19 Tips for Hosting an Unforgettable Dinner Party

Dinner parties aren’t a thing of the past — and they don’t have to be a super formal affair. These food-focused get-togethers are regaining popularity, making them a great way to gather with friends or family for a night of good eats and fun times. Dinner parties can also be a great way for you to meet new people when you’ve recently moved, or life has taken you in a new direction.


Hosting a dinner party can feel intimidating, especially if you’ve never planned one before. Whether you’re wondering how to host your first dinner party or your fiftieth, here are our top 19 tips for making it an event to remember. 

Dinner Party Planning Tips

Hosting a dinner party requires a lot of planning. Here are some tips to help ensure you cover all your bases.


1. Plan your guest list before anything else.

Your guest list will influence all other planning choices you make. Decide who you want to invite. Close friends? Family members? Coworkers? A mix? Once you narrow down the guest list, you can work out a date and time and start planning the other elements of your party.


2. Carefully choose a location.

Depending on the size of your guest list, you may need to get creative with the location. You might host your party outdoors in warmer months, like in your backyard or at a nearby park. If you have a tiny dining room in your apartment, you can move around furniture to set up your dining table in the more spacious living room. 


3. Pick a theme.

Dinner parties don’t necessarily need a theme, but themes can add a fun twist! You can go all out with a murder mystery dinner party or just ask everyone to dress to a costume theme. If you’ve spent time on TikTok, you might have seen ideas like dressing as a celebrity who shares your astrology sign, 90s throwback outfits, nostalgic teen emo nights, and bookish-themed costumes. Upcoming holidays are also an easy way to theme your party. 


Even if you don’t have a specific theme in mind, decide if your party will be more casual or formal. This guideline will help your guests know what to expect and can relieve a lot of anxiety about what to wear to a dinner party. If you’re keeping it casual, they’ll know a T-shirt and jeans are totally fine. If you specify black tie, they’ll be sure to show up in their best cocktail dresses and suits. 


4. Send out invitations. 

While sending a quick text to your crew might seem like the easiest option, it leaves lots of room for error. Some people might never respond to the text, leaving you unsure about who is actually coming, and important event details can get lost in the thread. 


You don’t have to get fancy with stock paper and envelopes — free e-vites like Punchbowl are an easy and fun option for gathering RSVPs for your dinner party. You can use these e-vites to share information like the theme and dress code.


5. Specify if guest contributions are welcome. 

Do you have all the food covered? Is a tray of cookies from the grocery store going to send your carefully planned menu into a tailspin? Or would you like others to share some of the load? In your invitation, note whether guests should feel free to bring a contribution or if you would like them to leave everything to you. 


If you don’t specify, guests might show up with unwanted or unnecessary items. If you do want them to contribute, it can be helpful to provide ideas or a spreadsheet where everyone can share what they’re bringing to avoid duplicates. 


6. Provide entertainment.

Guests may naturally spend the whole time chatting, but you don’t want to risk awkward lulls or boredom. For murder mystery parties, you already have the entertainment all figured out. For other dinner parties, consider setting out board games, cards, and other dinner party games that can be casually picked up. A Valentine’s Day party could have a cookie decorating portion, or your Christmas-themed dinner party might include a white elephant gift exchange.


Dinner Party Menu and Food Tips

The food is the main star of your party — dinner is right there in the name! To keep you from burning out in the kitchen, here are some of our top tips regarding dinner party menu choices and preparation. 


7. Consider dietary restrictions.

Use your RSVPs to gather any dietary restrictions your guests have. Once you have your list of attendees, you can plan a menu that offers options for everyone, including vegans, vegetarians, celiacs, etc. Note that not every dish needs to cater to every guest. 


8. Don’t try new recipes.

You want to impress your guests, but now’s not the time to try that beef Wellington recipe you’ve never made. New recipes can easily go wrong, so it’s best to stick to favorites you’ve made a few times before. You’ll feel more confident about your menu and knock it out of the park. 


