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5 Tips for a New Lawyer's 1st Professional Dinner Party

By Mark Wilson, Esq. | Last updated on

When professionals get together, they have dinner parties. Yes, it's time for the world of adult conversations, cocktails, and meal courses. As a newly minted associate, you'll need to mingle with colleagues in this time-honored bourgeois ritual, but if you've never hosted a dinner party, it can seem daunting.

Never despair: We're here to help! Check out these five tips:

1. Planning Is Key.

As with any social function where there will be multiple people, the key is plenty of planning beforehand. Who's coming, what do they like, and what don't they like are things you need to know. Take another look at the first one: Who's coming? A successful dinner party doesn't just turn on what food you're serving, but also on who's going to be there. You want guests who are lively, not sticks-in-the-mud, but also not people who are too boisterous. Obviously, don't invite people who dislike each other.

2. Know Your Courses.

Dinner parties are usually multi-course affairs. And by "course," I don't just mean "food," but also that the dinner party is divided into discrete sections.

The first is the cocktail/arrival section. Everyone who arrives should be greeted with an offer of a cocktail, beer, wine, or something else. (Hopefully you have a decently stocked home bar.) Once everyone has arrived, appetizers come either at the table or in a living room. Appetizers are followed by the main course, and the main course by dessert. After food, you can adjourn to somewhere else for lively conversation or maybe a board game. (Or perhaps you've gathered to watch this week's episode of "How To Get Away With Murder"?)

3. You're Not Julia Child.

That's not a knock at you (because you might be pretty good in the kitchen), but just a reminder that you don't have to go nuts when it comes to preparing a meal. Steak and potatoes works just fine; you can also just make a big ol' casserole. The food isn't the most important thing: What's important is people coming to have a nice time. Dinner party advice-givers generally say that you should make something you know how to make. In other words, this isn't the time to experiment with quiche.

Can you ask people to bring something? Absolutely. Gone are the days when the host had to provide everything. If a friend makes a mean Welsh rarebit, who are you to say "no" to that?

4. Size Doesn't Matter.

And here, of course, we're talking about the size of your apartment. I lived in an apartment with a small kitchen and dining area, so "dinner party" meant having to rearrange the furniture in the living room to accommodate the kitchen table. And you know what? That was perfectly fine. Not everyone has a separate dining room, kitchen, and lounge like Mr. Boddy (though look where that got him), and your coworkers are probably in the same predicament.

5. Don't Forget to Enjoy Yourself.

A stressed-out host leads to stressed-out guests, so don't fret about little things. So what if the turkey's a little dry? No one's going to hold it against you.

Just remember: Dinner parties should be enjoyable events, so lighten up and let the evening run its course.

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