Plus, what you can do to solve each.

You've dedicated so much time and energy to planning your dinner party, and you think you have all of your bases covered, but then an accident happens and throws you for a loop. If this sounds like your worst nightmare, then it's important to become well-versed in the most common entertaining mishaps; once you understand what's most likely to go awry, you'll be better equipped to handle anything that comes your way. Ahead, four road blocks that can arise in the middle of your fête, as well as tips on how to prevent them from spoiling an otherwise perfect get-together.

Four place settings with patterned napkins and placemats
Credit: Lennart Weibull

Late Guests

If you have been cooking all day, you likely have everything timed down to the minute. Late guests, however, can throw your whole meal into a state of peril; you run the risk of serving cold dishes, or worse, overcooked food. That's why party planner JoAnn Gregoli, the owner of Elegant Occasions by Joann Gregoli, suggests planning a buffer period into your timeline. "I recommend having a 15 minute buffer to allow for late arrivals so the food is not overcooked," she says. "If the guests are later, just lower the oven to a warm temperature and cover the dish with foil so it retains moisture."

Too Much of a Good Thing

It's good host etiquette to keep your guests' drinks full, but overdoing it can lead to some discomfort—and, of course, a safety hazard if they drove to your home. Gregoli advises preemptively controlling your loved ones' alcohol intake, "as you are liable if something happens," she says. To limit consumption, consider serving a punch with a low ABV or wine spritzers (as opposed to full glasses). "And if someone overindulges, you should offer a ride home," she adds.

Power Problems

Even the best weather can turn nefarious in an instant—an unexpected storm could always blow in and blow out your power. "If you happen to experience a power loss, have lots of candles on standby and turn the party into a romantic dinner party with candle light," advises Gregoli, who says to try and make the best of a situation supremely outside of your control. "If the oven is electric, turn to your outdoor grill to heat the food."

Have a Backup Ready to Go

There's always a chance that you could drop a plate of food on your way to the table or whip up a hollandaise sauce that curdles. It can't hurt, notes Gregoli, to have a backup option on hand for any necessary swap-outs. "If you can replace it with staples, then do so—if not, skip the course. No one will know the difference."


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