Would you guys believe me if I told you I’ve never hosted a dinner party? Well, I haven’t. At least, not in the traditional sense. Sure, I’ve had friends over to eat… a lot… but the whole invitation-only-menu-planning-table-scaping deal? It’s never really been my thing. It could just be me holding onto my youth — you know, when friends sort of came and went, and there was never any real need to “plan” something. I’ve always loved how comforting and homey that felt, and to me, planning a seated dinner weeks in advance has always felt, well, the opposite of that. As a result, my entertaining style has evolved (or not evolved) into something more improvisational, and my “dinner parties” are a lot more spontaneous. Does that sound stressful to you? It shouldn’t! The process of throwing an impromptu dinner party is quite laid back, and is really more of a mental shift than anything else. Here’s how it’s done.

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Step #1

Keep Your Calendar Open

For the super planners out there, step 1 might be the toughest. You can’t be spontaneous when every minute of your day is accounted for, so as the weekend approaches, resist the urge to fill it with engagements! This means not reaching out to friends to make plans, and possibly even saying “no” to invitations. There’s nothing wrong with setting time aside to do what you want… even if you don’t know what that is yet.

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Step #2

Throw It Out There

It’s Friday evening. You’ve got nothing on the calendar. Oh, the possibilities! Send out some texts to get a sense of what friends are up to. Odds are, you’ll discover a couple people in the same position. To them you say, “Come over and let’s eat and drink?” Done and done.

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Step #3

Always Have the Staples

There are two items that make truly every moment feel special. They are called wine and cheese. Our home is always well-stocked in both.

For wine, aim to have a white, a red, and a rosé on hand (or just one will do, too!) For cheeses, have a couple delicious varieties (or just one) ready to go. Bonus points: keep crackers, unopened, in the pantry at all times to accompany the fromage. By having these things on hand, you can at least ensure that no one will find themselves starving at your place.

Out of stock of one of the above items? No big deal. Ask your friends to pick something up on the way!

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Step #4

Figure Out Dinner

I know. It’s insane to think that guests are on their way, or possibly already arrived and enjoying aforementioned cheese, and we’re just now talking about food. But this is the fun part! Stop thinking about dinner as a time when you put your culinary skills to the test and present a meal to guests — you are not a restaurant!

Instead, collaborate! What sounds good to everyone? Should we run to the grocery store and try out a recipe together? Pick up some delicious takeout and bring it back here? There are no wrong answers, and how much more enjoyable is it to work on a meal with friends?

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Step #5

There Are No Disasters

Missing a crucial ingredient? Running low on wine? Need ice? Guess what. You live in a city and you can go to the store. Running out to grab something takes 10 minutes, and when you send a couple people out together (*cough cough* husbands,) an errand can be fun and act as another way for people to bond.

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