Throwing a dinner party that's beyond a pizza and beer get-together is no small feat. A lot of planning goes into it. But with a little organization, the party will go off without a hitch and your guests won't arrive to find you still in your pajamas, frantically trying to clear out the smoke from a burned main course.
Two Weeks Ahead
Decide what kind of dinner party you want to throw. Will it be a formal meal at the table? A cocktail party with heavy appetizers as the main course? Once you've chosen your party style, you can choose a date and time and send invitations. Evites are certainly acceptable invitations, but mailed invitations are a fun surprise when most people get nothing interesting in the mail these days.
One Week Ahead
Plan your menu. Consider your budget, think about what types of food are in season, determine whether any of your guests have allergies or dietary restrictions, and think about your culinary skills in the kitchen. When planning a menu for a crowd, try not to make every course an involved affair in the kitchen. Most of your offerings should be simple to prepare so that you can spend time with your guests rather than slaving over a hot stove while they're enjoying each other's company.
Three Days Ahead
Go grocery shopping. Be sure to shop with a list so that you don't have to make any last-minute trips to the grocery store. Once you have all your ingredients, make anything that can be made ahead. Sauces and salad dressings can be made ahead. Vegetables can be chopped. Even some desserts can be baked and frozen in anticipation of the big day.
Two Days Ahead
Go liquor shopping. If you're serving a signature cocktail, make sure you have all the barware and garnishes you'll need. If you're sticking to beer and wine, ask the people at the liquor store to recommend some bottles that will fit your budget and menu. If getting out to the liquor store is an errand you don't have time for, liquor delivery is a perfect option. Some stores in your area might offer liquor delivery, like Liquor Boy, or there might be a third-party operation in your area that will deliver the liquor from the store to your house. It's a wonderful way to save yourself a step when planning for the party.
One Day Ahead
Today is the day to clean your house. If you don't have time for a full, deep cleaning, focus on the bathroom and kitchen. As you're cleaning, make sure you have enough dishes, platters, serving utensils and flatware to serve your meal.
Cook as much as you can as early as you can so you can stay out of the kitchen while your guests are in your home. Take a break from cooking to get dressed about two hours before the party is supposed to start. Fifteen minutes before your guests arrive, turn on the music, light your candles and pour yourself a glass of wine. It's time to enjoy your party!