How to Plan and Host a Successful Dinner Party

A dinner party, the adult way of throwing a house party with less mess (perhaps not in the kitchen) and no worries about parents turning up to shut it down, or worse – the police! In all seriousness though, a dinner party is a great way to gather a group of friends and make conversation in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.

If you’re planning to host your first dinner party, then this guide covers everything you need to think about and hopefully take away any stress. If you’re already a pro-host, you may get some new ideas.

Step 1 – Your guestlist

The number of your invited guests will depend on available space. You perhaps won’t want people crammed into a small kitchen if you live in a modest apartment, but on the other hand you could use your living room and move some furniture around.

We recommend hosting 6-8 people, any more and you may need to borrow chairs, crockery or even cutlery making the evening look uncoordinated.

making a guest list

We discuss menu choices a little further on in this article but please be assured when we say there is no need to worry about cooking a 3 course meal for 8 people as this does not always mean preparing and cooking 24 servings of food! 

So, who will you invite? As the host, have some fun with the guestlist, mix and match friendship groups or invite couples that don’t know each other as well as those with similar interests. You could even do some match-making if there are single members in your group.

Once the lucky group has been selected, offer a few dates that work for you. A weekend is probably more suitable than a weekday (mainly to give you time in the day to prepare and avoid rushing after work). Make sure you double check dietary requirements just in case you create an amazing Beef Wellington and find out on the night that you’ve a group of vegans and the meal is unsuitable

Tip – give your guests approximately 2-3 weeks’ notice when sending out invitations.

Step 2 – The menu

Before you begin to search for recipes, or scroll through Pinterest for inspiration, consider the purpose of your dinner party. 

·       Is the purpose of hosting to ‘wow’ your guests and impress them with your cooking skills?

·       Do you just want an excuse to invite some fun people over for dinner?

If cooking isn’t your strongest skill but entertaining is, then you can still create a good spread for your guests without stressing too much. We highly recommend sharing platters for the first course with the added benefit that these don’t have to be served at a main dining table. If you’re lucky to have a separate dining area, then set up some trays and small bowls of snacks in your living area for guests to nibble on while getting to know each other. Meanwhile, you have time to put the finishing touches to the main course.

When choosing the main course, it’s a good idea to decide on something you have cooked or eaten before. If you really want to go for something fancy with more ingredients than you would normally cook, have a trial run and avoid facing a recipe disaster while your guests are in the next room.

We recommend that your dish choices are seasonal, and your dessert choice is no exception. If it’s summertime, avoid making something hot and heavy! Simple no-bake cheesecakes can be prepared in advance and go well with fresh strawberries.

Tip – When your guests arrive, spend as little time in the kitchen to avoid leaving them alone. This can be done by food prepping which we discuss later.

Step 3 – Drinks

You can establish who does and doesn’t drink while asking about dietary requirements. Wine should be the main option, after all it is a grown-up dinner party so the tequila shots can be kept at bay (unless your theme is Mexican)!


A quick search on the internet can help pair wine with your menu. If you’ve chosen chicken, a Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay is perfect. If you’re cooking red meat, selecting a heavier red wine would suit.

It’s a good idea to have a few other options as some guests may not want to drink wine straight away. A few cold beers or gin & tonics are enough options. Don’t forget the water and perhaps a non-alcoholic option.  

Tip – Be prepared for your guests to bring wine as a gift, if you feel it doesn’t go with the menu, don’t feel you have to drink it during the evening.

Step 4 – Preparation (not just food)

Food prep is a priority, apartment arrangement is also important! Especially if the evening isn’t just about food.

table setting for a dinner party
  • Food prep is everything from peeling and chopping vegetables, down to the dishes you’re serving the food on. Pick your menu based on how much prep and cooking you can do ahead of guests arriving and try to avoid something that will dry out if there are any delays.
  • Apartment organisation helps to create a welcoming and relaxed environment. Anyone walking into a tidy and nice smelling home will feel welcome. Create a playlist for background noise, light a few scented candles and set the ambiance with dimmed lighting. Don’t forget to put away any laundry and put out clean hand towels in the bathroom.
  • Table planning is super important. It’s where your guests will spend most of the evening so it’s good to take your time with the design. Think of using matching candelabras in the centre, dust off the fancy wine glasses, use a colourful table runner (perhaps something to match the theme if you have one) or use small tea lights to help create an ambiance. Be sure to avoid something large and tall in the middle to prevent cross table conversation.

Tip – Write a list of everything that needs to be cooked and the order it needs to be cooked in and be sure to note the cooking times.

Now you’ve mastered the 4 easy steps to hosting a dinner party, your next step is to host one! One final comment from us; you’re entertaining your friends, not strangers. If you slip up or forget something you’ll still stay on their Christmas card list for sure! Good Luck!

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