School Night Social: 5 Tips For Hosting a Weeknight Dinner Party

Last night we had some friends over for dinner. ON A MONDAY? ARE YOU CRAZY?

(Maybe. But that is not the point today.)

The occasion was our Book Club Meeting (discussing: Unbroken and choosing our next book: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society) and while it would have been just as easy to meet on the weekends, with 3 couples, 6 work schedules and summer in full swing it seemed like a daunting task to find a weekend evening that would work. So we picked a Monday, and Garrett and I volunteered to host.

IT WAS AWESOME.

Weeknights are actually some of my favorite days to entertain, and especially these days because I am more committed than ever to keeping my weekends low maintenance. But since weeknights (and Monday’s especially) certainly are not without their challenges, I thought I’d share my top 5 tips for how to have an awesome mid-week meet-up.

1. Keep the Guest List Intimate + Crowdsource

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Monday night is not the night to invite over your phone’s entire contact list. (Sidebar: I just wrote “your entire Rolodex.” Then it dawned on me that there are people in this world who have never even seen a Rolodex. Then I felt old. Sigh.) Anyway, the point: Keep the guest list minimal so that you can focus on the good cheer, not the catering. This will also help you easily dial in any food accommodations you will need to make.

Because the list is going to be small, have one (set of) guest(s) bring an appetizer and one bring a dessert. No one ever shows up to a dinner party empty handed, right? (If they do, maybe they shouldn’t be on the invite list in the first place!) Use this to lighten your load a little when someone asks “What can I bring?”.

2. Keep the Recipes Simple

Mixed Grill.

Weeknight Parties are for make ahead meals or quick and easy cooking, not a seven course meals. Grill a simple combo of meat and veggies. Make a one pot meal. Bonus points if you create a menu around something that your guests actually assemble themselves -Taco Bar! Chili Cookout with fixins! That way there is minimal food prep when your guests actually arrive.

3. But Definitely Find A WOW Factor

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Convenience is awesome and what you are going for, but the idea of inviting everyone over to hover around a Crock Pot doesn’t sound very Martha Stewart Entertaining, right? This is where you insert wow factor. Take a simple idea and elevate it. Want to grill vegetables because it’s simple? Add an herbed vinaigrette to spice it up a bit. We decided early on to do a Taco Bar for our Book Club dinner — Easy, right? Prep toppings before hand. Guests assemble themselves, just get the food on the table and you’re good to go. But to give it a bit of a wow factor we decided that instead of just browning ground beef we would use grilled tri-tip.

Tri Tip Tacos: YUM!

Still super convenient, but slightly more exciting than your average taco bar.

4. Prep Everything You Can Beforehand

Split Pea Recipe

I don’t just mean chop your toppings. Determining your table set up, setting out your serve ware, make sure you have enough serving spoons, bust out the beverage tub, do you have enough ice? All of that little stuff takes time! Get it all done the night before so that you only have to tend to the necessities when your friends come over. If you have the space, set everything up in your serve ware dishes in the fridge, then just assemble your table when it’s tame.

5. Clean Up That Night NO MATTER WHAT

Christmas Dinner

This is the hardest, but also the most necessary. Consider this the entertaining equivalent to “Always wash your face at the end of the night no matter how drunk you are.”

YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.

Yep, you might be tired after glass clinking and good conversation. Full bellies are never eager to wash dishes, I know. But harness that last bit of energy and sprint to the finish line. It will be much more gratifying to wake up to a clean house the next day than it will be to immediately go to bed and ignore the mess.

******

In the end it’s a total win — you get to see friends and still keep your weekends free! What’s not to love?

Any tips you’ve got in your back pocket? Go-To Menus? Favorite one pot dishes? Share! Share! Share!

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10 comments to School Night Social: 5 Tips For Hosting a Weeknight Dinner Party

  • Linda Sand
    July 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    I do a salad bar. Chopped meat/poultry and sliced eggs and garbanzo beans so people can decide what protein fits their food preferences. Exotic vegetables and/or unusual dressings for the wow factor. Everything is chopped and put into serving dishes the day before except the greens; I like my lettuce freshly cut.

    • Holly
      July 13, 2012 at 7:34 am

      Salad bars are THE BEST! Especially on hot summer nights. And I’m totally with you on the freshly cut lettuce!

  • Mallory
    July 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    I loved the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society! I hope you will too.

    • Holly
      July 13, 2012 at 7:35 am

      So many people have recommended it and I’ve owned it for a few years. Really excited to finally be reading it!

  • Denise
    July 11, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    CLEAN UP, YOU IDIOT! is something I constantly say to myself during the prepping and as I’m going along. I kind of inconspicuously clean as the night progresses (oh my! That cheese tray is empty! Allow me to stick it in the dishwasher!) (I have never in my life served cheese that wasn’t melted on top of buffalo chicken and served dip style, but whatever).

    I also clean before dessert is served. I don’t get all crazy and bust out the 409 or anything, but I at least wipe off counter crumbs and put the dishes in a sink full of soapy water so if for some reason I do not get to them (see: wine, drank all of) then at least I don’t wake up with a sink full of stuck on food.

  • Maureen
    July 12, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    I am so jealous you are reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society for the first time-this is one of my favorite books. I used to work at a bookstore, and we would get advance copies of books (heaven!)that we could take home for free. This book sat in the staff room for a long time, I think the title put people off. I picked it up, read that it took place in the Channel Islands, which have always fascinated me. I brought it home, and fell in love with the book. I can’t tell you how many copies I handsold of this novel, my enthusiasm knew no bounds! Did I mention I LOVE this book, and I really hope you do too.

    • Holly
      July 13, 2012 at 7:36 am

      I DREAM of working at a bookstore, I tell you. But it might kind of be like an alcoholic working at a bar. I don’t know. I’m so excited to read this book. It comes highly recommended from so many!

  • bethanyrx
    July 13, 2012 at 6:42 am

    My mother-in-law has a legit Rolodex… but she also signs all facebook posts “love, Jane” like we don’t know it’s her posting. ;)

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