Catering for large parties can be a daunting task, particularly for someone with little to no experience. When putting on any party, whether you are entertaining at home or another venue, there is a list of challenges to overcome; these are made all the more demanding as the guest list grows.
Nevertheless, entertaining large parties is tremendously rewarding, particularly if you are celebrating a particularly special occasion such as a wedding or milestone birthday. The sense of achievement and feeling that you’ve put on a really great event will be worth the hard work in the end. In the meantime, here is a comprehensive guide to alleviate your stress levels.
The first question on most soon-to-be hosts’ and hostesses’ lips is ‘what on Earth am I going to serve?’ Our advice to you – keep things simple.
Firstly, keep the menu simple by offering three or four dishes including at least one vegetarian option. Serving plenty of just a handful of dishes looks more appealing and generous than a vast number of small portions. Moreover, you are less likely to be left with leftovers of certain dishes whilst others quickly run out. A minimum of three or four dishes should ensure that all your guests are able to find something they like.
Secondly, items on the menu should be simple to produce, where possible, suitable for overnight storage. This means the menu can be produced in bulk the day before the event and stored in a refrigerator if you have space. If not, garages or pantries are often cool enough here in the UK to store food temporarily, although be sure not to attempt to chill or set anything in such an environment. Pre-preparing as much as possible leaves you with less to do on the day, giving you more time to set up the venue, get ready and welcome and entertain your guests.
On a similar note, timing is an essential aspect to any catering operation. In order for the party to run smoothly and dishes to be ready at the right time, it is useful to write down an action plan of when dishes need preparing, taking out of storage or putting in and taking out of the oven. Writing everything down means you can simply check off items as you go, reducing the risk of a forgetting a key ingredient or overcooking the main!
Crockery, Cutlery and Glassware
For a party to impress, the crockery, cutlery and glassware must be en-pointe. Continuity across the entire tableware spectrum is essential to give that professionally-catered look and feel and it goes without saying that all must be laid and arranged correctly.
Whilst you may have your best set of china that makes an appearance at Christmas and other special occasions, it is unlikely to be a vast enough collection to cater for a large party and so the best option is often to hire tableware from a professional company. In the capital, a search for ‘catering equipment hire London’ for example will return a number of highly reputable catering companies.
Space and Decoration
The layout and decoration of your venue is essential for setting the mood and ambience, whilst ensuring guests are comfortable as well as entertained. Pick a colour scheme of two or three colours, making sure everything from table linen to table decorations fit accordingly. Naturally, the décor should match the occasion and, more often than not, keeping things simple and elegant is a sensible choice.
If entertaining at home, arrange the seating with a view to maximising space around the edges. Not only will this prevent guests feeling crammed in, it will also allow you ease of access to each guest’s place when serving or clearing away courses.
Finally, at the event splitting your time carefully between cooking, serving and entertaining guests is of paramount of important. Made far easier if you have a partner or friends to help out, remaining calm and cheerful helps set the mood of the evening. With adequate preparation and help from your co-hosts, however, there’s no reason why you can’t perfect this balancing act.
If something goes wrong, never fear. Honesty is usually the best policy with your guests and hopefully they’ll be understanding. We wish you the best of luck!