Any excuse for a party

by Grace Bonney

January is the perfect month for parties.

Its dark and cold outside, the bills are piling up and tax season is just around the corner.

So why not have a party?

I love inviting friends over for dinner.

Love the whole planning stage, what to make, witch wine, flowers, just love it.

I take pride in setting a nice table, cooking a good meal and making people feel welcome.

Here are my top 10 tips for a good party.

1.Set the table the day before.

2.Don’t make anything that will keep you in the kitchen while your guests are hanging out.

3.Stews are perfect January food. You can even make it beforehand.

4.Soft music and candlelight sets the mood

5.No cell phones at the table….please!

6.Make cocktails, more cocktails and even more cocktails

7.Remember to buy or make enough ice

8.A perfumed candle in the bathroom does the trick

9.Its ok to play match maker, invite some single friends.

10.Don’t even think about the dishes. Nothing kills a party like a host doing the dishes.

Photos by Studio Dreyer Hensley

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  • Great tips!

    I love throwing parties, mainly for the excuse to cook. But as of late I find myself inviting all of my friends, instead of keeping the dinner manageable and being able to fit around my dining table. Any tips on how to keep the evening intimate, without hurting people’s feelings?

  • i wish i could set the table the day before. i just get so nervous that a dog hair will float up and land on a dish. mortifying. the rest i can do. :) ty!

  • You are sooooo right about #10! Why, oh why do people do this? I hate it when my guests insist on helping me load the dishwasher at the end of the party. That can wait till the next day. Thanks for the support!

  • I love your table and chairs…can you tell me where you found them?? I have been looking forever for chairs like these. Beautiful table.

  • Got the chairs at Conran shop a few years ago.
    Check out places that sells garden furniture.
    Glad you guys like my list.
    For me no.5 is the most important.
    Nothing kills my good mood like someone texting at the table.

  • That is a completely perfect list — #10 is a must — how does everyone stop the clean up process from sweeping all guests into the kitchen?

  • Ann Henry, if you find out, let me know! Every time I have a party, at least 3 of my guests end up in the kitchen cleaning up, despite my protests. You can always hire someone to help, and that seems to stop the guests from thinking they are “helping”, but it just seems a little pretentious when you are only having dinner with a few friends!

  • I guess I need to be beat with a wet noodle. I can’t seem to keep people out of the kitchen before hand — and then when the meal is finished it’s like everyone jumps up and starts doing the chore of cleaning up. It must be some sort of instinct. Maybe I need to start warning guests before they come.

  • I’ve read piles of entertainment how-to pieces, and I think this is one of the best little lists. So simple and to the point. Obviously you are very experienced. I’m wide open for dinner this weekend and next, by the way …

  • I too request what you did for the runner on the table?

    I think it’s a polite gesture for guests to offer up their help at the end of the evening. You can always so “no, I invited YOU over!”