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We invited my future in-laws for dinner. What is the procedure for a proper dinner party? They are very stiff and formal and coming from another culture, I need to know how to make a good impression. My fiancé says I have to relax, but I feel that everything I do will be scrutinized.
–Name Withheld, Jersey City, NJ
- Make a list of the ingredients you'll need for the evening.
- Figure out what china, flatware, glasses, serving utensils and linens you'll use to set the table.
- Don't forget candles and a centerpiece.
- Two days prior to the dinner, be sure you have all of your ingredients.
- Put your fiancé in charge of beverages, including wine other alcoholic beverages they might ask for.
- He can also be responsible for ice, filling ice cube trays, and making a playlist.
- Ahead of time, prepare as much as you can. A dip, dessert, soup can all be made the day before.
- He or you should double-check with his parents to make sure you know exactly what time they plan to arrive.
- It goes without saying that your fiancé would have given you the heads up about any dietary needs. For instance, if either of your future in-laws are watching their salt, sugar, or diary intake. If one is vegan, be sure to serve extra salad and vegetables.
- The day before the dinner party, tidy up the rooms that your in-laws will see. If they're putting their coats in your bedroom, tidy it up. Whatever bathroom they'll be using should be pristine with fresh soap and clean hand towels.
- Arrange the flowers for the centerpiece or in the living room.
- In the morning, set your table and lay out on the kitchen counter all the utensils and equipment that you'll be using to make dinner.
- Empty the dishwasher. Remove all garbage and anything in the wastebaskets.
- If your fiancé is cooking with you, go over who will do what when.
- Have your bar and snack area ready next. Cheeses should be room temperature, wine and beer chilled.
- Arrange the pots, pans and utensils needed for cooking.
- Take out previously prepared foods so you know where they are and don't forget to put them on the table.
- Place bottled water or a pitcher of water on the dining table.
- Take a twenty minute break to get ready for the evening leaving your fiancé to welcome your in-laws should they arrive early.
- Have him light the candles and start the playlist. Music will soothe your guests as they settle into the lovely scene you've created.
- Ahead of time, you'll have figured out what time you're seating the table and who sits where.
- Your fiancé can do the seating, pulling out the chair to your right for his mother and motioning for his father to sit between you and his son facing his wife. (You never seat spouses next to each other.)
- You would give the signal for everyone to start eating by picking up your utensil first after having placed your napkin in your lap.
- Having color on every plate is important visually because it's more inviting than staring at a plate of bland looking food. Parsley, herbs, fruit, even edible flowers will perk up any table.
- Working as a team, you'll be able to plan ahead as to who does what and when.
- Don't get into the routine of waiting on everyone. Decide ahead of time, he clears while you plate the next course, or vice versa.
- What was good and what could have been better.?
- Cast no aspirations.
- Don't take it personally, because the two of you are responsible for the evening.
- You might even make a list of utensils, linens, servicing pieces, etc. to add to your wedding registry.