If you let them, dinner parties can lead to extreme hosting anxiety. Which, if anything, will make you want to host even less. If you enjoy bringing people together and want to eliminate how stressed out you get before or while you host a dinner party, try some of these tried and trusted tips I’ve learned in my amateur hosting career. You’ll feel more confident, relaxed, and optimistic about hosting friends and family.
The 5 C’s to Combat Hosting Anxiety
1. Keep it Casual
A simple tip to combat hosting anxiety is to keep things casual and low-maintenance. Sounds easy enough. But it can be challenging to maintain a casual dinner party when you’re a novice cook or host, a perfectionist, or have guests you might not be super comfortable around.
Start with planning your dinner party on a weeknight. You’ll have an excuse to buy a dessert from your favorite bakery, have guests leave at a decent hour, and limit the amount of time you get to spend fussing over what to make.
Ensure your guests know your schedule when you invite them by making the invitation specific but fun.
Hey [friend]! How was your Christmas break? I’m hosting a dinner at ours at 6 pm on [whatever date you choose]. If you can make it, please bring a drink to share, and I (with the help of Whole Foods) will handle the rest. Tom’s got hockey practice at 6 am so expect us to shoo you out by 9 pm. Chat soon!“Kim
Sending out an invitation like this sets clear expectations and guidelines for your guests. It also gives you a bit of leeway in how and what you cook.
Another way to reduce hosting anxiety by keeping your dinner party casual is asking guests to contribute a dish. If you go this route, mention the word potluck in the invite. This way, it’s clear that everyone needs to bring something. It also helps to ask people to bring a specific type of dish (i.e. dessert, salad, wine, etc.).
Other ways to keep things casual at your dinner party:
- Don’t fuss over table decor.
- Make appetizers simple. Think salted nuts, olives, and chips.
- Serve food family style (instead of individually plating everybody’s plates).
- Make a one-pot meal as the main course.
- Set up a station where guests can make their drinks (so you’re not serving them).
2. Make it Comfortable
Creating a relaxed and inviting environment for your guests will help your hosting anxiety disappear.
Wear something casual like jeans and a t-shirt, play fun music, and prepare in advance so you can sit down and drink with your pals when they arrive.
Harsh light can also be a mood killer. Instead, dim your lights when it gets dark, light some long-lasting candles, and remember to put a few in the bathroom.
Tip: If your guests are getting too comfortable and it’s getting late, start washing up, turn down the music, and don’t be afraid to tell them you need to hit the hay. Or, read this post on how to get your guests to leave.
Another way to overcome hosting anxiety is to ask your friends and guests to contribute to your dinner party. Ask your guests to bring something they like to drink, a fun game they’ve been playing, a dish, or even pick up something for you.
Some ideas to make your dinner more of a team effort include:
- Blind Taste Tests. Get each guest to contribute an item for a blind taste test. It could be a bottle of wine or a type of cheese. Read this post on how to plan one.
- Pizza Night. You prepare the pizza dough, cheese, and a big salad, and each guest brings a favorite topping.
- Cookbook Party. Ask your guests to prepare a dish from one chef or cookbook, so it’s more of a potluck. (This is only appropriate for people who like to cook).
In addition, during your party, you can ask them to contribute by giving them tasks such as pouring wine, setting the table, or helping chop up herbs for your main dish. Your guests won’t want to see you stressed out, so don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand.
4. Keep the Conversation Flowing
Part of hosting anxiety can stem from the flow of the party. Food aside, most of what goes on during a dinner party is talking. So it’s crucial to think about how to keep natural conversations going.
To manage this, think about who you’re inviting before you send out an invite. You want to ensure guests get along with others, not create unnecessary conflict, etc. I like to make sure everybody I invite knows at least one other person there. This way, you don’t have to babysit.
Sometimes groups are super chatty and don’t require any guidance. In the case of less chatty groups that might not bas as comfortable around each other, I like to start off with a few conversation starters during cocktail hour to help people get comfortable.
5. Clean with Care
Cleaning and tidying up in advance (and not like a madman) will help you overcome hosting anxiety.
Do a deep clean of the main areas of your house or apartment a few days before your party. And, before your guests arrive, remove clutter (kids’ toys, coats, shoes, miscellaneous things on tables or counters.
But also, don’t feel the need to clean like crazy. Focus on the areas that will be most used – bathrooms, living or dining room, and the kitchen. Close your bedroom doors if you don’t feel like cleaning them, and don’t sweat it if you don’t have time to wash the floors and dust.