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Hosting a dinner party is a great way to spend some quality time with your friends and family, but it can take a bit of organising. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. We’ve created this guide so you can host the perfect dinner party without spending a fortune or losing your mind with stress!
- The first thing you’ll need to do when planning a dinner party, is decide on your guest list and when you will be hosting it.
- After that, you can come up with a great menu and some drink options too. You’ll then need to purchase all your supplies and send out some invites.
- Then move your attention to the details, like some games or entertainment and creating the perfect ambience.
- The day before your dinner party, you should buy all your ingredients and then prepare your food on the day you’re hosting. Then you’ll just need to put everything together ready for when your guests arrive!
Choose your Guest List
Pick the Time and Date
The good thing about dinner parties, is that they can be hosted on any day of the week. The ideal days are Friday and Saturday because most people won’t have to work the next day. But it’s not a problem if you would prefer to host your dinner party on a weekday or Sunday.
Aim to start your dinner party between 7:00-7:30, this way your guests shouldn’t be too hungry when they arrive if you’re running a touch late!
Most dinner parties last between 2-3 hours, depending on how much you rest between courses and if you’d like to play any games. So consider how long you want your party to be when you set the start time.
Dinner Party Menu Ideas
Firstly, you need to check if your guests have any special dietary requirements or allergies before selecting your menu. Then, pick a cuisine. Sometimes an eclectic menu can work, but it’s definitely a safer bet to stick with a particular cuisine.
It’s a good idea to pick dishes that you can prepare in part in the morning or afternoon before your dinner party. This way, you’ll not have to rush when your guests arrive, and there won’t be a long wait between courses.
Check out our party food guide to help you decide. It’s full of great tips and ideas and info on how much food you’ll need per guest.
Here are some of our favourite types of dishes to serve at a dinner party that aren’t too difficult to make, can be made to suit a range of cuisines and can be prepared ahead of time.
10 Dinner Party Starter Ideas
Here are some of our favourite starter ideas that you can serve at your next dinner party.
This is a great starter if you’re serving a heavier main course and dessert. Don’t forget to serve your soup with some crust bread, make it yourself if you want to go the extra mile!
Salads are a good healthy starter to serve at your dinner party, especially if your serving more indulgent food in your other courses. It’s also good if you have vegetarian and non-veggie guests so you don’t have to make two starters.
Tarts are super versatile, easy to make and a bit more exciting than soups and salads. You can choose any filling you like, from classic goat’s cheese and onion to exotic jerk chicken.
Scallops are a classic dinner party starter. They aren’t too hard to make, if you’ve had a little practice, and are an impressive dish to serve to your guests. Add any sauce to suit your chosen cuisine.
You can choose any filling dependent on what type of cuisine you’ve decided to go for. They’re great because you can prepare them before your guests arrive, and then just pop them in the oven when you’re ready.
Bruscetta is a classic Italian starter and it’s perfect for a dinner party because it’s served cold so can easily be made in the afternoon or morning before your guests arrive.
If you’re looking for a seafood starter that can be adapted to suit any cuisine, then crab cakes are perfect. They don’t take long to fry when your guests arrive so you can serve your starter in no time!
Bread and Dips
Croquettes are a little more complicated to make, so you may need some practice, but they’re definitely a versatile and taste starter option for a dinner party.
10 Dinner Party Main Course Ideas
Here are the best main course ideas to impress your guests with at your dinner party.
If you’ve chosen a Latin themed menu, then paella is the perfect main course option. It’s easy to cook in a large batch and you have complete freedom with what other ingredients you add to it.
Tagines are perfect for dinner parties because you can simply add all the ingredients to a slow-cooker, and let it do it’s thing. It doesn’t involve much work at all but tastes amazing. Serve it with cous cous to create a classic Mediterranean main course.
Making the perfect homemade curry can take a bit of practice, but the results are more than worth it. Don’t go for anything too spicy though, unless you already know your guests can handle the heat!
This is the perfect dinner party main course idea if you want to pull out all the stops to serve a show stopping dish. You can start pairing it before your guests arrive and then put it in the oven when you’re ready. You might want to practice this one a bit first though to make sure you cook the beef just right.
