By Kelly Hines

There are few things I love more than throwing a dinner party. I love cooking, I love parties, and I love people. So I’m always a little taken aback by people who think entertaining is outside their wheelhouse. I’m going to break down all the reasons you might think you can’t party with the best of them, and help you host the best dinner party ever!

I Don’t Have Enough Room

I have no formal dining room, and a kitchen table that seats six. There are five people in my family. But this weekend we had fourteen for dinner, and have had eighty at a standing room only New Year’s Eve Party. Card tables, coffee tables, benches, countertops, and outdoor spaces (weather permitting) can all be used to accommodate a crowd. Yes, sometimes it gets cozy! But it’s always a good time.

My House is Mess

Worry about three areas: The kitchen, the living/gathering room, and the bathroom. Clutter can be tossed in a laundry basket and hidden in a closed bedroom. Give your bathroom and kitchen a good scrub, and rely on ambient lighting to hide a multitude of sins! Cut overhead lights, turn on lamps, throw some fairy lights in a jar. Everything looks better dimly lit with twinkle lights. Turn on some background music (Ray Lamontagne and the Avett Brothers are my current dinner party favorites) and no one will notice a dustbunny or two.

I Can’t Cook

Chances are, you can cook something. And if you can cook something, you can build around it. Let’s say all you can do is bake a potato. Start with a cheese board (2-3 different cheeses, crackers or sliced baguette, maybe some grapes), ready when your guests arrive. Potatoes are in the oven baking, and you’ve made bowls of different toppings – cheese, sour cream, steamed broccoli, chili (homemade or purchased). Pair with a simple green salad, and you have dinner without hardly doing a thing. Dessert can be ice cream and toppings, or a cake from your favorite bakery. Always buy one thing premade, it will make things so much simpler! If you’re in a money crunch, make it a potluck! Friends are always willing to pitch in for a party.

Also key to a great dinner party is a great drink. If your guests and you like to imbibe, have one cocktail on tap, and know how to make it. A Manhattan is my go-to, but I always have a bottle of wine and something non-alcoholic available as well.

I Don’t Have Enough Plates/Cups/Serving Bowls/Whatever

Get creative. Plates don’t have to match, paper is just fine, and you can always borrow it. I always like to do something different as a table centerpiece and, with the exception of fresh flowers, rarely buy anything. This weekend, I used a small tray in my living room, some river rocks I had in the bottom of a vase, candle holders from outside, and little bits of green moss I had from…something, I don’t even remember what! It was simple, sweet, added nice light to the table, and took about 3 minutes to put together.

I Don’t Have Time

You know your schedule better than I do. But for me, dinner parties are revitalizing, reenergizing, and important to me as a social being. I make the time once a month or so to have people over, because there is nothing better than good food and good friends. Whether it’s 2 guests or 20, a last minute potluck or an elaborately planned affair, a dinner party is what you make it. And when you decide to have one? I’d love to come!