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Small Space Entertaining Tips

When you've got a small space entertaining isn't easy, but it's also not impossible. If, like us, you find yourself wanting to host a group of friends in your small city apartment, follow these tips to make it a success.

Simple Spaghetti, Spiced up with Sausage

Our dinner party was on a hectic hump day during a snowstorm, but we weren't going to let New York City workloads or weather get in the way. After being held up past schedule at a photo shoot in Brooklyn, time was of the essence. Two subways and a rush-hour gourmet market stop later, we adapted to a last-minute menu of good, old-fashioned spaghetti with pre-cooked asiago and garlic sausage to spice up the sauce. Fifteen minutes of prep, and our guests were treated to a steaming heap of pasta.

Buffet-Style Serving in a Galley-Style Kitchen

One thing is certain: if our wee apartment can host a cozy dinner party--we don't even have a proper table--anyone can make it happen in their space. You know the rule about how, no matter what, everyone always ends up in the kitchen? Not if your kitchen can't physically fit more than two.

We had a team of two to cook up the food and set it out, buffet-style on the counter, and everyone helped themselves and retreated a few steps to the living room. The key here was to keep it casual, as some were expected to sit on the floor in the truest sense of gathering 'round.


One week: Depending on the size and formality of the dinner party, a week is typically a good lead time to send an email to your intended guest list.

Two days: Follow up with invitees to get the number in order, so the proper groceries can be purchased.

Day before: Anything that can be prepped in advance will save time for pre-meal mingling the night of the dinner party. Desserts can be baked and chilled and salads can be mixed ahead of time (just don’t dress until right before eating).

Night of the Party: Wait to get dressed until right before guests arrive, then throw on an apron and, if they're game, enlist some helpers in the kitchen. Have a glass of wine and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

At the End of the Night: Send guests home with leftovers in disposable containers and no matter how tired you feel, don’t wait until the morning to clean up the mess. There's a greater chance you’ll have help, and you'll be glad you did the next day.

Tips and To-Dos

Ask for action. When you invite guests to the dinner party, it’s important that folks R.S.V.P. so the hostess knows the head count. Numbers will dictate how much food to buy and places to set.

Be realistic. How many people can comfortably fit in your place? We capped our guest list at eight so that everyone might have a place to sit and place their plates. Another consideration was timing and budget when determining how many mouths we could happily feed.

Keep it simple. While it may be tempting to create an elaborate menu or theme, when the time comes, the best results will come from fewer elements done well.

Delegate. Most often, when invited over for dinner, people will ask what they can bring. If you’ve got a friend who lives by a stellar organic market, have him or her bring the mushrooms. Leave the wine to them, too.

Think of a theme. Keeping things consistent can make the dinner party really sing and can run the gamut from Ethiopian to Elvis. We picked something slightly spice to heat up a cold night--nothing too fancy, but certainly delicious.

Have fun. All these pointers go back to this most important element to a successful dinner party. Only set out to accomplish what you can manage, otherwise it will be less of a party and just more work at the end of the day. When considering numbers, recipes and guests, keep things at a level that will allow you to enjoy yourself.

Make Too Much Dessert. The other most important thing to remember when throwing a dinner party? When it comes to dessert, make sure there’s extra for a morning-after breakfast--talk about a sweet reward for planning such a nice night!

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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