Enchiladas are a great batch dish that can be prepared ahead of time and just thrown in the oven later on. You can choose any filling and sauces to create the perfect combination to compliment the rest of your menu.
This is another great slow-cook dish that won’t take long to prepare. But it definitely tastes great and is a classic dinner party favourite. Serve it with potato dauphinoise or crusty bread rolls.
Lasagne is a classic batch dish that always goes down will at any dinner party. You can choose a traditional Italian lasagne, or mix it up with a Hunter’s chicken or fajita style for something a bit different.
Either cook individual pies for each guest or one large one to split into portions. Try something different and choose an exotic filling like chicken Katsu curry if you want to serve a British and Asian fusion main course.
10 Dinner Party Dessert Ideas
You’ll want to finish the night as strong as you started, so here are some dessert ideas to give you some inspiration.
This is a traditional dinner party dessert that you can make really easily. If you want to go for an authentic style, then you’ll need a flame torch to caramelise the sugar properly.
A really easy to make and popular party dessert option. It’s great for guests who aren’t a fan of chocolate and is another cheap and simple option that tastes great.
Vanilla cheesecake is a safe choice. But you can also try something different too. Go for a Black Forrest cheesecake or a splash a bit of Irish cream in to make a tasty alcoholic party dessert!
If you don’t want a sweet dessert, then you can’t get much better than a cheese board. Pick around 4-5 speciality cheeses and pair them with simple water crackers for a sophisticated dinner party dessert.
This is a great dinner party dessert idea because it doesn’t take much preparation and is served cold so you won’t have to keep your guests waiting long!
If you’re feeling adventurous and are confident in your culinary skills, this dessert idea is sure to impress your dinner party guests! Chocolate and vanilla are classic flavour options to go for.
Melt in the Middle Pudding
This indulgent dessert is a little tricky to make, and might require a bit of practice but it’s sure to impress your guests. Go for either a classic chocolate or salted caramel flavour.
Homemade Ice Cream
Again another cold dessert that’s good if you don’t want to do any more cooking on the night. Choose any flavour and be as creative as possible!
Best Dinner Party Drinks
As well as spending some time thinking carefully about your food menu, you’ll need to put a bit of thought into your drinks options too. Here are some drink ideas that you could serve at your dinner party.
Wine is a staple at most dinner parties, but which one should you serve? There are so many options that it’s hard to narrow it down. But as a general rule, if you’re serving fish or chicken, go for white wine, and pick red if you’re serving meat. Here are some great wines you should think about serving to your guests, and don’t forget to chill it before your guests arrive!
Sparkling wines are great to offer at the start of your dinner party. Make a toast to start the evening off with. Champagne is a great idea if you want to go all, but Prosecco is perfect if you’re on a tighter budget.
Dry white wines with a higher acidity are good to serve at dinner parties because they are still quite versatile and go well with a range of foods. Choose a crisp Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc if you’re on a budget.
If you’re serving steak, red wine is a must. If you want a rich dark red wine, go for a Cabernet Sauvignon. But if you want a more adaptable option, then a Pinot Noir will do perfectly.
Rosé wine is the perfect option if you’re serving a range of different food at your dinner party and you don’t want to be serving multiple wines. It’s the most adaptable of all the types of wine and goes well with both fish and meat.
This is often an overlooked aspect of wine selection at a dinner party, but serving a dessert wine is a great way to go the extra mile and really make the most of your dessert choice.
After Dinner Drinks
Don’t neglect the after dinner drinks when deciding your menu. You should offer your guests some coffee at the very least. But if you want to add an extra touch, you can serve a shot for each guest. Limoncello, Amaretto and Irish Cream are all great options to serve after the dessert at your dinner party.
Cocktails and Mocktails
Serving a speciality cocktail, or mocktail for the designated drivers makes a great addition to a dinner party. Try to serve something more sour than sweet if you’re offering it before or during the meal to make sure the food is more appetising. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started, but if you want some more inspiration, take a look at our list of the 10 best party drinks.
