All The Secrets To Throwing A Badass Dinner Party

For some, the word "entertaining" can be an arrow straight through the heart. Absolutely terrifying. Guests to corral, dishes to prep, tidying the apartment — it's a big anxiety basket. But, the reality? The lofty standards we set for ourselves are always higher than our friends' expectations. They just want to hang, eat a few bread and butter pickles, drink a glass of pinot grigio, and listen to the sweet sounds of Joss Stone on vinyl. Least, that's what we want to do.
Everyone (even those who loathe hosting) should have a few party tricks up the sleeve. So, we turned to 10 R29 editors for the essentials they use to wow (with minimal effort). The main takeaway: Keep it simple. Buy a statement piece whether a bright pitcher, gold-rimmed dishware, or funky cork vases that will make you excited to have guests over. Trade in that fear for the interesting essentials ahead.
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Designed by Madelyn Somers.
"I love to entertain, but I learned early on that simplicity is key. If you come to my house for dinner, I'll make sure you're well fed, but you won't be getting a six-course dinner. I like to keep whatever I cook super simple. The Barefoot Contessa taught me long along not to spend all my time in the kitchen — you want to spend most of the evening with your guests. Smitten Kitchen and Food52 have great, easy recipes, and if at all possible, I like to do something fresh and seasonal. I hate paper products, so I always use cloth napkins and my best dinner plates (having people over is a good excuse to break out the wedding china). I love stemless wine glasses (feels like being in Europe). Store-bought snacks — hummus, nuts, and olives — look fancier served in pretty little bowls. Fresh flowers, candles, and really good music add to atmosphere. But, all you really need is a good bottle of wine (or three) and good friends to share it with." — Lindsey Stanberry, content editor

Warpaint Vinyl, $21.25, available at Amazon.com.
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Designed by Madelyn Somers.
"This actually is my dream set-up. I just purchased these Wolfum place mats from Of a Kind and have been thinking hard about which items to purchase next to match. I love the idea of keeping everything else within a simple gold and white palette to complement the colorful print of the place mats. Add some white lights and fresh flowers and dinner is served." — Samantha Yu, editorial assistant
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Designed by Madelyn Somers.
"My converted apartment hasn't seen much dinner party action thanks to the lack of a dining room table, but that doesn't mean I eschew entertaining all together. Because I rely on my coffee table to play the part, an elegant tablecloth is a must. My place is small, so I usually stick to appetizers and drinks — nobody's complained yet." — Lauren Caruso, senior living editor
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Designed by Madelyn Somers.
"I moved into my first, big-kid apartment back in May, but have yet to invite my family and friends over for an official housewarming party. I know, I'm a little embarrassed. Especially, since I pride myself on being a pretty decent cook and an even better host. Well, better late than never, right? For my little fete, I'm thinking a tapas-style menu; lots of apps and sweets for everyone to nibble on throughout the evening. And, many bottles of wine, of course." — Ellen Hoffman, editorial assistant

The Big Dish, $22.54, available at Amazon.com.
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Designed by Madelyn Somers.
"I love entertaining, but given my OCD-nature, I can get easily intimidated by all the details. Finding a menu that feels really simple and focuses on fresh ingredients (and usually, lots of fresh herbs from the farmer's market) is my go-to, as well as preparing an easy but decadent dessert in advance —  like a potent pot de crème. As for decorating, fresh flowers in mismatched glass jars from the thrift store and fun, vintage fabric runners are an easy way to dress up a table in minutes." — Christene Barberich, editor in chief
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Designed by Madelyn Somers.
"I'm not much of a cook, so I encourage takeout or delivery as much as possible. I am, however, really down to host the post-dinner event: desserts and tea! After supper is the best time to truly unwind and get down to the chillest level with friends. I'd gladly serve the goods in all of my favorite ceramics." — Jinnie Lee, staff writer
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Designed by Madelyn Somers.
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"I have a few friends who cook, so we collaborate on dinner parties. We usually go for what we call 'fancy comfort food' (think lobster mac 'n' cheese). I didn't get the culinary gene, so my job is setting the mood with music, decor, and drinks. Right now, I’m obsessed with Chandon American Summer. Bubbly adds a festive touch, and the striped bottle pulls double-duty as a chic accessory. Oh, and I always make a custom playlist beforehand, 'cause it's not a party without killer tunes." — Ashley Mateo, staff writer
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Designed by Madelyn Somers.
"Last year, I moved into a place in Brooklyn that has a backyard. I know, a backyard. So, this summer I've felt a severe social obligation to host A LOT. And, turns out, I love it. Usually my roommate and I buy a mix of easy snacks (pickles are a must!) and provide some starter alcohol for the night. Lesson learned: simplicity is key. Also, candles are always a game changer. I buy little votive holders (so cheap) at Jamali Garden, put tea lights in and scatter around the party. And, games are such a great mixer if you have groups of people who don't know each other. Nothing is worse than a party with a bunch of cliques. " — Chloe Daley, associate lifestyle editor

Shino Takeda Whiskey Tumblers, $30, available at General Store.
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Designed by Madelyn Somers.
"As a newbie to the entertaining world, I've looked to my older sister — who just so happens to be the queen of hosting — as my dinner party spirit animal. Of course, the food is important (as is the table decor), but the number one key? Good music to liven things up. This House of Marley bluetooth speaker is perfect because it's loud (and pretty) enough for the outdoor dinner parties I've hosted this summer. Plus, the fact that I can control the music and the vibe of the party while I'm seated is the low maintenance feature I need when there's no time to make a playlist." — Rachel Besser, fashion assistant

Joss Stone, Colour Me Free Audio CD, $12.38, available at Amazon.com.
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Designed by Madelyn Somers.
"I'm not one to cook (my boyfriend does that). So, if I'm hosting, my party consists of wine or champagne and a cheese plate. Done. But, don't think that's boring. To keep the soiree elevated, I inject touches of my personality — glamorous with hints of quirk — into the tabletop setting of trays, plates, and glassware." — Bobby Schuessler, senior market editor
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Designed by Madelyn Somers.
"As much as I love trying out new San Francisco restaurants, there's something so comforting about inviting pals to break some bread at your own casa. I prepare for a yummy night in with flowers delivered by BloomThat and by breaking out some of my face kitchen knickknacks. And, you can't forget the tunes!" — Angela Tafoya, S.F. editor