By Chris Plantan | Photography by 2nd Truth

In these days of endless tension, hospitality may be the last haven of civility and good cheer. Gathering guests around your table is one of the most generous things you can do; I consider it a gift I am happy to give. The trick is keeping it simple and planning ahead so you can truly enjoy yourself. Here are four key steps to crafting a delightful dinner party.

Start with the guest list. Other than the cuisine, the most important elements in any party are the guests and their energy. It’s not important that everyone knows one another in advance. In fact, the best evenings are those in which we meet others and form lasting relationships with unexpected new friends. Send out an invitation, whether paper or email, and always include a start and finish time.

Set the tone. Always have Champagne on ice, even if you are serving signature cocktails or wine. Everyone feels elegant with a sparkling drink in hand, and it’s much easier to make introductions while you are handing out flutes rather than taking and filling cocktail orders.

Plan the table thoughtfully. It is equal parts diplomacy, engineering and theater. You can orchestrate the affair around a theme or your menu, but always have a plan in place and set the scene several days beforehand. Plot guests into conversations with strategic seating and direct them elegantly with a place card.

Finish the evening away from the table. Coffee in the library or sunroom provides a warm finale to the affair. And finally, send your guests home with a parting gift. Simple souvenirs are like a delicious dessert: something to savor that celebrates the pleasure of spending time together.

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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