The lighting is soft, the music is upbeat and the lights of C4 shine brightly through your window as you wait for your guests to arrive. Sure, you’re still in your college housing, but if you are tired of making Kraft Easy Mac and are looking for an excuse to dress up, a dinner party in your dorm or apartment is an easy way to shake up your weekend evening plans. Don’t let your youth fool you; sit-down meals are not just for parents anymore.
1. Create the perfect guest list
It’s not a party without guests, and making sure you have the right mix of people is crucial to ensuring your party is a hit. Don’t only invite friends who will sit on their phones or just the ones that will scream over each other at the table. A dinner party is a great time to bring different groups of friends together in a casual setting. The best and easiest way to invite people to your shindig is by text. If you are worried about your message being too informal, carefully curated emojis — like the champagne and martini — will help make your invite the perfect mix of classy and casual. If you want to invite a large group of people quickly, Facebook events are also a great idea. Just don’t be naive and make it public — you don’t need all of Cayuga showing up for free appetizers.
2. Get some killer decorations
As far as decorations go, your best source is the Internet. A quick Pinterest search can provide you with instructions for DIY napkin folds, light wreaths and placemats. With just a few pieces of inexpensive fabric and craft scissors, you can create unique coasters that won’t get your beer pong table dirtier than it already is. If you want a fancy centerpiece, try covering the inside of a mason jar with gold or silver glitter, and place a tealight candle — or an electronic candle if you live on campus — in the jar to make your party really shine. The recycling bins in your building can also be cool sources for colorful decorations. Stuff string lights into an old wine bottle for some extra light (crucial if you live in College-In-The-Woods).
3. Craft the ultimate menu
The real star of the show is the food. You want your menu to be super easy but also super special; an upgrade from day-old pizza is definitely in order. If you have money but no time, try the prepared food bars from Wegmans or Price Chopper. The best bets are the Mediterranean bar and the deli for a cute finger food theme.
If you have time but no money, it’s time to start cooking. Pigs-in-a-Blanket are a crowd favorite, and if you make them yourself, they’re a cheap and easy way to feed a crowd. Making a dip is also a great option, and if you serve it with some toasted bread, everyone can feed themselves. If you don’t have time, throw some bagel bites in the oven. Then invite us.
The possibilities for the main course are endless, but the most foolproof way to feed your friends is to combine a few store-bought staples in a way that resembles something you normally pay a lot of money to have delivered. Try making your own Chinese take-out. Toss broccoli and pre-made chicken nuggets in sweet and sour sauce. Serve with rice or noodles, and you’ll easily fool your guests into thinking you spent hours over a stove. Another easy option is to toss chicken fingers with a mixture of peanut butter and vinegar. Add microwaved rice and steam-in-a-bag vegetables, and you’ve got a convincing Thai Peanut Chicken.
For dessert, make a tray of slutty brownies, which combines chocolate chip cookies, Oreos and brownie mix. Press a tube of chocolate chip cookie dough into a cake pan, cover with a layer of Oreos and then pour prepared brownie batter on top. You can also set up a table with a variety of ice cream flavors and toppings to impress your friends with a homemade ice cream bar.
4. Spin the right tracks for the mood
The music for your party should be hip-and-happening, but not crazy. Remember that rage-dancing to EDM and eating don’t go together, but ambient pop can be a great background to mingling. Check 8Tracks and Spotify for some pre-curated and easy-to-find playlists that someone put a lot of thought into for strangers to use at a dinner party.