Entertain friends with well-planned dinner parties

With football season over, frats no longer rushing and New Year's Eve a distant, fuzzy memory, now is the perfect time to throw a fantastic dinner party. Dinner parties rock, but few people undertake them because they seem complicated and a bit snobby.  


This does not have to be the case. Here is Caroline's ""Quick and Dirty Guide to Hosting a Dinner Party."" 


First off, decide on a theme. Once you pick out the theme, everything else will fall into place effortlessly. It's impossible to plan a menu or hire exotic dancers if you don't know exactly what type of party you're throwing. The invitations come next—be sure to include a time, date, location and dress code. I cannot emphasize the importance of a dress code at dinner parties. Without one, men will show up in tear-away athletic pants and blaze orange stocking caps. On the same note, be sure your expectations are not too extreme. When I threw a birthday party in honor of Cher last year, I very clearly stated that guests were expected to wear feathers, glitter, sequins, rope bikinis, outrageous eyeliner, fishnet stockings, body paint and large Cherokee headdresses. Very few people chose to comply. 


Next, take a realistic assessment of your cooking skills. If you cannot cut the crusts off a PB & J without requiring a blood transfusion, do not attempt to cook for your dinner party. This is nothing to be ashamed of—it's the reason indentured servants and Hot Pockets were invented.  


Sample all the local restaurants that deliver, taking careful note of the delivery time, freshness and quality of the food and sex appeal of the delivery boys. Delivery is the only way to go—you'll need those crucial pre-party minutes to tease your bangs.  


If you have experience in the kitchen, choose a menu that is simple to prepare, within your budget and one your guests will appreciate. Ritz crackers can be topped with almost anything to make a kick-ass appetizer. Try cheese wedges, green olives, smoked salmon or Funfetti frosting. For the main dish, choose something you love to cook. Chances are it's one of your best dishes, and you probably won't screw it up. Disregard this advice if you love to cook squirrel, horse meat or Spam.  


Don't worry about pleasing absolutely everyone. In fact, take special note of the vegetarians and vegans on your guest list and make sure to uninvite them. They never have anything to contribute anyways.  


Dessert is the easiest dish—Jell-o no-bake cheesecake. Everybody loves cheesecake, and it can be altered for various party themes. Top with strawberries for a ""Little House on the Prairie"" party, Reese's Pieces for an ""E.T."" bash and beef jerky when your theme is Wild, Wild West.  


Alcohol is the final thing one must consider when planning a dinner party. This can get pretty pricy, so I would recommend asking guests to bring a bottle of wine or liquor to share. Make sure to specify a reasonable dollar amount so you don't end up with 17 bottles of MD 20/20 and some Old Thompson's. 


Also, be sure to make lists. Making hundreds of detailed lists is crucial to throwing a successful dinner party. It is also a great way to avoid doing schoolwork when the Facebook server is down. Put together lists of groceries, decorations, costume supplies and silverware and specify when you will purchase each.  


Compile lists of everyone's emergency contacts, food allergies, current relationship status and social security number. This will be extremely helpful when creating seating charts, planning the menu and stealing identities. If they are hesitant to give you any of this information, accuse them of helping the terrorists win. 


And my last piece of wisdom, party on party people. 


Not big on salmon or frosting with crackers? How do you eat your Ritz? Share it with Caroline. E-mail her at clmueller2@wisc.edu.  


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