Blueberry and Ginger Fizz Mocktail
- Ginger beer 250ml
- Small handful of Blueberries
- 50ml Sugar Syrup
- Juice of 1/2 Lime
- 50ml White Rum
- Soda Water
- 25ml Sugar Syrup
- 2 Lime Wedges
- 5 Mint Leaves
Muddle the lime wedges, mint leaves and sugar syrup. Add the white rum and fill the glass with crushed ice. Top with soda and garnish with mint leaves and a lime wedge.
Stock Up on Supplies
- Sets of crockery
- Wine glasses
- Tall glasses
- Table cloth
- Table mats
- Sets of cutlery
- Salt and pepper shakers
Preparation is Key
- Prepare all your food in the morning or afternoon on the day of your party as much as you can. This way it’ll still be fresh but you won’t have to keep your hungry guests waiting too long.
- Start by deep cleaning your kitchen. Food hygiene is essential when hosting a dinner party, and starting with a clean kitchen is super important.
- Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned all your kitchen, get all your supplies and ingredients ready so you don’t have to mess about finding things in the middle of cooking.
- Wash up as you’re going along so you don’t end up with a pile of washing to do when you’re finished cooking. Your kitchen should be spotless for when your guests arrive.
- Aim to have your table set and yourself ready for your guests to arrive around 30 minutes before they’re due to show up. This way you won’t have to rush around and can relax knowing you’re completely prepared.
Create the Perfect Ambience
A part of hosting a great dinner party, is creating the perfect atmosphere. You need to make sure your guests feel comfortable and relaxed, even if you’re going for very formal and sophisticated vibe.
Here are some great dinner party ideas you should try!
Add a Centrepiece
You’ll need to make sure your table setting looks the part. A great way to complete your look, is to add a centrepiece. Floral centrepieces are perfect because you can choose any types of flowers to suit your theme and colour scheme. Don’t make it too big though, otherwise you’ll end up blocking your guests’ view across the table! A simple delicate arrangement is perfect.
Light Some Candles
Candles are a classic way of setting the mood for a dinner party. You can’t neglect the scent of your home when thinking about the finishing touches. Don’t light too many candles though, a couple of lightly scented candles is more than enough. You don’t want the smell to be so strong that it takes away from the food.
Play Some Music
Having some quiet music in the background at your dinner party is another great way to create the perfect ambience. You’ll need to play something relaxing and chilled, now is not the time for dancey beats, even if they’re your favourite! And don’t turn up the volume loud either. Check out our ultimate party playlist tips for some more ideas.
Apple Music is the perfect way to create a party playlist. It’s intelligent recommendation feature makes it really quick to add songs to create the perfect track list and it’s cross fade feature makes seamless song transitions. It’s only $9.99/ £9.99 per month and you can get a free 3 month trial to check it out. And don’t worry, you can use it on Android devices too!
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Think About the Lighting
Warm, low lighting is a great idea for a dinner party. Turn the lights lower than you usually would, but make sure your guests aren’t eating in the dark! Warm lighting is essential to create a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.
Consider the Seating Arrangements
It can sometimes be a good idea to consider which guest are set where at the table to help the conversation flow easily. Seat your more outgoing guests at the centre of the table to help carry the conversation. You can add some place cards to your table to help with this.
Give your Dinner Party a Theme
Play Some Dinner Party Games
Just because it’s a formal, classy kind of party, doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun too! Here are some great games you can play at your next dinner party to keep your guests entertained before, between or after courses.
Celebrity Who Am I?
What you’ll need:
- Post-it note for each guest
- A Pen
How long does it last? Around 5-10 minutes
How to Play:
- Write the name of a celebrity on a post-it note and ask each guest to put it on their forehead.
- They must then ask yes or no answer style questions to try and figure out which celebrity’s name they’ve been given.
- The first to guest to guess correctly wins!
- Just your guests!
How Long Does it Last? Approximately a few minutes per round
How to Play Charades:
- Each guest needs to get in a pair.
- One person in the pair thinks of a book, play or film usually, but it can be anything you choose, just make sure people know the categories.
- The player then tries to act it out without making any noise and their partner must guess what it is in under a minute.
- If they manage to, they earn a point.
- Some common clues used in charades are: pretending to read a book, pretending to crank a movie camera, and pretending to sing.
- You can hold up your fingers to indicate the number word you are trying to act out as well.
