Hosting a fantastic dinner party can be a very rewarding experience. This will certainly take some planning. The first stage is to decide the guest list. The maximum number you should invite for dinner at one time is twelve. If you go beyond that, your guests may not have sufficient room to enjoy the meal. Having more than twelve will make it difficult for you, as the host or hostess, to adequately share your time amongst your guests. Making your guests feel comfortable is extremely important, so, conduct all of your inviting in person. Let them know this is a casual dinner with friends and you are looking forward to their attendance.
The way to start a great evening and get your guests talking with each other is to pick a game to play that involves everyone. The most successful one I have found that works beautifully is a guessing game. Write professions, movie stars, body parts, or some type of listing on individual slips of paper. Professions may include, doctor, lawyer, senator, etc. Make sure the guest does not see the profession you are pinning to his back. Once all your guests have their professions, they are told to ask five questions to five different people about who they are. The person to guess who they are first is the winner and is awarded some small token such as lottery tickets. This is a great way to get conversation going among your guests, especially if they have just met.
The next stage of planning is the meal. If you are a good cook, this is where you will have a chance to shine. Start going through your most favorite recipes and pick the best appetizer. Make only one or two of those recipes and not in excess. You do not want your guests to fill up on appetizers. Along with the appetizers, serve either a red wine or white wine. For the red, you can have a merlot, shiraz, or cabernet, and for the white, a pinot grigo, chablis, or chardonnay.
Now you will need to choose a meat and accompaniment, or an all in one dish such as lasagna. An all in one dish is the easiest for both cooking and serving. Whatever you choose, it should be something that does not take you completely away from your guests for preparation. Have a meal that you can leave in the oven, or turn the heat down or off on the stove. If you don't cook, or don't know how to cook, don't worry. There are lots of restaurants that would be glad to give you suggestions on what would be best to serve and how they can help you have a delicious meal.
The last part of the meal is the dessert. This should be something light and possibly fruity. Make sure it's not overly sweet. A small dish of orange or pineapple sherbet with a mint chocolate candy garnish inserted in the middle (Andes Candies) is always a hit. This is the time to make a pot of coffee to top off that delicious dinner, and allow everyone to sit back and relax with good conversation.