The unexpected dining guest is the bane of every dinner party host’s existence. Why is it that despite the dinner invitations being sent weeks ago, someone always brings along a last-minute guest who wants feeding too?

You look back at the words of your invitation and nowhere does it say ‘please don’t bring extra guests, as there won’t be enough food for them’, but you were kind of hoping that was implied. Alas, your friend didn’t pick up on that too-subtle signal, so what do you do? Send them home hungry? Or follow these top tips, smile and say, “Come in, the more the merrier!”?

Bulk Out The Food

Often, the hardest thing about planning dinner parties is not deciding what to serve, but how much to serve. Throw in a couple of extra guests and suddenly your portion sizes are all wrong and you’re considering splitting your own meal and opting to eat toast instead.

Planning food portions is an art rather than a science, but there are some tips to make it easier to judge. If you are serving meat as your main, each guest needs approximately 1.5 portions of it (in case there are any unexpectedly huge appetites in the room) and if the guestlist changes, this can be brought down to one portion each.

This helpful infographic can aid you to figure out the rest of the party food portions, and it even has some scope for some flexibility should you find you have extra mouths to feed.

Keep The Drinks Flowing

When your guests first arrive it’s polite to offer them a drink straight away. In order to make this easier for you as a host, make a drinks station in the mingling area, rather than in your kitchen. That way, your guests won’t get in the way while you’re trying to cook!

A basic bar set-up will might include the choice between two bottles of spirits, red and white wine, a sparkling soft drink or two and fresh juice. It’s also a good idea to have some crisps and nibbles out too, in case your guests get peckish. Line the table with plenty of glasses so no one disturbs you for a clean one whilst you’re sorting out those all-important final touches.

Cut Corners with Cutlery

Don’t worry if you don’t have matching plates for your extra guest; use what you have available or change your table so everything is mismatched. This can look really effective if you have lots of clashing colours and styles of plate going on, so be bold, and if anyone asks tell them it’s your very own Mad Hatter’s tea party!

Kudos points if you go out and buy an array of differently-coloured napkins so there’s no doubt the theme was intentional.

Shake Up the Seating Arrangement

Squeezing everyone around a table with extra guests can be tricky, but as a host you can prepare for such eventualities with a little bit of prior planning. If you have friends over frequently, consider buying an extending dining table that can fit maybe 10 or 12 people around when it’s unfolded, but most of the time it stays as a six person set.

If you don’t want to splash out for the extra matching chairs you can’t store elsewhere, consider placing a bench seat underneath instead. That way, you can fit as many people around your table as is physically possible, without the need for bulky chairs!

If you are worried about how a large table could possibly extend in your limited space, consider moving it to another room in the house for special occasions or even putting it diagonally across a large room to squeeze it in.

Change To Buffet Style

If you really have too many extra guests to cater for, consider switching your meal plan into a buffet style dinner. Do away with the seating plan altogether and think of ways you can adapt the meal so people can sit wherever they like and eat on their laps.

If you prefer everyone sat down to eat your food, try setting up smaller tables of three or four people and don’t worry about everyone being in the same room; it’s not a restaurant so they’re welcome to wander around and swap seats! Find spare desks, bring in your patio furniture and beg and borrow tables and chairs from your neighbours.

What other tips do you have for squeezing in extra diners? Share below…

Photo by: deflam