The perfect spring dinner party

Impress your friends and acquaintances with your charm, your wit, and your surprising mastery of hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. What must one know in order to surprise one’s guests? There is more to a successful and stylish party than juice-diluted liquor and finger foods.

First and foremost, one must decide to have either a dinner or cocktail party, both types cannot be thrown at once. Of course, one may serve drinks at dinner or food at cocktail time. In fact, one should serve both items at both kinds of parties, but the ratio of food to drinks depends entirely on which party will take place.

In the tradition of all great hosts and hostesses, one must now choose a theme. There are endless themes to choose from in order to entertain guests. To have a successful party, one must remember to make all of the elements cohesive. The theme must affect everything from the decorations to the food served to the drinks made; even music playing in the background and party games played must accentuate the theme.

One could choose a “luau” theme complete with flower leis to wear and miniature umbrellas for their mixed drinks. For a dinner party, Hawaiian food like skewered then barbequed meat and vegetables could be served. For a cocktail party, finger foods like chunks of pineapple would go nicely. Colorful, icy drinks made with tropical fruit juices will do well for the cocktails.

Another theme idea is “medieval.” This theme tends to be especially fun at dinner parties. Well-seasoned Cornish game hens are a favorite, along with thick, hearty bread. No silverware allowed! Provide each place setting with a small bowl of warm water for hand washing along with a sturdy napkin and serve drinks in stout mugs. Medieval cocktail parties serve drinks not for the faint of heart. Bourbon and brandy are staples, as are shots of hard liquor lit on fire. Decorations should be minimal; dim lighting is a necessity.

Ever enduring is the “classic” theme. Employing a color scheme of mostly black and white, use non-invasive decorations like simple abstract art and play French music. At a dinner party, the food should be uncomplicated, yet decorated lavishly. A classic cocktail party should serve pigs-in-a-blanket and cheese and crackers. Drinks should be chic, yet not over the top. Martinis and Cosmopolitans are essential. Discourage guests from having any cocktail invented in the last decade or so.

Now, it is time to invite your guests.

In this day of dreadfully uncouth e-mail invitations, one must strive to outdo even the most Martha Stewart of hosts with appropriate invitations. Young hosts still in college will often simply telephone each guest to invite them to the upcoming soiree and extend the invitation to friends of the afore-mentioned friend.

However, this is no nauseatingly casual keg party. You are the host of a sophisticated gathering, one of which we call either a dinner or cocktail party. (One must choose which the party will be in advance of invitations being extended.) Decide on the number of people to invite, and be aware of female-to-male ratios. If inviting couples, invite enough single people of each sex to avoid any bitterness; inviting an equal number of those coupled and uncoupled should do the trick.

To arrange a gathering deserving of hard-working, stressed college students on the verge of feeling like adults, one must correctly plan the entire event. Paper, not electronic, invitations must be either mailed or personally delivered to each intended guest. This not only demonstrates respect for one’s friends and their ever-increasing levels of maturity and sophistication, but the tangible invitation also makes remembering the party much easier for those invited. Be sure to indicate the party’s theme on the invitations.

The next step is to decide on an appropriate wardrobe while waiting for those RSVPs. Paying strict attention to the theme of the party, bear in mind that one does not want to go overboard. The host or hostess’ outfit should complement the theme, but not qualify for a Halloween costume. Ladies, dust off those pearls, they never go out of style! As for you gentlemen, you can never go wrong with a tie.

Before the night of the party, one must do the following: 1. Be sure your clothes fit well. 2. Prepare all the dishes at least once to adjust for any surprises. 3. Clean, decorate and be generally prepared for a lovely time. You are now ready to entertain!