Whether you’re celebrating your Colorado destination wedding with a handful of friends who aren’t able to make the trip, or just want the opportunity to break out that brand new china, a dinner party is always a great idea! After all, what’s better than good food, good friends, and good conversation? Of course, entertaining can be a bit stressful, especially if you’re no Martha Stewart. However, you shouldn’t let that stop you. Anyone can throw great dinner parties with a little planning and know-how. Here are my dos and don’ts for throwing a successful (and stress-free) supper!

DO keep the guest list small. Unless you’re experienced hosts, four to six guests is a good place to start.

DON’T invite too many strangers. The key to a good dinner party dynamic is a mix between friends and some new faces. Ideally, everyone at the table should know at least one person, but not everyone at the table.

DO cook something you’re confident in. One way to limit the stress is to make a meal you’re already comfortable with. This isn’t the time to try that fancy recipe you’ve never tried before.

DON’T forget your guests’ dietary restrictions. There’s nothing worse than a last-minute scramble! When you invite your guests, be sure to ask them if they have any allergies or food preferences. You don’t need to prepare a separate meal for each guest, but you should ensure they have options. Serving the meal family style can make it easier to make everyone happy.

DO prepare ahead. Successful dinner parties all have good preparation in common. Make as much of the food in advance as you can and plan your cooking time, so that you don’t have to spend the whole evening in the kitchen. It’s also a good idea to set the table the night before.

DON’T feel like you have to cook everything. Your guests won’t expect you to cook everything from scratch, and there’s nothing wrong with a bought starter or dessert.

DO pay attention to presentation. Great presentation can turn a simple dish into something really special! Make sure you set a formal table with cloth napkins, candles, and maybe even fresh flowers. Have music playing in the background when guests arrive. It’s all about creating that ambience!

DON’T let your guests do the dishes. Even if they offer. But do start the clean-up as soon as they leave, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. You’ll be so glad when you wake up to a clean kitchen!

Finally, DO cut yourself some slack! Not everything will be perfect, and things go wrong, but the most important thing is that you all have fun. Nobody likes a stressed-out host. Pour some more wine, go with the flow, and enjoy!

Top image by Jared Grant

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