Beauty, Fashion, Travel, Fitness, Wellness and Lifestyle Blog | Emtalks


Sunday 23 April 2023


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As I'm sure you've seen if you follow me on Instagram (@emshelx) or TikTok (@emshelx) then you will know that I love to host. I do it all the time, it's my favourite thing, totally adulting. There's something about providing for family and friends that I just love so much. My love language is gifting so it makes a lot of sense... I wanted to put together some tips and tricks on how to host the perfect dinner party. Of course I had to oblige! Although honestly, this is a dream blog post for me to write. I have so many hosting tips and tricks that I can tell you about. So please keep on reading if you would love to know how to be THE best host.

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Tip #1 - Your Guest List 

The first thing you need to do before hosting any sort of event is working out your guest list. Who do you want to invite? This then dictates the whole rest of the planning process.
I tend to divide my guest lists into Family v Friends. If I'm doing a family event, I stick to just family members (mostly) so we are all able to just spend some time together and catch up. 
If I'm hosting for friends, I like to branch out a little bit. It's fun, especially if certain friends haven't met before, as it's a great way to start introducing them! 
For example, one time I hosted and invited two friends who had never met, plus they brought along a friend of theirs and now my friend and their friend are coupled up! So it's always great to keep an open mind and introduce people. 

Tip #2 - Pick a Theme 

I love picking a theme. This is obviously not essential but I think it makes the process a lot more fun! I always like to do something around the holidays - like Easter (you can see my Easter tablescape I put together below!) or Christmas. But there are other things you can do also rather than just theme it around holidays! Like a pizza party or a summer cocktail party. If you're planning on doing a pizza party I cannot recommend my Ooni Pizza oven enough! We've hosted so many parties using this, it's such a great staple to have in your kitchen. I'm obsessed with choosing a colour scheme to match so for example every year I throw a GALentines gathering, the theme is obviously pink and hearts! Pick a colour and roll with it.

 It's also great way to get your guests to pitch in too! For example if you're doing a summer cocktail party you can ask all your guests to bring the ingredients to make their own version of a summer cocktail. 
The possibilities are endless and it's such a great way to add a little more fun to your hosting. 

Hosting theme ideas:

> Easter
> Christmas
> Winter
> Summer picnic 
> Autumn
> Pizza party
> Cocktail party 
> Black tie
> Board night {everyone brings a board} 
> Galentines 
> Cheeseboard 

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Shop my placemats here 
Shop my napkin holders here 

Tip #3 - Food & Drink

Nibbles galore!

Once you've got the above sorted you need to work out what you're going to serve for your food and beverages. 

- A bowl of crisps & a dip such as Hummus, or Tzatsiki - I love Tyrrells and Torres
- Cucumber, carrot sticks for the dips 
- Little cocktail sausages with a honey mustard dip 
- Antipasti like Olives, Ricotta Stuffed Peppers or Artichokes (Waitrose do absolutely delicious Antipasti options - just dispense them in one of your own bowls and they work a treat!) it's all about putting everything in pretty bowls but Waitrose make it easier with their yummy selection
- I like Brindisa for manchego and olives and of course, some Boursin 
- A grazing board with some Salami, Chorizo, a little bit of bread, Manchego Cubes

I love these little bowls from The White Company which are the perfect size to put all your nibbles into. 
They also do great options for grazing boards. I love this heart shaped one - so cute! Also I have a couple of their marble ones which are so nice. Like this one here. 

Drinks wise it's always good to have everything you're prepared right at the start so your guests are able to have the option. White and Rose wine should be in the fridge chilling. If you're doing Prosecco or Champagne these should also be popped into the fridge. The first thing I ask my guests when they come through the door is 'what would you like to drink?' I always like to give my guests a glass of high quality fizz at the start. My favourite right now is Telmont Champagne. Make sure to have a red wine option too, we usually go to a local sommelier to choose a speical one for the occasion. I have a few friends who exclusively stick to Red or White so I always make sure to cater to both! I need to shout out my favourite wine at the moment - Bird in Hand. They're a winery based in Colchester - we love a U.K. vineyard! Their Chardonnay is my favourite. Grab a crate of beers and put that into the fridge too. Pre-mixed cocktails are also a really good idea! It saves you having to make a mess making them and there are so many options available out there nowadays. My favourite is Tails cocktails. Their Espresso Martini one is the best! It makes cocktail making SO easy as you literally just add ice and shake but have restaurant quality cocktails at home, a sure fire way to impress the guests. And if it's summer then you know you have to have Aperol! It's a summer staple in my household. Bring Italy home. ALWAYS have a non alcholic version available too, whether that's tonic {Fevertree + Schweppes for me!}, soda water, Coca Cola, Fanta or non-alcholic spirits. I always make sure I'm stocked up on these. Who says not drinking has to be boring? 

