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Throw A Successful Dinner Party On A 20-Something's Budget

Dinner parties are the classiest way to gather friends and eat food, without dropping a fortune at a restaurant. Follow these 6 tips to ensure you and all of your guest enjoy the evening.

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1. Keep it simple

There is no harm in a good theme, but keep the decorations to a minimum. I know that theme-appropriate $20 table cloth may seem life-changing, but in the grand scheme of things, a great dinner party is about conversation and food. Go ahead and choose the plastic table cloth, $0.50 tea light candles, and your personal mismatched flat wear. As long as your guests are pleasant, entertaining folks, no one will be judging.

2. Mix up the guest list


We all have that core group of friends. It's the group you call at 10pm on a Saturday, when you realize you have zero plans, and they always agree to meet up. Those friends are great, but dinner parties can be a great way to mix up the social circle a little. Invite friends from various departments of your life so they can mingle. Keep the list relatively small, and appropriate for your apartment (or whatever venue you choose) so no one feels cramped. Go the extra mile and send out some email invites.

3. Make it a potluck


Potlucks are the best. Very few 20-somethings can afford to feed all of their friends, so make it BYOD (Bring Your Own Dish). However, you will need to step up and make sure everyone doesn't bring the same meal element. Assign out salad duty, main course duty, beverages, ect., so you don't end up with table full of desserts. There are even some websites that take care of this for you.

4. Include some premade food, just in case disaster strikes


Let's face it, not everyone is cut out for the Food Network. Keep some premade options on hand, like frozen appetizers, just in case some element of the meal goes south. You can't let your guests go hungry because Suzie confused the salt with the sugar.

5. Plan out seating and make sure there is enough of it


As polite as your friends may be, no one wants to come over to your place and sit on the floor, and your IKEA bookshelf does not count as a dining room table. Similarly, having some people sitting on the couch while others are at a table completely kills the conversation, which is the entire point of the gathering. If you don't have enough chairs or table space, borrow some from a neighbor or invite fewer people.

6. Have backup entertainment


Prepare for the possibility that conversation could dissolve, particularly after the meal when everyone is in digestion mode. There are plenty of great board games or getting-to-know-you games out there that can bring the energy back up.

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