Birthdays are special days to be celebrated with great fanfare. When it comes time to celebrate the birthday of someone you love, host a meal in their honor. You do not have to cook every course yourself, it is perfectly fair to ask other guests to contribute a course or to buy items from your local deli. But as the host, it is your job to choose the theme, plan the menu, and dole out the tasks. Here are some tips for hosting a great birthday dinner party:
Choosing the theme of your evening is critical to the success of your party. Think carefully about the guest of honor. What are their hobbies? When they go out to dinner, what kind of food do they like to eat? Are they devoted home cooks, world travelers, or sports fans? Do they have simple or elegant tastes? Do they like wine or beer, or prefer non-alcoholic beverages? Considering the answers to these questions should help to guide you in choosing the perfect theme.
Once you have chosen a theme, it is time to decide on the ambiance you wish to create for your party. Starting with a clean and decluttered home, consider your space and the kind of dinner you are hosting. If you want to host a spring garden party dinner, holding your dinner outside under lights with a table strewn with candles would be ideal and decorating your indoor lounge space with flowers, candles, and fairy lights would do nicely. For a fall dinner, bringing your guests around your dining room table will make the evening feel cozier.
After you have decided on the mood, start assembling your decorations. It is a good idea to decorate and set your table in a simple, attractive manner. This does not have to be anything fancier than simple white plates, real silverware, and real cloth napkins accompanied by a few flowers, a bowl of fruit, and/or some candles. After your place settings, overhead lighting should be the main concern. Harsh lighting will lead to more of a cafeteria feel than that of a cozy dinner, so try lighting with fairy lights, candles, and lanterns as much as possible. Everyone looks better in candlelight.
Next, consider the flow of your evening. Are you planning an informal event where people can arrive anytime, help out in the kitchen, and hang around until dinner is ready? Or something more formal with a cocktail hour before dinner, with everyone to be seated promptly at seven? Either way, is wonderful, but you should plan ahead of time what you would like and let your guests know what to expect and if they need to arrive promptly at a particular time lest dinner get cold or the soufflés fall.
Next, it is time to plan your menu. A seven-course meal consists of an appetizer, soup, salad, palate cleanser, two entrees, and a dessert. Choose a menu that fits with your theme and keep the portions small. Dips and dressings can be store-bought to save time, try the ones from Hampton Creek Foods for something different. If you would like to serve wine, you can pair a different wine with each course or choose one wine that pairs well with all of your courses. Always have a few non-alcoholic choices available and do not forget to toast the guest of honor!
After dinner is done and the dishes are in the kitchen, the real conversations can get started. People are usually full, relaxed, and ready to talk. Try moving your guests to another location with more comfortable seating for coffee, cookies, or a nightcap and some deep conversation to close out the evening. Keep the lighting low to help everyone stay relaxed.
At the end of the evening or whenever you want to go to bed, you can either gently start suggesting that it is late and you need to be up early in the morning, or you can get up and start washing dishes. This usually signals to guests that it is time to think about heading home for the evening. Walk each of your guests to the door, thank them for their excellent company, and send them safely on their way home.
Celebrating the birthday of a good friend with an excellent meal at home surrounded by friends and family is one of lifes great pleasures. These are just a few suggestions on planning and hosting a successful evening, you should follow your own instincts as you know your friends the best. Good luck and do not forget to relax and enjoy the evening yourself!