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’Tis (almost) the season for hosting—and attending—a zillion holiday parties with friends, family and more.
That’s why we jumped at the chance to invite party planning extraordinaire—and the author of cookbook-meets-entertaining guide Life Is a Party—David Burtka into PureWow’s New York City offices to talk about his tips for throwing an amazing (and unforgettable) dinner party.
Here’s his list of recommendations for hosting an epic meal:
1. Don’t underestimate the importance of your guest list. According to Burtka, “You want to have people from all different walks of life or areas of the world. For example, if your dinner party includes only actors, it’s going to be the same conversations over and over again. But if you get an actor next to a professor next to a scientist next to an art dealer—people who bring really different things to the table—it creates a more interesting dynamic. You also want to include people you don’t mind putting to work. That way, when people come in the door and say: ‘What can I do?’ you have a list of ten things they can take on, which not only helps break the ice, but helps them feel like they’re part of the occasion.”
2. Plan a little something extra. Burtka says, “Maybe it’s something on the table—stuff you’ve pulled in from the outside for your tablescape. Or maybe it’s having one of those table topic cards with questions underneath the plate so that, if there’s a lull in the conversation, you’re ready for it. (Questions could range from ‘What’s your fondest birthday memory?’ to ‘Who would you be if you were a superhero?’) You want to have something different so that people feel like they’re special and that you put that effort in.”
3. Make a plan for after you eat. Burtka warns, “A lot of people focus so much on the stresses of the meal that they don’t think beyond that. You want to go out with a bang. First, you should always serve a pretty awesome dessert because that’s what your guests are leaving with. After that, you could have a game or something fun to watch on TV or someone who plays an instrument who can give a performance. Details like that keep the party going. It’s about thinking through the logistics: ‘Let’s go from here to the table and finally to the living room where we can do something.”
BRB, researching dessert ideas.
For more from David, listen to his recent appearance on our podcast, 'Mom Brain,' with Hilaria Baldwin and Daphne Oz.