Dinner party schedule–how long from guest arrival to food?

posted 3 years ago in Cooking
Post # 3
238 posts
Helper bee

everytime my SO and I have had people over for dinner, we are usually still in the process of cooking and getting things organized when they get there.  we have finger foods/appetizers and drinks available for when people get there, but don’t normally start eating our main meals till about 45 min after people arrive.  it worked for his house because his kitchen, dining room, and living room all flowed into one another which allowed for chit chatting and what not while we were still getting things together.  personally, i don’t enjoy going anywhere, even a restaurant (unless i am starving) and eating right away.  i like to ease into things. 

Post # 4
1248 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: April 2014

When I host dinner parties I try to prep as much as I can before guests arrive. We usually have multiple courses so first course or nibbles would be out within 20 mins or so.

Post # 5
6166 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: October 2013

@hippomama:  when i host dinner parties, i say dinner will be served at X time, please arrive accordingly. 

sometimes i will say come over a little early for apps.

but yes, i cook ahead so everything is ready when my guests arrive.

dessert might still be in oven, but that is ok.


Post # 6
885 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

I’m also a big fan of doing as much as possible before guests arrive, as I don’t like when guests are trying to help me in the kitchen.  However, I usually try to cook things that I can finish the prep on, guests can arrive, and we can eat within the hour.  But I would have drinks and appetizers for the guests to eat while we wait for dinner.

Post # 7
1869 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: May 2013

I am usually running a bit behind schedule and will still be cooking when people arrive… but generally I also have late arrivers so in the end dinner usually ends up waiting for one friend or another to show up.

I think some of it depends on the crowd / level of formality (ie your 2 closests couple friends is different atmosphere than having your husband’s boss over for dinner)

when its closer friends usually the ladies will hang out in the kitchen (at my breakfast bar) and chat w me over a glass of wine while the guy go into the other room and watch/ talk sports /music or somethin, if its something more formal – I will usually have my cold courses preped and plastic wrapped in the fridge ready to go (ie salads) and hot food simmering on the stove/oven. I usually try to cook meals that are forgiving on timing when we have guests as people are often late. 

I do think that regardless of who is coming that about 1 hr after the invite time is about the right time to actually serve dinner…. I prefer a little time to socialize before dinner instead of immediately sitting down and eating

Post # 10
1869 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: May 2013

I think that its always sort of awkward to not really be friends with the “lady of the house” because for me I am always torn with trying to help but maybe being in the way vs just hanging with the guys in the other room and feeling a bit guilty

I do think that appetizers help –  maybe next time you go over bring a little cheese ad cracker plate or something? you don’t have to say anything mean like “since you never have anything and I starving!” (not that I think you would) but you could just be like “I just saw this recipe and thought that Joe might love it since its bacon ranch!” or “my mom always said never to show up empty handed!”




Post # 11
9137 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 2013 - St. Augustine Beach, FL

@hippomama:  It depends on what time the dinner party starts and whether there are appetizers/snacks out when you arrive.  I usually have dinner cooking by the time guests arrive so that there are only 15-30 minutes remaining until we can eat.  I always have out chips and salsa and veggies for just in case anyone is starving and needs to eat something before dinner is ready.

Post # 12
53 posts
Worker bee

I think anything over 30mins from guest arrival is too long to wait for food. 

Post # 13
133 posts
Blushing bee

We usually tell our guests dinner will be ready at a particular time and they are free to come over anytime before. I’ll have appetizers and other munchies out, and we can all sit and visit while dinner is being finished. 

Post # 14
1566 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

@hippomama:  We always aim to have things finished and warming by the time people come over. And then it just ends up that we are still cooking when they get there. We all hang out in the kitchen anyways.

Post # 15
2740 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: April 2010

An hour between arrival and sitting down to dinner sounds about right to me, but only if most of the cooking has been done and the hosts are relaxed and visiting with their guests (preferably with wine & nibbles available) with only occasional trips to the kitchen to finsh things up.  If the hosts are going to hole up in the kitchen cooking the entire meal in the hour before it’s served, then they should invite their guests closer to mealtime.

As a guest, I don’t like to walk in the door and immediately sit down to dinner.  I like to sit and chat, have a glass of wine, and ease into it.  Otherwise I feel like I’m just there to eat (like a restaurant) rather than to socialize.


Post # 16
9526 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2013

Yeah, I think the problem is not the amount of time between arrival and dinner, but that your hosts aren’t acting as hosts during that time. When we have people over we don’t plan to eat until at least 30 minutes after they arrive, often 45 minutes to an hour. For a big holiday meal for the whole family, we actually have about 2 hours of socializing prior to the meal. However, we have drinks and apps ready when they get there and we socialize during that time. If possible, we’ll have most of the cooking done so we can both socialize and just pop back into the kitchen to stir things. But some recipes don’t work for that and in those cases one of us will stay in the kitchen and the other will socialize in the living/dining area. And we’ll trade back and forth so we can both cook and socialize. I also often find that some of the guests will wander into the kitchen so you can socialize and cook at the same time, which is nice so long as it’s not a super complicated recipe that you have to concentrate on! I find this to be a nice time to have one-on-one or small group discussions prior to everyone getting together for the meal.

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