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15 Best Dinner Party Tips

Does throwing a dinner party seem like a distant, unattainable goal best left to live on your Pinterest board forever? We’re here to change that. Hosting a gathering in your home isn’t as hard as you might think. We’ve broken down some of our founder’s best tips so that you can finally host the dinner party of your dreams. From practical tips on how to save money and actually get dinner on the table to creative ways that will make the event your own, these actionable ideas will have you hosting in no time.

Keep Calm & Carry On

Don’t take yourself too seriously. This is about having fun! All you really need is a good, simple meal and a few people you love (and probably a bottle or two of great wine). No one cares if the chicken is slightly overcooked, but people will feel uncomfortable if you are stressed and on edge.

Ask About Allergies

These days, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you will have one guest with a gluten allergy, at least one pescatarian, and another allergic to nuts, seeds, and cucumbers. Use this information to plan your menu accordingly. For example, if you know you have a pescatarian coming, choose fish for the main instead of short ribs.

Prep In Advance

Get what can be done in advance out of the way ahead of time. Dressings can be made the day before, while meat can be pre-seared before the party starts and finished in the oven when you're ready to serve. Wash and pick herbs to be used for garnish. Mise en place is a must; store chopped and prepped ingredients in small dishes or quart/pint containers. And always give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. If you think prep will take you 4 hours, give yourself 5 or 6. Everything always takes longer than you think it will, even if you’re a master chef.

Less Is More

… when it comes to meat. The catering rule is generally 4 ounces per person if you're serving multiple dishes. Pump up the veggies and grains––not only is it healthier, but you'll save money, too.

Get The Party Started

We like to start with a welcome cocktail and then keep it simple by serving wine and beer with dinner. This way, you can control how much liquor you need to buy (along with the cost). Be generous with the wine, though; we like to have at least one bottle of wine per person in attendance––and definitely allow friends to contribute here.

Let Them Pitch In

Which brings us to our next point… When your friends ask what they can bring along, happily oblige. Alcohol and ice are our go-tos, as well as stuff that can be picked up from a grocery or specialty store like baguettes, ice cream, cheese, and charcuterie. Don’t be shy to suggest types of wine that might go with dinner, or even a bottle of liquor you’ll need for the cocktail.

Sunday Is The New Saturday

Try a brunch, lunch, or early dinner. Entertaining on Sundays means you can have the weekend to prep, shop, and live your life. Leaving typically busy Saturday nights free for your friends, too.

Plan That Playlist

Often overlooked but quite possibly (next to having good food, of course) the second most important factor in making a great party. We tend to go for a mix of classic rock, indie electronic, and old-school hip-hop. Try a Spotify mood playlist, or outsource this to one of your friends who always has great music on tap.

Break Out The DIY

Get guests involved by serving food DIY-style. A make-your-own taco bar is just as fun for the guests as it is easy for the hostess. For dessert, take care of the toppings and bowls to create a make-your-own sundae bar, and ask each of your friends to bring their favorite ice cream. Hungry for more? Try a BLT bar in the summertime, featuring a spread of gorgeous sliced heirloom tomatoes, roasted bacon and other smoked meats, and flavored mayos. In fall and winter, try a soba noodle bar with various toppings. Get more genius food bar ideas here.

Mix Up The Temps

One of the biggest challenges we hear from home cooks is that they're not sure how to get all of the dishes hot on the table at once. Make it work by serving dishes at various temperatures. If you're doing a roast, make one side that can be gently reheated on the stove, and another that can be served at room temp. You can also serve a big salad family-style with your meat, and instead opt to serve something that needs to be heated as a first course (like soup).

Its All In The Family

Try plating one or two dishes––we like to choose those where presentation matters most, typically salads and mains, depending on the dish––and serve everything else family-style. Starters and sides should rarely be served any other way, in our opinion, but we also love desserts that are meant to be shared.

Set The Scene

Fresh flowers are always nice but you don't need to go all out; we generally prefer small, simple arrangements in jars or small drinking glasses because they can sit low on the table (so you can see the person sitting in front of you!) and don't take up too much space. We also love displaying seasonal fruit or citrus in pretty bowls, or lining the table with branches of foliage and greenery. For lighting, votive candles a must; they’re inexpensive and always enhance the setting. Go white and unscented so they don’t compete with the food.

Keep Serving Simple

We’re biased to keeping a set of gorgeous, simple white dinnerware on hand, along with a couple serving platters and bowls. If you’re serving a very large group (and especially if eating happens outside) disposable is totally cool––just be sure to splurge on the premium bamboo styles. Cloth napkins are also generally a must; they feel much more special than paper napkins or worse, paper towels.

After Dinner Treats

Do like the Parisians and try serving cheese after dinner instead of before. It’s often too heavy and filling to begin the meal. You can add something sweet––like a simple cookie or candy, or even honey or fruit compote––to turn it into a dessert course. After-dinner coffee is a must in our book; this is our favorite time to relax and enjoy the evening. An after-dinner drink such as amaro or port never hurts, either.

Make Clean-Up A Cinch

One word: TaskRabbit. You can hire someone to clean up after your party with the click of a button. This will possibly be the best money you'll spend all night. Or if you've already got a cleaning service on rotation, time it so that they come the morning after your dinner. One more thing: While we’re all about allowing guests to chip in in the form of wine or dessert, don’t let them do the dishes. It’s not a good look.