Shop similar Champagne saucers here & here

Your Main Meal
Normally when casually hosting I tend to not do a starter as I just find it too much hassle. So unless I'm really putting in the effort, I go straight for a main. Hopefully my guests have been making their way through all the nibbles on offer! 
My top tip is just to keep it simple. A one pot dish is the most practical and has the least wastage. For example, people can serve themselves, they're able to come back for seconds and also if it's not all eaten you can freeze it and have it for yourself later on! A pasta or rice based dish are always the easiest to rustle up. I'm a huge fan of serving yourself dishes. 

Some of my favourites are: 
- Butternut Squash Risotto
- A pasta bake of some kind - Tuna works really well 
- Baked Chicken with a salad you've prepared beforehand 
- Spaghetti Bolognese - Vegetarian or not. You can pre cook the Bolognese and just heat it up and then the spaghetti only takes 20 minutes. 
- Zizzi pizzas, if we don't want to get the pizza oven out, it's pizzas for the guests from Zizzi!
- Sharing roast dinner 

I also always make sure to do a dessert or at least have a sweet treat at the end. I have a sweet tooth and always need a little something after a meal! 
If you don't want to whip together a whole dessert just grab some chocolate and put it on the table for sharing. Some good options are Tony's Chocoloney, Charbonnel & Walker Champagne Truffles, Lindt Sea Salt Dark Chocolate. People always pick at it, even if they say they don't.

If you are going to make a dessert then the best advice I have to give is make sure it's one that you are able to prepare before the dinner that you can either take straight out of the fridge or put in the oven. 
Desserts also don't have to be fancy! There are so many that require only 3-5 ingredients but still taste amazing. 

Here's all the ones I always alternate: 
- Lemon Posset
- Any type of crumble - (Apple is my favourite!)
- Cheesecake - any type
- Banoffee Pie
- Fudge cake 

If in doubt, I buy a carrot cake or crumble from Daylesford 

If I could eat one food forever it would be Camembert 

Tip #4 - Setting up your table 

Before my guests arrive, I like to have the table set and everything organised because then it gives me a chance to chat with my guests and be present. 
Firstly I always have a water on the table in a jug. I like to slice up some fruit - mainly lemons and put these in for a little extra bonus. Always put ice in too! There's nothing worse than a lukewarm glass of water. Make sure to include your water glasses on the table too so your guests are able to have it alongside their drinks. I really love these ones from Anthropologie

I also have all my place settings laid out too. Don't forget napkins! Always make sure you can go for ones that are re-usable. Like these really sweet daisy ones from Marks and Spencer. Equally you can still find some cute paper ones. I really love these from H&M 

If you're allowing your guests to serve themselves then I always make sure to put some heat protectant mats onto my table so the piping hot dishes won't damage them. I have these silicone Le Creuset ones and they're great!

Tip #5 - Set the mood!

Setting the mood is very much a step that should not be overlooked when hosting! 
The first thing I like to do is get the lighting right - truly it makes all the difference! I never have my spotlights on - opting for wall lights instead. It just makes the whole experience a lot more intimate. 
Next up is lighting Candles. I like to do a selection... I'll light my tapered, special dinner party candles for the table. H&M do some great ones! Like these blue ones.

I also like to make sure my room is smelling nice and so I'll light a few of my scented candles. I love Diptyque - Baies & Roses being my favourites. Although I recently got myself the Oud scent and it's so nice! I also always make sure my bathrooms are stocked high with Molton Brown hand wash. 

