Outdoor Dinner Party

How to host the perfect dinner party


Dinner parties are an elegant and sophisticated way to enjoy company with friends and family. Now that it is possible for more than one household to socialise (while also making sure to follow current regulations of course), we expect many of you will be looking forward to hosting lovely dinner parties, even if it’s just for a few close family members or beloved friends. Dinner parties are a wonderful way to make us feel a little bit more luxurious – especially during difficult times, much like a home lift. Pulling off a successful dinner party, however, takes a little effort, time, and planning, so to help you out, we have compiled a list of top tips. From invitations and table settings to the food you will serve, read on to discover how to host the perfect dinner party.

Assess your space

The first thing on your agenda should be to assess how much space you have as this will impact the number of people you can invite. Further still, right now social distancing is a pre-requisite for more than one household gathering. So, if this applies to you, you will need to think about how you can manage this and if you have the space to comfortably host. There are other options available to you if you would like to share a dinner party with those who can’t be there. You could utilise video chat services like Zoom to host a virtual dinner party. It might feel a little odd at first but this way the size of your guest list can certainly be expanded.

Think about your invitations

Thinking about who you want to invite to your dinner party is an important step. After all, a clash of personalities might not make for the best dinner conversation. Also, by limiting the number of people you invite, you will have less work to do in terms of planning and time spent in the kitchen. A select group that is carefully chosen is certainly the way to go.

Ask about guests’ dietary requirements

Amanda, from the food blog Chez Le Rêve Français, shared with us the following important piece of advice: “Check if your guests have any dietary requirements before you plan your menu, so you do not get any last-minute surprises that you cannot cater for.”

As Amanda says, before you can even think about going shopping or what you might like to cook, you will first need to enquire about your guests’ dietary requirements. After all, someone you have invited may have allergies, be vegetarian, vegan, or eat gluten-free. So politely find out who can eat what and then you can get busy crafting a delicious menu to wow your guests. You will certainly be unsuccessful at your hosting duties if someone has to go home sick or can’t touch the main course because they don’t eat meat.

Choose your menu carefully

Summer Salmon Salad

Image credit: Chez Le Rêve Français

When it comes to cooking for a dinner party you will want to make life as easy for yourself as you can, while still putting in the effort to impress those in attendance. Therefore, choosing your menu carefully is important. Think about simple dishes that would be suitable and that you are also confident in making. Now might not be the time to try cooking something for the first time. If there is a dish in mind that looks perfect but that is new to your repertoire, try a practice run before the big night, that way you will at least have some experience behind you.

Amanda, from Chez Le Rêve Français, has lots of wonderful advice when it comes to throwing a dinner party, telling us: “The whole idea of a dinner party is to enjoy yourself and spend time with your guests, but for many people hosting a dinner party can be a daunting and exhausting process, with far too much work. The answer? Keep it simple and be well prepared.

“This is not the time to try new and complicated recipes! Make something you have confidently made before, so you are not worrying about following a recipe on the day. Stay clear of anything that must be cooked to personal taste, such as steak as it is far too time-consuming to do.

“There is no point making life complicated by offering a choice of desserts and bringing out an elaborate cheeseboard. My experience is that people are normally too full to eat both. Offer one or the other.”

To give you a little inspiration for what dishes to try, Amanda shared her dinner party go-to menu choices: “To start with I normally make smoked salmon timbales. They are easy to make in advance and just need to be popped on a plate with a garnish to serve.

“For the main course I find it easier to slow-roast a dish, so confit duck legs are a favourite. They can be left in the oven for a couple of hours or longer if needed. Serve with potatoes dauphinoise, prepared in advance, and steamed broccoli. There is no need for lots of vegetable dishes.

“In my experience, nearly everyone loves crème brûlée, so I always recommend this dish at a dinner party. You can make it a couple of days in advance and just serve it with some fresh fruit and some shortbread biscuits.

“Stress-free entertaining and minimal clearing up!”

Keep things casual and simple at first

For those looking to host their first-ever dinner party, Jane, from the inspirational home lifestyle blog Jane at Home, told us that her top tip would be to keep things straightforward: “My top tip or piece of advice for hosting a dinner party is to keep it casual and simple. You don’t have to be the perfect host or hostess–just relax and be yourself, which helps everyone else relax, too. For your first dinner party, I suggest serving a meal that you’ve made several times before and inviting only two or three people (and make sure they’re people who don’t stress you out!).

“Gathering people together to connect over a meal is one of the most gratifying things on earth. There’s nothing better than creating a special evening of food and togetherness. So, remember to relax, go with the flow, and enjoy yourself!

Prepare early

Chopping Vegetables

Preparation is certainly key for any attempt at hosting a successful dinner party. Starting too late in the kitchen, for example, will mean that you will have to spend time away from your guests, rushing around to get everything done in time. So make sure you are as prepared as possible, do your grocery shopping in a timely manner, make sure your home is tidy, the table laid, and you have gotten to work in the kitchen before your guests arrive.

Manage your resources and time

Managing your resources, such as your oven space will also be a key ingredient to your dinner party’s success. Think about what you are cooking and what will need to go in the oven and on the hob. This is an important thing to think about when deciding what you want to cook. There will only be so much room in the oven!

Managing your time is also vital, as by cooking time-consuming dishes, you can end up neglecting your hosting duties. BBC Good Food has the following advice for hosts: “Avoid anything that’s going to keep you in the kitchen too long. You don’t want to have massive gaps between courses and then emerge from the kitchen flustered, covered in food and having missed half the conversation.”

Arrange pre and post-dinner entertainment

Pre and post-dinner entertainment is also something that any dinner party should include. There will be times when you are busy in the kitchen so it will be nice for guests to have something beyond mere conversation to occupy them. This could include anything from karaoke to charades. Think about what your guests would enjoy and make sure there is some light fun to be had before and after the meal.

Make an effort with setting the table

Dinner Party Table

Setting the table should be more than merely putting down knives and forks for your dinner party. The style and care you take with setting the table can truly add to the atmosphere and aura of the evening. The Luxurist, a luxury home inspiration blog, shares: “Where your guests sit, what they see in front of them, and what their meal is served on, is almost as important as the food itself. The dinner party table setting is all part of the experience and you want people to feel mesmerised or wowed by what they see.”

With this in mind, flowers, centrepieces, tablecloths, and candles can all be valuable tools at your disposal.

Make a seating plan

Depending on the number of people attending, you will want to take time to think about your seating plan. If you are just planning a nice evening for your immediate family, a seating plan might not be necessary, but if another household is attending, deciding who will sit next to whom is a good idea. Think about their personalities and interests. Who would enjoy talking to each other? This will certainly help keep the conversation lively.

Sam, from the lifestyle blog The Frosted Petticoat, has the following advice: “Once you’ve decided where you want each guest to sit, you should write place cards and put them out before guests arrive. Make sure you put yourself somewhere you can make a quick exit from the table.”

Tips for hosting a successful dinner party

  • Assess your space
  • Think about your invitations
  • Ask about guests’ dietary requirements
  • Choose your menu carefully
  • Keep things casual and simple at first
  • Prepare early
  • Manage your resources and time
  • Arrange pre and post-dinner entertainment
  • Make an effort with setting the table
  • Make a seating plan

We hope the above tips and advice have been helpful. By following the above, you can put together a memorable evening for friends and family that brings a sense of sophistication and luxury to your evening at home.

For a permanent feeling of class and elegance in your home, you might want to consider making a lift your next home addition. Researching domestic lift prices in the UK could be your first step to a more luxurious home.

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