Just because you’re in college doesn’t mean you can’t be all grown-up every now and then and host a dinner party. Sometimes it’s nice to take a night off from the bars and share a meal, some wine and good conversation with friends.
If you’re like me, this is actually your favorite weekend activity -- why drop bank on a meal out when you can class it up at home for cheap? The keys to a successful college dinner party are a few tips to ensure that everyone has fun, your house stays clean and the costs get shared.
You have neither the time nor the money to do it all on your own, and you’re young enough that society doesn’t expect you to do so, either. Hopefully your friends will offer to contribute right away, but you don’t have to feel bad about asking them to pitch in. The key is to take a little time to plan your delegating and play up the strengths of your guests, like if your bestie makes a killer chocolate cake. Remind her how much everyone loved it last time, and she’ll probably be down to make it again.
Have international friends? Put them on wine duty. They’ll know how to pick it way better than you or anyone else. If your friends have diet restrictions, ask them to bring a dish they can eat (so they don’t starve if the rest of the menu doesn’t work for them). Got a friend who’s great company but is completely broke? Tell them everything is already covered, but you’d really appreciate it if they spearheaded the cleaning afterwards.
Your kitchen probably isn’t very big, so you’re going to need to take a moment to think about how you’re going to cook, serve and store food. This is another reason to delegate cooking. You don’t want to piss off your roommates by filling the fridge with ingredients, so go shopping the morning of, if possible. Also worth noting: The roomies probably won’t mind if you fill the fridge with leftovers, provided you’re willing to share.
Finally, make sure you have enough space to eat: If your table is small, put the food on the counter and serve buffet-style. Use mismatched glasses so everyone can keep track of their drink (to avoid extra dirty dishes).
Play It Safe
As the host, you should plan on making the main course. Pick a recipe that you’re familiar with, so you don’t have any unexpected surprises an hour before your guests show up. My personal go-to is a roast chicken with veggies, which comes to about $12. Considering that my guests bring alcohol and dessert for free, that’s a damn good price for the evening.
Give yourself enough time to cook and get ready before people arrive, and choose an outfit you’re comfortable in since hosting is an active job. Dark colored clothes are a good idea (to disguise sweat, spills, stains…), and so is an apron for when you’re cooking.
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s hard to remember when you’re having a great time with friends in the comfort of your own home. Think of yourself as the designated driver for the night: You are responsible for your friends (and your house), so make good choices that will allow you to fulfill that responsibility.
Unlike being the designated driver, you can probably get away with a glass or two of wine or a couple beers, but please maintain the capacity to carry hot dishes safely, to clean up a broken plate and to pay attention to your guests.
It doesn’t take much to be polite, but proper etiquette, or lack thereof, can make or break an evening. For starters, make sure everyone is introduced, and not just with a simple name exchange: Tell your guests about things they have in common with each other, so that they can continue a good conversation after you move on. Offer drinks as soon as people arrive, even if you’re just offering water.
Serve yourself last, and make sure everyone has had enough to eat. These little gestures are really easy, and more than expensive wine or fancy decorations, they will ensure an enjoyable dinner party for all.