Did you know that the most expensive restaurant dish costs $14,500? The good news is that anyone can learn how to cook gourmet food at an affordable price. If you’ve been working on your kitchen skills, why not show them off to your loved ones by hosting a dinner party?
If the idea of orchestrating an entire evening filled with delicious food and interesting conversation intimidates you, don’t worry! Planning your own dinner party can be fun and stress-free.
Keep reading for 12 tips that will make the process easy.
1. Choose a Dinner Party Style You’re Comfortable with
You don’t have to be a master chef or spend an entire week preparing a 10-course meal for your guests to enjoy a dinner party! Since it’s your party, you can call all of the shots. Before you start brainstorming a menu, think about what kind of theme and layout you’d enjoy creating.
If you want a casual event, your dinner party can be tapas style. Tapas is a Spanish style of eating a bunch of appetizers as a meal. Since the guests will expect a relaxed environment, you can get away with serving some store-bought appetizers to bulk up the variety.
If you want to throw an adventurous dinner party, consider preparing dishes from all kinds of cuisines. The theme can be tasting the world. With such a unique party premise, your guests are sure to be excited about attending.
The most important thing to remember is that you need to feel comfortable with the party setup. The party can be as simple or extravagant as you want!
2. Send Out Your Invitations
Now that you know the basics, you can send your dinner party invitations. In order to give your guests enough notice, aim to send out the invitations two weeks in advance. To give yourself enough time to prepare for the party, it’s appropriate to collect RSVPs one week in advance.
Be sure to let your guests know what kind of dinner party you’ll be hosting so they can dress accordingly. If you have a specific dress code in mind, you can highlight that information on the invitations.
Another smart thing to include on your dinner party invitation is all of your contact information. Let guests know that they can contact you to inform you of any food allergies or dietary restrictions if you don’t already know.
3. Shop for Decorations and Other Décor
If you love shopping, this step will be lots of fun. After you send your invitations, you can start imagining how you want your party to look. At this point, you can shop for plates and utensils, centerpieces, and other home accents that elevate the party atmosphere.
Some great decorations could include candles, vases, tablecloths, string lights, or even some new artwork to hang on the walls. If you’re unsure where to start, you can’t go wrong by walking into a Home Goods or other décor store and seeing what options are out there.
Every kind of dinner party can benefit from floral displays. If you want a timeless decoration, there are plenty of fake flower arrangements you can buy. If you want real flowers, wait until the day before or the morning of your party to shop for fresh flowers. Nothing is more dreary than wilted petals.
The most important detail of your dinner party is the table. Make sure you have enough plates, chairs, table settings, utensils, and glasses for each guest.
4. Plan the Perfect Menu
Sometimes the trickiest part about hosting a dinner party isn’t the cooking, but the menu planning itself. The safest strategy is to pick dishes you have plenty of experience preparing successfully.
If you want to be ambitious by preparing a new recipe, make sure you have a practice run at least once before the party. Sometimes recipes can sound good, but then something tastes off after you prepare it. Looking at recipes with lots of positive user reviews can help weed out bad recipes and even offer alterations to make it taste better.
A good dinner party menu is balanced. Make sure your food has sweet, savory, and spicy notes for the ultimate dinning experience. It’s also nice to include both indulgent and healthy options. For example, sweet and sour chicken is a decadent fried option with a unique flavor profile while a garden salad with a miso-ginger dressing can lighten things up.
While lots of variety gives guests more to enjoy and customize on their own palates, you don’t have to go wild. Cook as many different dishes as you think you can handle. Keep in mind that there are also a bunch of dishes that can be prepared well in advance to take some of the pressure away the day of the party.
5. Stock Up on Wine
Alcohol and dinner parties go hand in hand. Not only can wine or cocktails complement the flavors of the food, but drinks also help everyone unwind and feel more social.
Common dinner party etiquette for guests is to bring wine as a gift for the host. However, you shouldn’t rely on others to bring the alcohol to the party. Before your party starts, make sure you have a few bottles on hand.
Since wine can sit a long time, this can be one of the first things you buy for your party. Feel free to tap into your reserves if you already have some on hand, too!
For a fun surprise, you could also serve cocktails. To take the stress away from preparing a drink everyone will like, why not set up your own bar station where guests can create their own cocktail? All you need is a table, a few different kinds of alcohol, and some ice.
6. Create a Party Playlist
While your guests are sure to do a lot of chatting, everyone will be more quiet when the meal is served. Instead of letting people listen to each other’s chewing sounds, make sure your dinner party has some background music playing.
For a formal event, feel free to play some soft jazz, piano, or acoustic guitar instrumentals. A more casual party could play whatever hits are currently popular on the radio. Since music can have a big influence on the mood, make sure it matches the energy you want your party to have.
No matter what you decide to play, keep the volume at the perfect level so that guests can hear it, but the music won’t overpower people’s voices.
To make things easier, streaming services like Pandora and Spotify have curated party playlists. All you have to do is search for a genre, plug your phone into some speakers, and let the party begin. If you’re not a subscribed to one of these platforms, don’t forget to claim a free membership trial so you can enjoy ad-free music.