A good playlist is always an essential. A lot of my dinner parties end up turning into dance parties (we love a kitchen disco!) but I at least like to start the beginning of the evening a little more sophisticated.
Spotify is my go to music streaming platform and I either like to play dinner party playlists I find or I have put together my own which I add to occasionally whenever I come across that could work. 
If in doubt I always put on the Robbie Williams Swing When You're Winning album... Jazz. You can't go wrong! 

Tip #6 - Use YHangry and hire a private chef, yes really! 

Sometimes work can get the better of me and I find myself exhausted or with no time to actually put my cooking skills to the test. That is where YHangry come in! YHangry provide a specially trained private Chef to come to your home and put together and incredible meal for yourself & your guests. You're able to choose which cuisine you would like - from Italian to Asian they have it all! All of the chefs come with a rating & previous work experience.

Once you have selected your chef they will send you over your menu for the evening. You can customise this. Swap things out, change courses depending on dietary requirements. The chef will bring all the ingredients with them so all you need to supply is pots and pans! They will send you a list prior to your event of everything they will need. 

Also one of the best parts is they will also clean up! Which means if you would like to chat and talk with your guests some more rather than hiding away in the kitchen to clean up, this is also possible. 
I truly cannot recommend them enough. I've used YHangry on three occasions now and every time their service & food is incredible. 

If you would also like to give them a go (I definitely recommend you do!) then I do have a code for you which will give you a £25 credit towards your evening! Just follow this link and it will take you straight to their website where you are able to redeem your credit. The prices actually work out really well, often better than buying all the starters, mains and desserts yourself plus it's a wow factor having a private chef for your guests. It doesn't have to be fancy, you can do sharing dishes or even things like brunch! 

Our Yhangry chef cooking up a storm! 
Follow this link for your £25 credit

Tip #8 - Entertainment

If I'm introducing friends who have never met before or I just want a bit of extra fun I like to provide a little bit of entertainment! My go to is games. Playing a game around a table is always so fun, I tend to have such a laugh with my friends when we crack one out! 

Over Christmas I got gifted What Do You Meme which aside from being a little bit inappropriate (top tip - do NOT play with family members. We made that mistake hehe) is hilarious and so so funny. 
Another great card game is Exploding Kittens - sounds weird, but I can guarantee is lots of fun and makes sure to get everyone involved! 

If you have time to kill then you have to whip out the old classic Monopoly. They do so many different versions nowadays! I like the idea of this travel version... 
Cluedo is another one of my all time favourites and a great way to get everyone involved too. Also a classic! 

If board games or card games aren't your thing then there's a game my friends & I love to play. 
All you need is a speaker and your phone with Spotify, Apple Music... Whichever platform you use. 
Whoever has the phone has to play a song and then everyone from the table has to shout it out as soon as they know it, the phone then gets passed on to them and so on. 

This game always manages to get played during my dinner parties with friends. It's so great because people love taking trips down memory lane of old music, songs we used to listen to in school or from when we were children. It's so much fun! 

You can always do things like set up a biscuit icing station, a s'mores creation table or a cocktail making section - this always gets people moving and talking! 

Just a small cheese platter by Berry and Brie 

Tip #9 - The things I always forget:

- Keep the fridge stocked and let the guests help themselves

- Cut the cheese into chunks, people actually eat it then!

- Big serving spoons, I love these ones

- Leave napkins out for guests

- Always have some form of nibble out, even if you're doing starter / main / dessert. People love a snack.

- You can buy gorgeous party plates to save on washing up

- If it's a big one, book a cleaner for the next day! After my house warming I wish we had Fantastic Services booked in to come and clean! They're the best when it comes to cleaning and tidying. You can use my Fantastic Services promo code. 

- ALWAYS leave some form of bin out, clean as you go, it makes it easier

- Keep the dishwasher empty, so you can also clean as you go!

- Have a large jug of water {I add lemon, ice and mint} on the table otherwise you'll spend all night filling up glasses of water for guests 

With that, I think I have covered all bases when it comes to my dinner party hosting tips and tricks. The main advice I can give you is just to have fun with it and don't overthink anything. Your friends & family will be thankful enough that they get to spend time with you in the first place, everything else really is just an added bonus. 


Don't forget to come find me on Instagram, TikTok & Youtube where I keep you up to date on all things hosting but also fashion, travel, food & general all round fun! 

Lots of love, Em x
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