What You’ll Need:
How Long Does it Last? Around 20 minutes
How to Play Pictionary:
- Get into pairs and choose who is the artist and who is guessing.
- The artist starts drawing a picture from a pre-selected secret list and their partner must guess what they are drawing.
- If they guess in under a minute, the pair earns a point.
Cards Against Humanity
What You’ll Need:
- Cards Against Humanity Pack
How Long Does it Last? Usually around 20 minutes works well
How to Play Cards Against Humanity:
- Put all the cards in the middle and draw 10 white cards each. Don’t look at any other cards apart from your own.
- Someone reads the first black card out.
- The other players must answer the question using one of their cards.
- The person who selected the black card must read all the answers and pick their favourite.
- The person with the most points at the end wins!
Send your Invitations
So now you’ve got all the essentials sorted, you’re in a position to start sending your dinner party invitations. But there are a few options to consider when deciding what format to send your invites.
Handwritten invitations offer a personal touch, which is very fitting with a formal dinner party. The only disadvantage though is that they are quite time consuming if you’ve got a lot of invites to send out.
You can also mail invitations that you’ve created using a Microsoft programme like Powerpoint or Office. This way is much quicker to create a lot of invitations and you can design them however you like without needing to know a lot about IT.
Our favourite way of creating professional looking invitations easily is to use Canva. It’s a website that allows you to create a range of graphic design media using a range of ready-made templates. They look great, are really easy to create and you can print out as many as you need.
Whichever option you choose, there’s a few things that need including on your invitations.
- Date and time
- RSVP instruction
- Dress code
- Theme (if you’ve chosen one)
Dinner Party Order of Events
Once you’ve thought of everything you want to include at your dinner party, now it’s time to put everything in order so you have a rough plan of how the evening will go. Here’s an example of the typical order of events at a dinner party to get you started.
- 0:00-0:15 Welcome the guests and offer some drinks whilst you prepare the starters
- 0:15-0:30 Serve the starters
- 0:30-0:45 Let your guests rest whilst you prepare the main course
- 0:45-1:00 Serve the main course
- 1:00-1:20 Play a game as a break between the main course and dessert
- 1:20-1:30 Serve the desserts
- 1:30-1:45 Relax and maybe play another game if your guests are up for it
- 1:45-2:00 Serve some coffee and let your guests relax
Dinner Party Planning Timeline
So now you’ve thought about everything you need to plan to make sure you host the perfect dinner tea party, but where should you start? It might seem like there’s a lot to do, but don’t worry. We’ve outlined everything you need to do with this easy dinner party checklist so you know exactly what to do.
Ideally you will be planning your dinner party around 2 weeks in advance, but it’s not a disaster if you’ve left it later. This timeline will just help you prioritise everything so you have a plan and know where to start first.
2 Weeks Before
- Choose the guest list
- Decide the date and time
- Finalise the menu
- Send out the invitations
- Purchase your supplies
1-2 Days Before
- Shop for the food
- Plan any games or activities
Morning of the Dinner Party
- Prepare the food and store it in the fridge ready for later
1 Hour Before the Dinner Party
- Prepare the tables and any decorations
- Set up any games and music
Dinner Party Hosting Tips
- Double check everyone’s dietary requirements before you serve any food just to be on the safe side.
- If someone says “no thank you” to anything you offer, then listen to them! Don’t pester and keep asking, it’ll just make them feel uncomfortable. Simply accept it and ask them to let you know if they change their mind.
- Accept help if it’s offered. Don’t try and be a hero and decline help at every opportunity. As long as you’re not relying on your guests for everything, it’s fine to let them get involved if they want to.
- Offer all your guests a drink when they arrive and keep and eye on them throughout the night. Offer a top up if anyone’s glass is getting close to empty.
- Enjoy the night! This might not seem like a proper hosting tip, but you really shouldn’t ignore it. If you’re running around unable to relax, your guests won’t be able to relax and enjoy their night either!
So there you go! Now you have plenty of ideas to plan the perfect dinner party. We hope you have a great night!
Congrats for making it to the end of this blog post! As a thank you for reading, here’s our free printable party planning checklist to help keep you on track and make planning your tea party as stress and hassle free as possible.