place setting from a party i attended in the hamptons

 

summer is just around the corner which means beach trips and sandal weather.  my favorite part of the season is hosting dinner parties.  throwing an informal yet impressive dinner party is easier than you think, i promise.  here are a few of my tips for creating a relaxed yet thoughtful summer soiree that you will actually enjoy (and so will your friends).

 

don’t attempt a maiden voyage.

my cardinal rule of planning a dinner party is to pick one or two standout dishes (or appetizers) and order the rest.  select one or two dishes that you have previously mastered and always shop the day before to leave the day of for emergencies only.  trying to do everything is a recipe (pun intended) for disaster. you want to impress your guests with your menu, not stress yourself out by overestimating your culinary skills on a tight schedule.  keeping your menu simple will allow dishes to be prepared ahead of time to avoid last-minute blunders.

 

 

cheese board with various cheeses and meats
image via salty lashes

do focus on the main event

my go-to entree is homemade pizza!  yes, beautiful, glorious, and delicious pizza.  i make my special dough recipe and homemade toppings ahead of time. on the evening of my dinner party, i assemble all of the toppings on my countertop, roll out the dough and then play around with different combinations of toppings.  while the pizzas are baking, i enjoy some yummy wine, a beautiful charcuterie board (super easy to assemble with store-bought sliced meats and fabulous cheeses) and engaging conversations with friends.  curious about my special pizza dough recipe? wonder no more!.

 

 

pizza baked by darci hether
one of my specialty pizzas

do set a beautiful table.

when i say, beautiful i also mean simple.  let’s face it; there is so much beauty in simplicity!  a couple of low vases with billowy greenery or tightly arranged (unscented) flowers along with a few votive candles in clear glass candle holders on a white linen tablecloth can go a long way!  i like to add a little personality to my tablescapes by mixing my dinnerware colors and patterns and layering in another color with my linen napkins.

 

 

shelves of white dishes from darci hether's receent trip to astier de villatte in paris
lovely dishes i found at astier de villatte on my trip to paris

 

do add floral notes.

 

the aroma from the delicious food is usually enough to scent the room with tasty goodness.  although i love my beautifully scented signature candles or the glorious smell of lilies, i go for unscented tea light and white pillar candles and fragrance-free blooms for my dinner parties. i never want the scent of a candle or flower to take away from the yummy culinary aroma that is wafting through the air!

 

 

simply summer place setting cteated by darci hether for a summer soiree
simple place setting from a summer soiree i hosted in new york city

 

do set the mood with music.

once you have the food situation under control and your table beautifully set, put on one of your signature playlists.  don’t have one?  don’t worry! if there is a particular musician or genre of music you like there is sure to be a pandora station that will be the perfect fit.  for me, I like the upbeat, jazzy type of music to keep the evening festive.  I would like to believe that (musically) I host the jovially and celebratory kind of party that frank sinatra and etta james would have attended.

don’t be afraid to ask for help!

planning a dinner party should never be stressful.  i am sure your guests would be more than willing to chip in a side dish or let you borrow the good flatware.  having your friends help will take your party from good to great.

let’s all lift our glass of rosé in celebration of summer entertaining!  share some of your own tips for throwing the perfect dinner party in the comments below!