For me, some days are full of joy, generously strewn along my pathway, glistening in the sunlight.

Don't Impress Dinner Party

In true excitement, that would be tonight, as 14 bloggers join my family and me for a backyard dinner party. Our guests are coming for a Harry & David blogging event, but they’re starting the night off with the Coughlins! We feel so honored!

Lights - Don't Impress Dinner Party

Back to the joys of entertaining. I’m really content when I entertain. There’s an element of it that I really love, I think it’s part of my DNA, my love-language–cooking and giving and bringing people together. I thought I’d share my 3 tips to throwing a successful dinner party:

3 tips for throwing a successful dinner party:

1. Throw out the rules:

Don’t get caught up in impressing. Create a menu, add a few extra touches, and for my husband and me (we are our own gardeners!), get the backyard and entertaining space as nice as it can be. But remember, you can go crazy trying to make it all perfect. When it comes to people coming to your home, get rid of the preconceived ideas that they are coming to inspect. They are coming for you and others! So I’ve learned to let the dinner party reflect who we are in southern Oregon, a reflection of our family’s style and taste.

2. Prioritize and plan:

-Define your limits or else the temptation to go overboard can be dangerous. Define the 3 most important aspects of your dinner party and plan to make it happen (so you’re not scrambling last minute when guests are coming). I’m saying to focus on 3, because you don’t want to overwhelm yourself.

– Quality of the food: We enjoy showing our love by making homemade food and cooking from our garden. Tonight we are using Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, and ground cherries and squash fresh from the ground.

– Make one or two areas the Star of the Show: It could be the tabletop, or possibly the appetizer area, the lighting, or even the entertainment (live music?), or the play list. You choose what’s important to you!

3. Think about who’s coming:

How can you get to know this person better, what are the attributes of this person, offer up prayers asking how you can bless the people at your table, who will sit by who (place cards), and how you, as the hostess, can connect your guests with others.

Don't Impress Dinner Party

Don't Impress Dinner Party

I try to remind myself why I entertain to begin with. It helps me keep my priorities straight, to block out silly, misconceived rules and ideas that we always need to impress, and that things need to be SO perfect. We have 2 bathrooms that desperately need remodeling. If we waited for those renovations to happen before entertaining, I think about all the connections and joys of getting to know other people that our family would have missed out on.

So tonight … the elements of joy and all of us being together tonight will make the ambience come alive – I can just feel it. Many of us meeting for the very first time (but knowing each other online for years), these Harry & David dinners are mini reunions for bloggers, and at the same time, we all know that Harry & David’s focus is on people–giving, gifts, and hospitality.

Coming together in a simple home, sharing the common life in a simple backyard in southern Oregon, with a hint of gold-tinged love surrounding the table (just like their gold gift-wrapped pear), I’m reminded how food and people and love are what make a successful dinner party.

Do you get scared when it comes to hosting, or are you a natural? What would you like for me to explore more on RE when it comes to entertaining?

I did my shopping at the Harry & David  Country village, as they are providing food and drink; and tables were provided by a very cool local business in Medford, Rosewood Vintage Rentals.

Shopping Harry & David

Local and traveling friends, did you know that you can tour the Harry & David kitchen?

17 comments on “3 Tips to Throwing a Successful Dinner Party”

  1. Pingback: Crab Cake Poppers and Friday Faves - foodiecrush

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  3. Pingback: Dinner Party Menu with Apple Cake and Warm Custard Sauce | reluctantentertainer.com Reluctant Entertainer I Sandy Coughlin - Lifestyle, Entertaining, Food, Recipes, Hospitality and Gardening

  4. Pingback: Setting a Pear Chalkboard Tabletop for Dinner Guests | reluctantentertainer.com Reluctant Entertainer I Sandy Coughlin - Lifestyle, Entertaining, Food, Recipes, Hospitality and Gardening

  5. I also find dinner challenging with guests now that we have two young kids and another on the way. We default to inviting families with young kids for ours to play with, so I can get a chance at some fellowship and not be cook/hostess/babysitter the whole time. Of our guests don’t have kids, my husband ends up doing all the hosting ( which he is great at) and I am mostly in the background with the kids’ needs. We aren’t in a place yet to do dinners/parties after kids in bed, and another stressor is guests without kids don’t ever seem to notice when it’s getting late and we need to wind down for bedtime. I hate having a time limit on the evening but that’s our reality right now. Any tips?

  6. I second that Debi! Sandy, you are one in a million! I find it challenging to host parties now that I have a young child, did you entertain when your kids were very young?

  7. Your gathering is going to be a wonderful time of sharing and feeling the love. I adore the bright colors of the leaves against the yellow bucket…..I always feel I fall short on things like these. My biggest fears and excuse for not having people over for dinner is because I am always fretting about what should I cook? what foods go well together? should I have wine? The list goes on from there.

  8. The fact that you pray for your guests… that touched my heart. As someone who believes that prayer changes things, I was moved by your big picture thinking. What is entertaining really? Do those people (the guests) care if a bathroom needs updating? Nope, they care about you, about camaraderie, about fellowship. This was such a great reminder. I think I am going to throw caution to the wind and invite some friends over, even if my laundry is piled up in the corner and the carpet is worn and tattered. Thanks for this! :)

  9. Your backyard is so dreamy Sandy! Love these tips for a dinner party, I haven’t thrown one in years. But you inspire me to get back to it!

  10. Yes I get very scared at times when my husband and I entertain. What are good food choices to have when there are kids at the table? Hospitality is so important and we want to give the Lord an opportunity to bless people through us by having them in our home. We don’t have kids and I don’t know how to handle them! Kids are such a blessing and precious to God :) Thank you for your blog.

  11. Have a wonderful time tonight with your guests. The world would definitely be a better place if more people were as warm and thoughtful as you Sandy:-)

  12. Thank you for these fantastic tips everything looks amazing!

  13. Your yard is gorgeous – so excited to follow along virtually tonight! Have a great time Sandy!! xo

  14. Great to see you’re still able to get out in the back garden even at this time of year in southern Oregon…

    You’re right too, don’t sweat the small stuff!

    The PicnicShop Team

  15. I just love that about you – that your goal is to love others well through the art of hospitality. You gals are going to have an absolute blast! I’ll drink a glass of wine in y’alls honor tonight ;)

  16. This is great! Your setup looks beautiful, and your mind is in the right place for this gathering! I have never hosted 15 people at once, and I’m sure it would be an incredibly overwhelming task without a little “keeping yourself in check” with these simple rules. I can only hope that I’m able to cultivate relationships with other bloggers the way you have. Have a fabulous time tonight!

  17. Great tips!! I love having dinner parties, but it is soooo easy to get caught up and overwhelmed by the small details (the ones that no one else would even notice). I really love the idea of picking your 3 most important aspects and sticking to them!

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