How to Throw a Dinner Party in 2 Hours or Less
It’s the end of a long week, and your perfect idea of a Friday night plans is to invite a few friends over for an impromptu dinner party, but you know you won’t get home before 6 p.m. We’ve got you covered. We know most of us don’t have time to slave in the kitchen all day, so we asked party planner Calder Clark to share some ideas for last-minute entertaining, and added a few of our own. Read on for our best tips for throwing a dinner party in two hours or less.
Roll up those sleeves and give your home a quick sweep. If you anticipate that you’ll be stuck at work or won’t have time to clean, hop onto TaskRabbit and schedule for someone to come clean your home a couple of hours before the guests arrive. You can even order a bouquet of fresh flowers or a centerpiece through the service.
“Feeding your favorite people is a breeze when you realize how chic it can be to snag Chinese takeout on your way home from work and throw it on your very best china.” — Calder Clark, party planner
Chinese takeout can look really chic if well presented, and let’s be honest: We all enjoy it once in a while.
To really maximize your time, use a food delivery service like Door Dash, Seamless, or InstaCart, and order food or groceries from your favorite restaurants or grocery store. Place the order at least an hour before so you know it will arrive before your guests. It’s always a good idea to order extra nibbles; your guests may arrive hungry!
Don’t waste your time standing in line at the liquor store. Minibar will deliver beverages and mixers to your door within one hour. All you have to do is hop on the app and place your order. If you’re operating on a budget, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask friends to BYOB. As guests, they should be bringing a bottle of wine anyway—but it’s always good to have a few backups, just in case.
Carve out half an hour to hop in the shower, blow out your hair, and do your makeup. Put on a killer outfit. Do this right after ordering your food and drinks so you won’t have to welcome your delivery man in a bathrobe.
“Break out the sterling and the crystal, and nix paper plates in favor of the high-low mix.” — Calder Clark, party planner
Break out the fine china. If you’re not going to wow your guests with your world-famous slow-roasted chicken, you can at least impress them with an immaculate tabletop. “Hospitality at its finest is anticipating the littlest needs,” says Clark. “Pop out your best dinner forks in case folks aren’t adept at chopstick-wielding.”
“Don't even think about whipping out the iron. Grab your slightly wrinkled cloth napkins and toss them in the dryer with a damp washcloth for 15 minutes.” — Calder Clark, party planner
Take your average kitchen twine and tie up your simplest napkins for a natural and easy adornment.
“There’s nothing pretty about condiment containers. Take vintage powder jars and antique boxes and fill them with hoisin, soy, and all the trimmings to pack a visual punch.” — Calder Clark, party planner
Your food and drinks should have arrived by now. Unbox everything, and arrange your dishes in pretty serveware. Your sauces and cold dishes can go directly on the table.
For hot dishes, turn on your oven to warm, and arrange your dishes in oven-safe platters and bowls. Keep them in the oven until your guests are seated. Get your drinks and nibbles ready to serve.
“If you have five extra minutes to spare before everyone’s at your door, unsheath all your chopsticks and give them a glam makeover.” — Calder Clark, party planner
“Lay your chopsticks flat, cover them at an angle with duct tape, grab any can of spray paint you have on hand, and give them a mist,” says Clark. White, gold, neon, pink—you’ll have glammed-up chopsticks in an instant, and you’ll be ready to welcome your guests in in style.
What are your tips for throwing a dinner party in a hurry? Share them with us in the comments below.
Opening image: Apartment 34