Joel and I are constantly having people at our house for every type of dinner party that we can think of. I have taken it upon myself to be the best host that I can be. There are little details that you can easily pay attention to and make it an unforgettable evening for you and your guests every time. Whether it’s the soft music playing in the background or that your guests' glasses never run dry, you don’t have to run yourself around tirelessly to be the perfect host. You just need these simple tips to make it the most relaxing evening for your party guests.
These simple tips will make each dinner party an unforgettable evening for both you and your guests every time.
Take these tips and apply them to any event, no matter how big or small. They can be catered to how you flow before a dinner party and should reflect what works best for you. These dinner party tips are meant to simply help to remove some of the pressure of feeling like you need to run around all evening or be the perfect host. The best dinner party is one enjoyed by both the guests AND the hosts.
5 Dinner Party Hosting Tips
1. Plan your tablescape. Whether you are having a sit-down dinner or a table full of food for everyone to grab, plan a layout for your table ahead of time. For sit-down dinners, I like to plan out the placemats, plates, bowls, silverware, napkins, and glasses. Then I plan the center of the table and consider whether or not I will have room to fit the food on the table or if I need to have an additional option. If I am serving food on the table where everyone can get what they want, I like to plan out what serving dishes I will need to display the food. This includes items that will be used to scoop food, serving plates, cups, napkins, and silverware to make it easier for everyone to pick up and serve themselves.
2 Make a list of EVERYTHING in advance. As soon as I start planning a dinner party, I make a list on my phone of everything that I need. I add to it over the weeks and have a set date that I want to order everything by. This helps me remember all of the little details, including last-minute items such as ice!
3. Don’t wait until the last minute to do everything. This one is SO HARD for me because I do procrastinate, but I have gotten better at not saving everything for the last minute. If there are place cards that I can make a week in advance once the guest list is finalized, I do it. If there is food that can be prepped a day or two before, I do that as well.
4. Make a soft timeline. If you’re not Type A like I am, this one might sound daunting, but if you can create a soft timeline to keep yourself on track on the day of your dinner party, it will help you relax and enjoy the evening. I have everything from turning on the patio lights to doing my hair before the guests arrive.
5. Play music. Music creates a great atmosphere for your guests. It helps them relax and settle in. If it’s silent, it can feel awkward. You can play anything from jazz to upbeat pop hits. I prefer to change the playlist to the type of dinner party that I am hosting. For a pizza night in our backyard, I might play something with Coldplay or Italian-style jazz. If we are making tacos I love to play Latin dinner jazz (a real playlist on Spotify). This is something you can do in advance by creating a playlist ahead of time, then press play just before everyone arrives.
3 Things To Do the Day Before Your Dinner Party
1. Clean out and organize your fridge. I can’t tell you how many times that I have come home from food shopping for my dinner party and have nowhere to store it! If you have a fridge in your garage, perfect. I don’t, so I have to make use of the little bit of space that we have in our refrigerator. If you’re like me and need all of the space that you can find, it helps to clean out your fridge BEFORE you go food shopping.
2. Buy all of the food items that you need. I always do this the day before whenever possible. I order my groceries for pickup to save even more time, especially as a mom. If you are ordering takeout, you won't need to do much in advance, but keep in mind if you are having appetizers, you can buy the ingredients in advance.
3. Place any necessary drinks in the fridge. Think white wines, sparkling water, beer, or any drinks that are better served cold. This will give them a good amount of time to chill being in the refrigerator overnight.
3 Tips For Inviting Guests to Your Dinner Party
1. Use Paperless Post! This is not an ad. I use the FREE version every time. If you have Canva or Photoshop, you can create an invite completely free, download it as a PNG, then upload your own file to Paperless Post. From there if you want to keep it completely free, you can opt to not have a background image for the invitation or an envelope. They add “coins” for that option which costs money. If you aren’t into designing or DIYing your invitations, Paperless Post is a great option with beautiful designs.
2. Ask your guests to bring something! If you're hosting your guests, it never hurts to ask them to bring a bottle of something of their choosing. It could be wine, sparkling water, or a case of beer. You've taken the time to prep, clean, host, and cook. It’s perfectly acceptable to have everyone pitch in for an unforgettable evening together.
3. Give them an idea of what to expect. Whenever I am planning a dinner party, I give quick details about the evening so that guests will have an idea of what the evening entails, even if it’s just a casual dinner together. I typically say something along the lines of “Come for a relaxing evening of pizza in the backyard and lots of wine.” It’s quick and casual, but it helps your guests know what to expect for the evening.
4 Tips For the Day of Your Dinner Party
1. Freshen up 1 hour before guests arrive. I used to scramble until the last minute finishing little details around the house, and I would always be putting on my finishing touches when guests were arriving, sometimes until after they arrived. I finally learned to manage my time better on the day of a dinner party, and I now create a soft timeline that allows me to remind myself to get dressed first, then sweat the small things later. If I’m chopping carrots when guests arrive, I can do that a lot more casually than look like I am running behind curling my hair. I can even have my friends pitch in and help chop while we chat. Get dressed, then chop.
2. Arrange your appetizers 30 minutes before the guests arrive. Just before guests arrive you can place any light food on the table to greet them as they come in. Having a few things already in place helps to settle your guests in and dive into enjoying a relaxing evening. It also creates the sense that everything is already done and taken care of. They can come in and simply enjoy it, then help with clean up later.
3. Light candles or turn on the patio lights just before the guests arrive. If you’re lighting candles, this can act as a calming and serene way to make the place both smell good and inviting. Patio lights create a nice ambiance in the background.
4. Plan to serve dinner 30-45 minutes into the evening. You don’t want to rush into dinner right when your guests arrive. Give them a bit of time to relax, then plan to transition to the next phase once everyone has arrived, has a drink in hand, and has settled into conversation.