Have you agreed to host a large dinner party for family, friends or coworkers? Are you in a complete state of panic wondering what inspired you to make such a stressful commitment? If you’re a novice to entertaining, follow these tips from the professionals for a stress free evening that both you and your guests will enjoy.

If you are hosting more than a dozen guests, by far the simplest plan is to have guests serve themselves from a buffet. More often than not, either the dining room table or kitchen table is perfect for accommodating a buffet spread.  The same way you’ll prepare your outfit, nails, and hair, the buffet table should be given the same consideration. If you don’t have a large tablecloth, the fabric stores are the least expensive place to find colorful fabrics. Decide on a centerpiece of fresh cutting from your yard, flowers or even fresh fruit.  In determining your menu, keep it simple. A protein dish, vegetable and pasta, rice or potatoes should suffice for all of your guests.  Should a guest offer to bring something, suggest either a desert or appetizer.  These won’t need to be accommodated on the buffet. Plan to prepare as much of your meal in advance as possible. All of the mixing and chopping should been completed well before hand. Select recipes that can be made in advance.  Warming food or cooking in the oven is easy enough to manage in the presence of guests.  You certainly don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen the entire evening when you should be enjoying your guests.

Tips for Setting the Perfect Buffet

Have the plates stacked on one end of the buffet for easy self-service. The flatware and napkins should be at the opposite end of the buffet so guests won’t need to balance a plate, serve themselves and deal with flatware all at the same time. Have the appetizer and drink table in a different area than the food buffet to encourage movement of your guests and prevent a bottleneck. Most importantly enjoy yourself and your guests!