Astonish Media Group Client Dawn Bryan Featured on

Astonish Media Group client Dawn Bryan was recently featured in this article on for throwing the perfect dinner party, something she knows a lot about. 

Dinner Party Basics: Setting the Scene 

By Alice Gomstyn, Contributor

Originally published on

Orin Hahn loves to throw a good dinner party. The New Yorker hosts soirees for his friends as often as every other week, treating them to dishes that include guaranteed crowd pleasers (kale salad) to adventurous entrees (wine-braised octopus.) “I do it because I love cooking and it’s both a personal and sensuous experience that can easily be shared with a little bit of preplanning,” Hahn said. But it takes more than just mouth-watering cuisine to make for a great dinner party. Hahn strives to achieve “a balance of mixing ingredients to hit the palette and mixing people to hit different personality styles.”

It turns out, as any etiquette expert will tell you, that’s a worthy goal.

Who’s At Your Table?

Make no mistake: Your guest list can make or break your dinner party, so pick your invitees with care.

“Every dinner table should have an interesting dynamic to it so you should really think of you who you’re having there,” said advice and etiquette expert Michael Cohen.

Cohen warns against inviting people who all work in the same profession — because then too much of the conversation will inevitably tilt toward work — or friends who see each other frequently.

“If you invite the same people all the time, it begins to get boring and it’s just friends who get together and it’s not a dinner party,” he explained. He recommends inviting people from various walks of life who may have something to learn from one another. A frequent dinner party host himself, Cohen remembered one occasion when he made a point to invite a psychologist and a person who worked at a TV show. “He deals with the way people behave and she’s always dealing with getting people to behave,” he recalled.

The psychologist, he said, ultimately gave the TV staffer tips on how to cope with difficult personalities.

“A good conversation has a little bit of back and forth,” Cohen said. Of course, having a great guest list won’t do you much good if most of the people on your invite list can’t actually make it. Dawn Bryan, the author of “Elite Etiquette,” recommends inviting people at least 10 days ahead of time and even earlier during the busy holiday season.

“You want to be sure you’re on their calendar,” Bryan said.

“If people you want to be there, give them the courtesy of allowing themselves to be there.” Goody Bag Goodbyes Beware: Do too good a job with your party and your guests won’t want to leave! Plan ahead and try this trick from Bryan: Prepare small goody bags for your guests with breakfast rolls, candy or even fun little trinkets.

“I had a big New Year’s party for year of dragon, and I just tried to find all the silly things that had dragons like little games with dragons and pencils with dragons,” she said. Set the bags up near the door and, if it’s getting late, gently remind your guests to grab their goodies before they go. Hopefully, they’ll take the hint. Invitation Etiquette These days, when it comes to inviting guests, a dinner party host has a dizzying array of options. Should he call? Text? Use an online invitation website? Go the snail mail route? Reach out on social media? For a small dinner party say — 8 people or fewer — phone calls work best, said Cohen.

“The dinner is intimate, the invite should be as well,” he said. But, he added, if you find yourself leaving a voicemail, it’s perfectly fine to follow up with a text message. For larger groups and casual affairs such as buffet-style parties, an online invitation site like Evite is appropriate, Cohen said.

A nice feature of the site is that as your dinner party date approaches, it sends out reminders to guests who haven’t responded. Cohen advises against dropping invitations in the mail. “A paper invite is so outdated, not to mention so not green. Also, people don’t check their mail everyday like we used to,” he said. “Most of our bills are electronic and really why else do people go to their mailbox?” Another no-no? Inviting your guests through social media channels like Facebook. “It lacks any sense of warmth and intimacy,” Cohen said. “Plus, people who you didn’t invite who are your friends are bound to see the event. Leave the Facebook events to teenagers who want everyone to know they are having a party.”

Odds, Ends and Ambience So you’re confident that the guests you’ve chosen will mingle with ease…but have you worked out the logistics that will ensure they feel at ease as soon as they arrive? Consider the following: Where will guests’ coats go? Where will they put their cocktail glasses when they’re done? If it’s a large group of people, where will everyone sit?

Bryan recommends eliminating the guess work for your guests by telling them where to sit or being even more formal by creating place cards. When it comes to cocktail glasses, consider setting up a tray and putting one empty glass on it so others will follow suit. And as for coats, establish a designated area such as a closet, a bedroom or maybe even an inexpensive coat rack you’ve purchased just for the occasion. “Otherwise you end up with things strewn around and things falling out pockets and people losing things and forgetting things,” Bryan warned.

Last but definitely not least, create an inviting ambience. Make sure your common areas and bathroom are clean, put on pleasant but not overly loud music and use candles instead of harsh overhead lighting. And, of course, an eye-pleasing table is a must. Dress up your dining room table with flowers, elegant dinnerware and, if formality is a priority, charger plates — plates that are only for show and are removed once food is served.

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