7. Shop at Farmers’ Markets and Bulk Stores
Planning affordable parties may be challenging, but shopping in the right places can reduce your bill significantly. Most cities have a farmers’ market where fresh, local produce and other goods are sold at prices much cheaper than the supermarket.
The reason why vendors can afford to sell so low is because the food didn’t have to be shipped across the country or world to get there. Another bonus is that you can usually avoid paying taxes at farmers’ markets.
Not only do these markets make grocery shopping easier, but the quality is much better, too. Your guests will love starting their meal with a salad full of succulent veggies.
It’s also worth checking out a nearby bulk store like Costco or Sam’s Club. There you can stock up on chips, drinks, meats, and any other ingredients you’ll need a lot of.
8. Meal Prep as Much as Possible
Whenever you have to cook a large amount of food, meal prepping is your best strategy.
Did you know that there are hundreds of recipes that you can make months in advance and store in your freezer? If you want to be crafty, it’s entirely possible to cook appetizers, entrees, and desserts long before your dinner party. All you’d have to do is heat them up and serve with some fresh garnishes!
While you could have the entire menu cooked and stored in the freezer before the party, it’s best if you find a middle ground. While frozen foods can taste incredible, some things lose a bit of magic.
For example, instead of freezing cooked meatballs, you could freeze them raw. The night before your party, take them out of the freezer and put them into the fridge to thaw. Then, right before your guests arrive, all you have to do is pan-fry them.
Not only is this method quick, but the final result will taste fresh, crisp, and juicy. Not to mention, your entire house will be filled with wonderful aromas to greet your guests upon their arrival.
The more you can get done before the day of your dinner party, the less stressed you’ll feel in the kitchen. For more freezer-friendly menu ideas, check out this list of 68 freezer recipes designed for parties.
9. Get Dressed Up the Morning of Your Party
One simple way to keep your nerves at a minimum before your party is to make sure you’re presentable the morning of your event.
When you look good, you feel good. Have a leisurely morning where you can shower, fix your hair, and pick out your favorite outfit. Nothing is worse than spending all day in the kitchen only to lose track of time and scramble to look presentable.
Once you’re dressed, you can preserve your outfit by wearing an apron. If you feel like you need to freshen up right before guests arrive, you’ll only need a couple of minutes to do so. When your guests arrive, they’ll be stunned by how great you look and how incredible your home smells.
10. Set Up an Appetizer and Refreshment Table
When preparing for your dinner party, you should plan on serving dinner at least half an hour after you tell guests to arrive. One hour is sure to give any latecomers enough time to arrive before everyone sits down at the table.
Since anyone who arrives early or on time will have some waiting to do, you should set out some snacks and drinks to curb their hunger. Some easy appetizers you could make are prosciutto wrapped around honeydew melon cubes, finger sandwiches, or stuffed mushrooms.
Check out these 50 party appetizer recipes to help plan your menu! They’re guaranteed to be crowd pleasers.
11. Consider Letting Guests Serve Themselves
When you tell guests that they can serve themselves, that can help them feel more at home. This also alleviates some pressure to present beautiful, restaurant-quality dishes or worry about serving sizes.
This setup allows for a relaxed environment where guests can go in and out of the kitchen as needed. Since everyone has different appetites and preferences, they’ll be able to go home with full bellies and happy hearts. The only reasons why a serve-yourself dinner party wouldn’t be ideal are if you’re worried about having enough of each type of food or you have a culinary vision of how everyone’s plates should look and taste.
12. Be Prepared with Conversation Starters
This step is especially important if you’re inviting friends from different backgrounds and they haven’t met any of the other guests before. While you shouldn’t try to direct every conversation, being prepared with a few topics is great for breaking the ice and avoiding awkward silences throughout the evening.
Asking about peoples’ jobs, pets, and vacations are always bound to stir up interesting, natural conversations. This tactic is also helpful for getting any shy friends involved with the group.
If you need more ideas, here are 10 more dinner party conversation starters that are sure to keep your guests happy and engaged.
Bonus: Relax and Enjoy
It’s natural to feel nervous about hosting an event that comes with a lot of pressure to please everyone. If you’re worried about the food, conversation, or presentation of your home, take a deep breath and remind yourself why you wanted to throw a dinner party in the first place.
Instead of focusing on what could go wrong, reassure yourself that everything will be amazing because you’ll be surrounded by loved ones. If for some reason all of the food gets burned or something else unexpected happens, you can always order takeout! While it’s fun to show off your culinary skills, your friends are much more excited about spending time with you.
With all of this in mind, relax, do the best you can, and take comfort in knowing you’ll manage to have a blast no matter what.
Ready to Make Your Dinner Party Invitations?
Now that you know how to plan a stress-free dinner party, you can start preparing for your best get together yet. Before any party can start, you need to send out invitations. If you want to create the most elegant dinner party invitation, Greetings Island has plenty of templates to choose from.
Once you’re done customizing the invitations, there are a few different ways you can send them. Keep it classic by printing them at home or at a professional print shop to send them through the mail. If you want to go paperless, you also have the option to send them over email with convenient RSVP services or you can save the invitation as a high-quality image to share on social media.