Padma Lakshmi’s Dinner Party-Planning Tips

If planning a dinner party stresses you out, you're not alone. Cleaning your place, cooking dinner and keeping everyone happy all night can be quite a feat. But it is possible to host this kind of get-together–and enjoy every minute of it, says Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi. Read on for her top tips.

Plan ahead. Tackling your to-do list over a period of time, instead of trying to do it all the night before, will help keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

Be smart about your guest list. Make sure there's an even number of men and women–and that your guests have an eclectic mix of interests.

Get your guests involved. Ask them to help out with tasks such as making a salad or setting the table. They'll interact and get to know each other more quickly.

Create a killer playlist. Go with peppy, happy music such as Django Reinhardt from the 1920s, she suggests. Avoid loud music, which makes it difficult for people to talk.

Prepare food ahead. Make as much of your food in advance as possible. Retro dishes such as casseroles, meatballs and room-temperature pasta are easy to put together the night before.

Take a break before your party begins. Make sure that everything is done an hour and a half before your first guest arrives. “That gives you a full hour to get ready and half an hour to sit down alone, be calm, have that first glass of wine and breathe," she says.

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