Hostesses With The Mostest > Entertaining and Hospitality

When to have dinner ready

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aline:
I've been thinking about this lately and wanted to run it by all of you to see what you think. I enjoy throwing smallish (4-6 people) dinner parties and try to make it a pleasant experience for everyone.

It seems that there are usually one or two people running a bit behind (15 -20 minutes - not a big deal), so it doesn't make sense to have everything ready to eat right at the scheduled start time, but I don't want anyone to have to wait too long either.

So my question is, if everyone is set to arrive at say 6 p.m. expecting dinner, how long after 6 should I plan on having all of the food ready without being too early, or causing anyone to be hungry and miserable?

I've been aiming for 20-30 minutes past 6, but that seems to be a bit early (everyone is still trying to get in, get something to drink, say hello, etc.), and the food's gotten cold the last couple of times.

Thanks in advance for your ideas!

Chocolate Cake:
Have appetizers/drinks available at 6:00 and dinner ready no later than 6:30- 6:35.  If the latecomers don't have enough of a chance to socialize first or aren't there by 6:30, too bad for them.   Maybe next time, they'll make a point of arriving on time.

Shoo:
I usually plan dinner to be served 30 to 45 minutes after the guests arrive.  That gives us time to chat and have appetizers and drinks.  It also makes things more relaxed and less rushed.

Jaywalker:
is this a worknight thing or a weekend dinner party?  6 seems very early for a dinner party

obviously timing is somewhat contingent on the culture -- but I would find it very rushed if people sat down to dinner at 6:30 when invited for 6 for dinner (unless is were a casual functional working night dinner and not a social occasion)

we normally serve about an hour after guests are asked to arrive -- we have champagne or other drinks, cheeses, grapes etc and people talk in the living room -- we normally head for the table about an hour after arrival time

I have almost never been to a dinner party where the meal begins in less than an hour after arrival time -- the cocktail time is part of the event --

Summrs:
What Jay said.  When I invite people for 6, it's usually understood that there will be drinks and appetizers (so no one starves), and dinner will be about 7.  That leaves enough time for stragglers.  If someone hasn't arrived by 7, we go ahead with dinner.

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