Does the idea of hosting dinner parties make your palms feel sweaty and your heartbeat faster? Do they conjure visions of Downton Abbey levels of formality with dozens of tiny spoons, 11 courses, and a string quartet?
If so, relax! Dinner parties are not what they used to be. They are more about having dinner with friends and family in a fun and comfortable environment.
But that does not mean dinner parties do not need some level of preparation. You still want your loved ones to have a fantastic time.
This guide shows you everything beginners need to consider when hosting dinner parties and gives you some dinner party ideas, too.
1. Start Small and Simple
Oh, the first dinner party you plan on hosting will be in honor of your girlfriend’s parents, whom you have never met before? And it is for 15 people?!
You are setting yourself up for a lot of stress.
If you want to start entertaining and hosting dinner parties more often, start small. Invite four or five friends over for a potluck where everyone cooks and brings a dish. They often bring their own beverages, too.
That way, not all the pressure is on you to cook an amazing meal. Plus, it will be much more affordable.
2. Rehearse Your Menu
Keen cooks will not need to rehearse a menu before their dinner party. But if you want to cook something you have never made before? You should 100% do a trial run.
You should also ask your guests if they have any dietary requirements or allergies. The last thing you want to do is make one of your guests ill or find out on the night they cannot eat what you have cooked.
Starter, Main, and Dessert Courses
Three courses are more than enough, though you can put out nibbles if you like. Choose a “cold” starter you can have prepared like bruschetta or Caprese salad. Cooking Italian meals is excellent for a dinner party because it is a people-pleasing cuisine.
The types of meals that work well for main courses can prepare and keep warm in the oven. You do not want to be rushing in and out of the kitchen trying to prepare your main when you have guests. Lasagne, chili con carne, stews, and risotto are great.
And the ideal dessert for dinner parties? Again, something you can prepare in advance. Cheesecakes and tarts are perfect!
3. Stock a Range of Drink Options
Nowadays, guests often bring alcohol or drinks. As the host, you should also prepare to accommodate.
You likely know your friends and family’s preferences, but if not, you should stock the following:
These bottled cocktails are a great solution if you want to offer more sophisticated drinks but do not have the time or space to mix options.
Always have non-alcoholic options and always have water available on the table.
4. Plan Your Table
It will not take long, but it is a must-do before hosting dinner parties.
They do not have to match but make sure you have enough plates, glasses, cutlery, and chairs to go around. If you do not want certain people to sit next to each other, be subtle and make name cards.
There’s no need to waste $$$ on fancy plate settings, but a mason jar or two of daisies will brighten up your table in an instant.
5. Let Your Guests Bring Gifts
You will inevitably get texts from your friends a few days before your dinner party asking if there is anything they can bring. Always say YES!
Ask your guests to bring drinks, desserts, games, nibbles, and almost anything else. They are more likely to enjoy themselves, and it takes some pressure off you.
6. Organize Party Games and Discussion Topics
When you are hosting dinner parties for good friends, you may not need games. But it is a good idea to prepare for any lulls.
Potential discussion topics could be:
*Desert island movies/books
*Kiss, Marry, Avoid
*What would you do with $1,000,000?
New card games like Cards Against Humanity can be fun. And if you think the original is not suitable for your dinner party, there are PG variations like Cards Against Muggles.
There are also tons of phone apps like Heads Up!, which is great for friends and family members with the same interests.
7. Pick a Theme
Themed dinner parties are so popular right now, and they can help you create a coherent vibe.
For example, if you pick an Aperitivo theme, you can serve Aperol Spritz cocktails, DIY pizzas, and tiramisu. You could choose Mexican and serve make-your-own tacos, margaritas, and hang a piñata.
Lots of millennial friendship groups have informal TV show dinner parties/viewing parties. If there is no apparent food connection (Game of Thrones, for example) to the show, serve chicken wings and a selection of craft beer.
The key thing to keep in mind with themes is not asking your guest to do too much prep, for example, by asking them to dress in a specific costume.
8. Add Your Own Special Touches
If hosting dinner parties is going to be a recurring event, add your own personal touches.
You could create a cocktail that you hand out to your guests at the door. Or, you could say grace or leave an individual treat or famous quote on everyone’s place setting.
Do not be afraid to make your own rules. You could let everyone know beforehand that they need to put their phone in a bowl when they arrive. And they can only check their phone when standing by the bowl.
It is your dinner party, after all.
9. Relax and Have Fun
There is no point in throwing a dinner party if you are so anxious you cannot eat.
If you will stare at Jason as he keeps laughing with a full glass of red wine standing on your new white rug, hosting dinner parties is not for you.
Relax and enjoy yourself.
Start Hosting Dinner Parties With These Tips
When you first start entertaining and hosting dinner parties, you might feel stressed and nervous. That is okay!
As long as you prepare, feed your guests well, and make them feel welcome, you will become a pro host.
Check out our other articles for more lifestyle tips and advice.