How To Entertain Like The French

Meals in France are a big deal! A celebration of friendship and togetherness, French meals go on for hours with long conversations, full plates, and glasses that never seem to be empty. Entertaining in France is almost like an art form – not everyone can do it. Hosting is a skill that is deeply woven into the French culture and can take a while to get right. 

So how do you entertain like the French? Here are six ways to level up your entertaining skills and host à la française:

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Simplify your meals

While the French can be quite picky over things, they tend to be less fussy when it comes to meals at someone’s place. Your dishes don’t have to look like plates straight out of a Pinterest page. Stick to three or four things; the lesser the better.

beautiful table set with simple meal

Plan your menu in advance so you don’t spend too much time in the kitchen when the guests are over. The French prefer to shop more and cook less to spend quality time with their guests (plus their kitchens are usually tiny!). A delicious and healthy option is to head to the farmer's market and get fresh produce that can easily be roasted or sautéd and served with something else.

friends around dining table

Don’t forget the holy trinity of French food- entrée, plat et dessert (starters, main course, and dessert). If it seems like a lot of work, don’t feel shy to order the dessert or the starters from your favorite boulangerie.

pretty french dessert

Embrace l’heure d’apéro

The French can often be late for meals. It is believed to be impolite to show up for a meal at the appointed hour lest you catch your host off-guard or still getting ready. But it can get irksome when guests are always late.

charcuterie board with meats and cheeses

A great way to avoid this is to start with l'heure d'apéro. Providing drinks and some snacks to nibble on while everyone arrives is a great way to relax the guests and wait for everybody. The aim here is not only to bide the time but also to whet the appetite with simple nibbles.

It's the perfect time for a charcuterie board!

Table Decor

No matter how simple your meal is, it is essential to have a well-set table; it makes all the difference. You don’t need too many things to bring some elegance to the table. Make an effort with good cutlery and plates. Cover up with a tablecloth and have fresh linens ready. Mix and match is always a good idea as long as you bring it all together with a common thread.

stacked dishes

Don’t hesitate to bring out your grandma’s fine china or the vintage napkins you keep in the closet for special occasions. Add in a few trinkets here and there like flowers or a candelabra to make the table more fascinating. You can always add in a few of your flea market finds, and they make for great conversation starters.

The aim here is to make the table interesting without too much clutter.

Set the mood

A critical element to mastering French entertaining is to set a good mood with the right lighting and music. The trick is to balance the senses without overpowering any of them. Bad lighting can cause great discomfort and quickly become a buzzkill.

fairy lights

If safety is not an issue, light up little tea candles and scatter them around the house to create an intimate mood. Scented candles are also a great way to keep food odors in check, but make sure the scent of the candles is not too overpowering.

To create a more intimate mood for after the meal when the conversations can slow down to a lull, introduce soft background music to relax and aid you in light chit-chat.

Bread, Cheese, and Wine

Can you even call it a French meal without some bread, cheese, and wine? It’s not necessary to go all out and buy five varieties of cheese or wine. Keep it simple but don’t scrimp on the quality. They don’t have to be expensive.

cheese plate

Try to find some interesting brands that you would love to share with your friends or ones with newer textures and flavors that can become a conversation piece. Choose something your guests are bound to remember.

bread and cheese plate

As for bread, it is the heart of any French meal. A simple baguette will go a long way.

Flank your meals with alcohol

Most French meals begin with an aperitif, so it seems natural enough to end a meal with a digestif. An aperitif is designed to open the appetites of the guests whereas a digestif aids digestion.

champagne toast

It’s a tradition to begin meals with kir or champagne and end meals with cognac or port but if some guests prefer to keep drinking wine, that's ok too. For a true Provençal vibe, serve anise-flavored drinks like pastis for apéro. 

cognac toast

Et voila! You’re all set to host your meals like a true Frenchman. The French love to entertain, but they also love to keep it simple and have fun while doing so.

Don’t forget the aim of the meal is to be with your loved ones and indulge in conversations. Keep the food simple and the drinks flowing, and you’re all set.

calm host

Focus on creating a memorable experience!

How about you? Have you been to a dinner party in France? Would you want to recreate one? Have you hosted a French-style meal? Do tell!

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  1. Amber Myers says:

    The French have the best food. I would be all about that. Bread and cheese are my faves!

  2. I love a good charcuterie. the French sure do know how to eat

  3. Richelle Milar says:

    These are all really great and very amazing ideas! French really knows how to throw a party!

  4. I’ve never tried hosting a french-style dinner before. I’d love to!

  5. This is something that I would love to do. French style dinner is a lot of fun I’m loving it.

  6. Bread, cheese, and wine is my favorite date night! I don’t think I would be a fan of hosting, but I would love to attend one!

  7. I love your advice to keep it simple! We switched to cloth napkins a few years ago to be more eco-friendly. But it is a fun way to set the mood too. Any meal that starts with bread and cheese and ends up with dessert (and possibly alcohol) sounds perfect for me!

  8. These advice are straight to the point. They simple and easy to follow. And they are the key of the success of any good dinner!

  9. themommyspice says:

    I love the way the French entertain. It all seems so elegant and I love the way they simplify their meals.

  10. This sounds like a fun way to entertain and host get togethers. This is definitely my style of food and entertainment!

  11. Melissa Cushing says:

    I am loving this post and I do love to entertain and something like this… creating a party around a theme is so much fun 😉 I love the French style for sure.