Published on October 11, 2019

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Photo by Marcus Nilsson

If you’ve never done it before, throwing a dinner party for six-plus sounds like serious business, the kind best reserved for Emily Gilmore types, who perpetually have stacks of fancy linens and drawers of fish forks at the ready. The idea conjures images of well-dressed women and men swanning about a jam-packed room, sipping custom cocktails and doling out charming niceties with equal aplomb. Of course, this is (usually) not the case—but it doesn’t make the concept of hosting any less stressful

We hear you, and we’re here to help. Ahead of peak entertaining season—read: the holidays—we’ve summoned the advice of 11 of the chicest people we know from across a number of industries. From their time-saving tips to when it’s appropriate to serve pigs in a blanket (answer: always), they’ve got you covered. 

Always put food on the table to interact with and enjoy. Use brightly colored hummus as decor, or even create a tablescape with herbs and put knives next to everyone’s place setting, so they can choose what they want in their soup. At my last dinner party, I put a paintbrush next to everyone’s fork and decorated the table with lots of farmers’ market breads. I added saffron to one butter, watercress to another, and black sesame to the last, then encouraged my guests to use their paintbrush and experiment with their butters and breads.—Claire Olshan, founder of Fivestory and Dada Daily 

I’m the world’s crappiest host! I find entertaining kind of hard, so I set the table the night before. I cut up all the vegetables for salads and store them in reusable containers, and purchase a precut fruit platter and cake so that I can focus on the mains. —Tali Roth, interior designer

My mom made pigs in a blanket for every event, so to me it’s not a party without them. There are even vegan versions! I’m a big believer in options for all your guests—never make anyone feel left out. That’s the essence of hospitality. —Kerry Diamond, founder of Cherry Bombe

Make a menu and stick to it. It will streamline your grocery shopping, prep, and even what sort of cocktails you want to have on hand. Your house isn’t a restaurant, so there’s no need to treat it like one! I like the 4:1 ratio: Four sides that are veggie-forward and one meat option. —Sophia Roe, chef

You don’t need different types of glasses for different wines; you can honestly use whatever you’ve got in your cupboard. I promise no one is going to care. If they do, they’re an a–hole and they’re not invited next time. —Marissa Ross, author and Bon Appétit wine editor 

Be a guest at your own party! Don’t play bartender all night. Make people their first drink, then have everything ready and out so that they can easily mix their own for the rest of the evening. —Jenni Kayne, fashion designer

In my boyfriend’s extended Sri Lankan family, there is one cardinal sin: Don’t cook “short”! Nothing kills a dinner party vibe faster than running out of food or drink. Stock up to keep the fun flowing into the wee hours of the night.Abigail Stone, founder of Otherland 

For me, the most fun part of entertaining is getting my space ready. Spend time thinking about the sensory experiences beyond just the taste of the food. I try to make the entire environment feel cohesive without having an overt theme. —Christiane Lemieux, founder of The Inside

I always bring my guests into the kitchen right as they walk in and get them all cooking together. Having everyone participate is a great way to break the ice and helps introduce people at the party! —Ellen Bennett, founder of Hedley & Bennett

I’ve found that as we all get older, my guests are trying to figure out how to drink less, more than they’re emptying bottles. I’ll make one large batch of a nonalcoholic drink that can easily be spiked (something with a lot of acid and a little juice or fruit nectar, topped with soda water), which gives people the option to add booze if they like. —Julia Sherman, author of Salad for President

Split up friends and spouses. We pride ourselves on bringing people together who don’t know one another, so we’re in the practice of seating strangers next to each other, because that’s when the magic happens. —Samantha Ressler, cofounder of We the Women

See more entertaining tips:
6 Pro Entertainers Share Their Favorite Dutch Ovens
“Taste With Your Memory,” and Other Notes From an Inventive Wedding Caterer
How to Throw a Dinner Party Like You’re in the “Hamptons of Denmark”

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