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Simple hacks to plan the perfect dinner party

Make sure your next dinner party runs smoothly with these easy tips and tricks

We’ve all been there – invited friends over for a dinner party, then panicked on the night trying to cook a delicious feast while making everything look inviting. Take away the stress by following these simple tips to plan ahead, keep things fuss-free and create a relaxed, fun atmosphere for you and your guests.

Lay the table in advance

Give yourself one less job to do on the evening of your dinner party by laying the table the night before. You’ll be able to take your time to get a little creative and design a gorgeous setting.

This will also help to focus your mind on seating, so you can find extra chairs in advance, rather than rushing around to the neighbours while your food’s boiling on the hob

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Keep it simple

The key to success when cooking for a large group of people is to go for simple, yet effective. Choose a dish you’ve made before, rather than experimenting with new recipes – leave these for when you’re cooking for family, or just a couple of close friends.

It’s also a good idea to prepare as much as possible beforehand. Anything cold can be made ahead and stored in the fridge, and one-pot recipes can be prepared earlier and left to simmer on the stove.

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Devise a playlist

Make your guests feel instantly relaxed by playing some music – this works particularly well if you’ve invited people over who don’t know each other well, as some background noise will fill any awkward silences.

Ahead of the night, put together a playlist of chilled-out tunes that will make your guests feel calm and uplifted. Keep the volume low though, and it’s probably wise to avoid anything with a banging baseline, which could give them indigestion!

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Bring in mood lighting

Similarly, lighting will help to set an ambient mood and make your guests feel at ease. If you only have overhead lights in your kitchen or dining room, now is the time to invest in some lamps. A couple of table lamps or a floor light will work wonders to create a space that feels cosy and welcoming.

Try also, positioning some battery-powered tealights in the centre of the table – the light will reflect against the glassware to create a twinkly effect.

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Make a jug of posh water

As well as the usual wine and soft drinks, it’s useful to have some water on the table. Make this a little more special by adding some subtle flavour to it.

Fill a jug with water, then add a couple of lemon slices. Alternatively, throw in a sprig or two of mint, or rosemary or even some cucumber. Just a touch of flavour will add a fresh zing to a simple glass of water.

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Simplify your nibbles

It’s nice to offer your guests a drink when they arrive, and a few snacks to go with it. Don’t assume these have to be fancy canapés, however – a bowl or two of olives, crisps or nuts will be greatly appreciated.

The trick is to choose salty snacks that will whet your guests’ appetite without filling them up before dinner.

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