Remember, you don’t have to get super fancy with your menu. You can stay with simple classics. Casual dinner party menu ideas include spaghetti, casseroles, baked chicken, garden side salads, buttered green beans, shrimp cocktails, and French bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 


9. Avoid cooking on the stovetop. 

You don’t want to plan menu items that take too much attention. You should be able to check in with guests and mingle while cooking. That becomes difficult with food cooked on the stove, which often requires frequent stirring and checking. Instead, plan dishes that can be made in the oven, air fryer, or slow cooker. 


10. Triple check you have all your ingredients.

You’ve made your famous spinach artichoke dip dozens of times and are sure you have everything you need — but it never hurts to check again. Write a list of every ingredient you need for your menu and check it the day before your party. The last thing you want is to have to run to the store day of!


11. Plan a cooking schedule

Time your cooking so everything is done around the same moment. Write out how long each dish takes and work backward from your planned meal time. Give yourself about 15 minutes of padding in case anything takes a little longer than expected. Then, create a schedule of when each dish needs to be started. 


12. Prep what you can the day before.

You have plenty to worry about on the day of your party, so take some tasks off your plate by prepping what you can the day before. Chop and shred ingredients, bake dessert, and clear out the dishwasher so you have a fresh start.


13. Offer a specialty drink.

If you really want your dinner party to stand out, plan a special drink in addition to the usual soda, sparkling water, beer, and wine. Try to create a drink that can be both a mocktail and cocktail, and ensure it matches your theme. 


14. Don’t be afraid of store-bought. 

Your guests don’t expect you to make every single item from scratch. They’ll still be impressed even if a few things came from the store — and they might not even notice. If you just love the berry cake your local grocery store makes, pick one up for dessert! Serving bread with dinner? Nothing wrong with picking up a loaf from the store. Setting out a variety of dips? Don’t spend precious time chopping ingredients for salsa when the store has plenty of high-quality options. 


Dinner Party Decorating Tips

Decorations can make a big difference. Follow these tips for making your decor (and your party) memorable. 


15. Check you have enough dishware. 

You don’t want to have to clean dishes mid-party or break out the disposables. Check that you have enough dishware for your party. Consider how many people you have and the number of courses you’re serving. You’ll want a few extra dishes on hand, just in case. 


16. Start decorating ahead of time.

Planning the perfect tablescape to impress your guests? Don’t wait until the morning of your party to put it together. Start setting the table and putting up decorations in the days leading up to your party. The less you have to do day of, the better. 


17. Include sensory elements. 

Sensory elements can help set the right mood for your dinner party. A more formal event might require dimmed lighting, while a fantasy-themed evening might call for tons of sparkling fairy lights. Curate the perfect playlist for your party and play it in the background — just be sure you don’t have the volume up too high. Guests should easily hear each other. Finally, light some scented candles or incense to round things out. 


18. Set up a photo wall.

If nobody posts about your dinner party, did it even happen? Encourage guests to document the event by setting up a cute photo wall decorated to match the theme of your party. They’ll walk away with tons of cute pictures to post on social media and look back on for years!


19. Don’t forget the small details.

Little details can make your dinner party feel more special. For a personalized touch, set nameplates out on the table. Light taper candles for additional ambiance. Place flower arrangements throughout the space. Provide linen napkins with decorative napkin rings. Set out fancy soap in the bathroom. All these details might seem small, but they can have a big impact. 


CORT Furniture Rental: Hosting Made Easy

Hosting an epic dinner (or brunch!) party starts with having the right furniture and decor in your home to make your guests feel welcome and comfortable. If you’re ready to turn your space into a home that is comfortable and well-furnished no matter what plans might come your way, turn to CORT for full-home furnishings. From beds and sofas to dining room tables with seating for your closest friends and family, CORT has it all.


Visit your local CORT Furniture Rental showroom in person or get started online. You can pick from Move-In Ready packages for convenience or customize your package to every detail. We’ll work with you to arrange a delivery date, and our team will deliver your furniture. Then, you can decide your pickup date, and we’ll do the heavy lifting. Visit CORT Furniture Rental online or in person today.

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