This story about dinner party rules is part of The New Rules of Dinner Parties, a new collection of advice, recipes, and perspectives on one of the things we’ve missed the most. Read all the stories here.
It’s been too long since we’ve thrown dinner parties. And now that we’re beginning to get together with vaxxed and boosted company, we want to do things a little differently. As it turns out, the time off from hosting has given us a new perspective. Like: Life is too short to spend all that time in the kitchen! And our guests actually do want to help, so let them. And so much more.
So these are our new rules: the things we’re trying out, ditching, and embracing for the first time. We hope they help you feel empowered, inspired, or at least a little more relaxed. Because dinner parties are supposed to be parties, not pressure. And in the end, that’s the only rule that counts.
Skip the main. If you’re worried or want to ease into the idea of hosting after the past year plus, a dessert party (or snack party) may be a more doable endeavor. It’s easier on you too, requiring much less prep and cleanup. —Zaynab Issa, associate food editor
Stop hiding in the kitchen. I used to serve coursed dinners to friends, doing mains like risotto that basically require you to be in the kitchen at exactly the same time that your friends are loosening up with wine and cheese and things are getting interesting. Unless you’re serving pasta, you shouldn’t really be cooking anything after your guests arrive. —Chris Morocco, test kitchen director
Apply the “clean as you go” rule. Get everyone to do one round of cleanup in between dinner and dessert or before your guests leave. Trust me, they won’t mind, and you won’t be left with the dreaded leaning tower of dirties. Assign away so each person is only doing a little bit! —Rachel Gurjar, associate food editor
Embrace clutter. Clean your apartment and maybe light a candle or two. But it’s okay to leave out the pet toys, the coffee mugs, the mail, all the detritus that any apartment accumulates. Your friends can know that you actually live here. —Karen Yuan, lifestyle editor
Ditch the place settings—or the table entirely. I used to spend so much time folding napkins and filling water glasses, but my guests inevitably left both untouched. Not sure what that says about my friends...but I’m over it. When I moved, I sacrificed a dining room table for a sectional couch and never looked back. —Amanda Shapiro, digital editorial director
Set up a DIY bar. Let guests assemble their own tacos, build their own chaat, or make their own hand rolls with prepared fillings. It saves you from fretting over serving people, accommodates a variety of dietary restrictions, lets everyone mingle and eat at their own pace, and makes the event so much more memorable. —Antara Sinha, associate cooking editor
Just plan ahead. From my experiences of both hosting dinner parties and throwing pop-up events, that’s my one tip. Make a list for the ingredients, equipment, and tabletop needs. Plan out how you’re going to use your oven, stovetop, and fridge spaces. —Jessie YuChen, associate food editor
Throw a “come as you were” party. The hostess Elsa Maxwell once threw one where everyone had to show up dressed in whatever they were wearing when they got the invite. Text/email your invitations at all hours of the night and see what your friends show up in. Alternate theme: “Come as your enemy.” —Alexandra Beggs, senior staff writer
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Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit