Tips For A Stress Free Dinner Party

I love dinner parties.
I love hosting them and I love going to them.
I would rather do a dinner party than go to a restaurant anyday of the week.
It can seem a little overwhelming at first, but if you are the one hosting a dinner party, just having a few tips up your sleeve can turn it into a stress free and fun evening. And with party season upon us, there’s no time like the present!

Tips For A Stress Free Dinner Party

Outdoor Dinner Parties ~ Image courtesy of

1. Plan Ahead

* For me this is a case of always thinking ahead. I like to keep notes on menu ideas, meal plans that look fabulous in magazines, things I see on cooking TV. 
I use many ideas from Lulu Powers’ book 
(Lulu Powers From Food To Flowers) and website
My crazy schedule means that I have to do everything on the fly so having to come up with a menu plan at the last minute could be stressful.

* Keep core ingredients in the pantry. 


I try to always have essentials in the pantry so that I can throw something together at the last minute. From Thai Sweet Chili Sauce to coconut milk, from cans of diced tomatoes to jars of roasted red peppers, from boxes of couscous to bags of jasmine rice, I like to have game changers on hand. This makes it easier to shop for an organized dinner party, but also bails me out when guests arrive unexpectedly, or when a fun afternoon evolves into a dinner.

* Stock up a hostess closet.
Having table linens, cocktail napkins, candles and place settings within easy reach makes entertaining much more simple.
I pick up cocktail napkins and candles throughout the year as I find them, and I love to find beautiful table linens both locally and on my travels. On my Christmas List this year I want Valentino’s new book on entertaining Valentino, At The Emporer’s Table
 Valentino’s table settings and flair for entertaining are legendary.


* Do as much as you can the day before
Trying to do everything the day of the dinner party can be stressful, and can eat up your personal glam time. A frazzled host is a vibe killer, so I like to get as much as possible done the day before ~ any shopping and food prep, setting the table, setting out candles, organizing music, making sure guest bathrooms are cleaned and well stocked, making sure my outfit is ready to throw on at the last minute.

image courtsey of

*Plan your guest list
Think about who you are inviting, and who mesh well together. A dinner party is more about the personalities around the table than it is about the food. No matter how brilliant the food is, if you’re stuck sitting next to some total tool you won’t enjoy yourself.
Try to put together a good blend of people who will enjoy each other, inspire and entertain each other. 

2. The Menu
*When less is more
Make fewer food choices ~ less fuss = less stress.
Have something you can throw in the oven, have a few things you can pick up ready made, and have something you are really good at making.
I find the very best, most successful dinner parties are the ones where the food is simple, the wine is abundant, the setting is lovely, and the company is well paired.

* When more is more
Tips-For-A-Stress-Free-Dinner-Party-03As in more wine. 
I like to have several choices of wine available. I hate it when the only white is chardonnay (I’m a sauvignon blanc/sancerre girl), or the only red is heavy and dense. Having a variety of wines available makes it festive and fun. 
(And if the food isn’t working out you can always get everyone drunk!)
*Stay out of the kitchen
As in create a menu that doesn’t have you slaving over a hot stove. In order to be the hostess with the mostess you need to be part of the fun, so keep the food simple.

3. Be Chill
Your mood will dictate the vibe of the party. If you are stressed your guests are going to feel it.

Lulu Powers. I steal all my best ideas from her books

*Allow yourself time for glam – half the fun is getting all prettied up for the party.
* Plan some great music
The soundtrack to your party sets the mood and keeps it flowing.
* Light candles
It’s all in the ambience! And if something has gone wrong with the food copious amounts of wine coupled with candle light can mask pretty much anything!


Bon appetit!

Lulu Powers Party Planning

I just got back from spending a few days in Hollywood, where all work aside, I got to go to some completely fabulous parties.

Lulu Powers is one of Hollywood’s premiere celebrity party planners and caterers. Her events have a very distinct flair to them, and thanks to her gorgeous book, Lulu Powers From Food To Flowers, they are also quite duplicatable.
One of the events I was at this week was a Lulu Powers inspired event. This got me thinking (over several of her famous Bambootinis) now that we are in the summer party season, that some of you may be interested in her tips for how to throw a last minute party.

Lulu Powers From Food To Flowers is my entertaining bible. I constantly pull ideas from her book, whether it is flower arrangements in my house, cool drinks to serve at my pool parties, or fantastic finger foods that keep people talking for months to come.
If you are new to entertaining, or if it feels overwhelming to you, Lulu has lists of what to keep in your pantry for last minute entertaining, timelines for how to structure your day so that everything runs smoothly, even creative serving ideas.
On her blog, amongst other things, you can find playlists to download for your party. Its fabulous!

Here are a couple of ideas for a little impromptu summer bash a la Lulu.

Bypass fussy arrangements in favor of plants that live in your garden. Try positioning low bowls of one color flower offset with moss on tables and shelves at a variety of different heights.

Sweet and Spicy Tacos

Lulu’s recipe for sweet and spicy tacos is both quick and easy, and everyone loves them! (you’ll find it in her book on page 232)
She also has delicious recipes for chips and dips that are not only divine, but make your event so memorable.


In hot weather you can’t beat icy cold wedges of watermelon for dessert.
Sprinkle with sea salt, a dash of lime and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Lulu’s book has some fantastic recipes for her signature cocktails too.
I haven’t put a cocktail recipe on the blog for a while, but this one is refreshing and totally perfect for a summer get together.

The Lulu Powers Key Lime Martini

1 cup pineapple juice
3 tablespoons Torani vanilla syrup
3 tablespoons sweet and sour mix
juice of one lime
1 cup vodka (I use Grey Goose)
Jolly Rancher Lollipops

Shake the pineapple juice, syrup, sweet and sour mix, lime juice and vodka in a cocktail shaker with ice.
Serve in martini glasses garnished with a Jolly Rancher Lollipop.

(or make a carafe of them and place next to a bowl of crushed ice, and let your guests pour their own!)

You can find Lulu Powers From Food To Flowers in bookstores, or for instant gratification, here is the Amazon link.
Make sure you check out her blog, Living A La Lulu