Dinner parties are a great chance to catch up with friends (or introduce your friends to each other) over a delicious meal and enjoyable conversation. Once you put your plan in place, follow these easy steps to becoming the host or hostess with the mostess.

1. How to invite

With the rise of e-invites and social media events, the invitation has slightly lost its power which means that a considered, personal invitation is a surprisingly unexpected but welcomed touch. A hand-written note always seems more genuine than a blanket email and a phone call allows you to enquire about any food aversions or allergies. Take the opportunity to state any plans to have drinks and canapés beforehand so that guests aren’t surprised when they’re not seated straight away.

2. What to cook

Always cook something you’re familiar with. Don’t attempt something entirely new – you want to feel relaxed and confident – and don’t try anything too out-of-the-ordinary unless your guests are aware of a theme – some unusual menu items might not go down well with some guests. Sticking to a tried-and-tested classic will hopefully prevent mistakes allowing you to host your guests more effectively. Still, always plan a little extra to cover for if something does go awry or for last-minute guests.

3. How to seat a party

Depending on the formality of your dinner, you may or may not want to seat your guests in a specific formation but, in the interest of conversation, it’s wise to consider the personalities of each guest. Be careful to mix talkative guests amongst quieter ones so as to not overpopulate one area of the table with all the entertainment. Traditionally, the arrangement would alternate men and women and couples would also be split up. As a host, you and your partner should sit at either end of the able – this will help all of your guests feel included. Just make sure you’re near the exit with easy access to the kitchen.

4. How to serve

Serving restaurant style (a full meal presented on a plate) is not as preferable as allowing guests to serve themselves from serving dishes. This gives each guest control over their portion sizes (great for not making them feel uncomfortable for eating too little or too much) and allows them to abstain from anything which they don’t like or are allergic to without any awkward refusals.

5. What to do

Whatever you do, make sure you spend more time at the table than away from it. Guests will feel more welcomed and at ease particularly if they don’t know each other already. Also, as the host, it’s your responsibility to try to keep conversation going and to steer away from topics which might cause friction or offence. Learn the art of conversation and try to lead conversation without taking over.