When was the last time you hosted a dinner party? Was it a success or way too much work? If you’re going through all the trouble of hosting a dinner party, then you should be able to enjoy the festivities. The ultimate choice would be to hire a caterer and let them do all the work. If that isn’t an option, then here is a foolproof plan to throw the perfect dinner party.

Step One: Pick The Right Guests

The magic number for dinner party guests is eight. Hopefully, your dining room table can accommodate that many people. Save the kidded table for Thanksgiving. The fun of a dinner party is injecting new “blood” into a familiar group. That’s why it’s always nice to mix things up and add someone to the rotation that is a stranger to some of the other guests. Yes, you can use a dinner party as the perfect cover for your matchmaking scheme, but you want to make sure it’s a good match before throwing two people together.

Picking the right guests also means having everyone on the same dietary page. This will require a little investigative work on your part. You wouldn’t want to serve a delicious rack of lamb to someone who is a vegan. Also, if someone is on a gluten-free diet, you can probably take care of him or her without messing up your menu too much. On the other hand, you might just want to go out to lunch with that person and let them pick the restaurant. No harm, no foul.

Step Two: Set Up The Bar

A great dinner party will have a featured cocktail. This should be a drink that mixes well with your dinner menu and isn’t too strong. The best-featured cocktail is something that can be made in advance in a pitcher for easy serving. In fact, you shouldn’t be mixing drinks. If you have a co-host, then let them manage the bar. Better yet, set up a bar station on a side table and let your guests figure things out. They’re adults. They’ll know how to open a bottle of wine.

Step Three: Keep The Hors D’oeuvres Simple

You don’t want overload your guests with too many snacks before the main course. The go-to item is a nice cheese plate. However, that can be extremely filling, especially if your guests are showing up hungry. Instead, put out some nuts kicked up with flavor dusting or pate and small crostini bread. The best approach is to keep it simple. That means buying hors-d’oeuvres that aren’t labor intensive.

Step Four: Plan A Simple Menu

Along with the simple hors-d’oeuvres, plan a simple menu. This is where your planning skills will come into play. Your main course should be something that you can pop in the oven and let your ingredients do the work. Anything that requires a lot of attention will keep you anchored to the stove. If you’re making a salad, then chop up all the ingredients before the party for the last minute toss.

Step Five: Embrace The Help

There is nothing wrong with having your guests “work” for their supper. If someone offers to help clean up afterward, then let them. Better yet, if someone offers to bring the perfect dessert, welcome it with open arms. Just because you’re throwing the party doesn’t mean you have to do all the work.