Throwing a dinner party for 12 provides an intimate and budget-friendly way to catch up with your friends and their families. Between shuttling the kids around, work and taking care of the house, you may not have much time to prepare for a formal dinner party. Easy dinner parties allow you to keep the event stress-free and focus on providing a fun evening for your guests.
It may seem like an old-fashioned idea, but having a potluck dinner party allows you to get your guests involved and save time in the kitchen. Pick a theme or style of cuisine, such as Asian, Italian or an old-fashioned country dinner. Then assign a dish to each guest or family coming to the party. As the host, you probably want to tackle the main course yourself. If you're making a meat-based dish, ask a friend to make a vegetarian alternative. Other guests can bring appetizers, side dishes, salads and a variety of dressings, and dessert.
For a kid-friendly, casual dinner party, try a sit-down barbecue. It's a natural choice in the summer when you can use your grill and dine on your patio, but you can still pull it off in when the weather turns cool. Cook up hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken breasts and steaks in a grill pan. Vegetable skewers are a tasty vegetarian option. Serve up classic barbecue side dishes like baked beans, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and green beans. To save time, purchase the sides from your grocery store's deli section so you only have to focus on grilling. Keep the dessert simple and light by serving fresh fruit and sorbet.
For a fun, retro twist, throw a fondue dinner party. It's an ideal option for a larger group because you don't have to do much cooking ahead of time. For an appetizer, start with a classic cheese fondue and serve it with cubed bread and vegetables. Beef broth or chicken stock fondue works well as a main course, or prepare a vegetable stock with tofu and mushrooms as a vegetarian option. For 12 people, prepare at least two pots of each fondue option available, so guests don't have to reach too far across the table. Chocolate fondue make an ideal dessert when served with cubed pound cake or fresh fruit. If your guests prefer a lighter option after a heavy fondue dinner, store-bought sorbet may come in handy.
Progressive Dinner Party
If you're organizing a get-together for friends in your neighborhood, you may have fun with a progressive dinner party. As with a potluck, each couple or family is responsible for a dish, but the party actually travels from one home to the next for each course. Start with appetizers at your home and move onto the next host's home for soup or salad. Another neighbor can prepare the main course, while others prepare a cheese course and after-dinner drinks. A progressive dinner party cuts down on the amount of work that each host must do but allows for a real night out as you move for home to home. Discuss the menu ahead of time with your neighbors, to provide a sense of unity with the courses.
Based in New York City, Jennifer Blair has been covering all things home and garden since 2001. Her writing has appeared on BobVila.com, World Lifestyle, and House Logic. Blair holds a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.