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How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party


With only 10 days left until the official start of the holiday season, the idea of entertaining out-of-town family members and friends you haven't seen in a while can be daunting.


Related blog: 4 Restaurants Delivering Your Thanksgiving Dinner Straight To Your Door


Whether you're a first-time host or a seasoned pro, we've created a handy list of essential tips and must-haves to help you keep organized, and ensure a stress-free dinner party.  So relax, take a deep breath, and most importantly, have fun with DiningIn's How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party.


The Planning Stage


A little preparation goes a long way, and will guarantee your party to be a success from start to finish.  This is your time to brainstorm and determine your ideal ambience, how many people to invite, and the menu of your upcoming dinner party.  


Learn more about DiningIn Catering Buffet solutions


If needed, get help from a friend or family member to assist you with other final touch-ups including:


  • Stocking up on your restroom necessities
  • Figuring out parking space logistics for your houseguests
  • Providing additional closet space and coat hangers
  • Clean, clean, and clean!
How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party


The Invitations


Send handwritten, phone or online invitations (e.g. Evite) approximately 3 to 8 weeks in advance, and longer notice for more formal affairs such as New Year's Eve.  Include details like place, time, dress code, and RSVP information to help you get a final head count.


How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party


The Feel + Party Ambience


Pick a party and decor theme to get the hype going weeks before the party. It will give your guests something to talk about up until the day of the event, whether it’s Asian Flair, a fancy Thanksgiving dinner, or a fall themed get-together.


To set the mood, use lightly scented candles for a cozy feeling, or bright lights to get the party atmosphere going, and rearrange the furniture for an easy flow around the house depending on the number of guests.


Lastly, hook up your ipod (with your own playlist or using Pandora) to a few speakers at a reasonable volume and loud enough for everyone to enjoy. 


How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party

Credit: Ben Earwicker, Garrison Photography, Boise, ID


The Flowers


Add natural beauty to your home with a simple floral arrangement.  Not only will they capture your guests' attention as the table centerpiece, they'll provide a pleasant smell and colorful accent to the entire room.


How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party


The Guests


Although the dinner is centered around food, your guests are crucial to the overall atmosphere and liveliness of the dinner party.  Call it old-fashioned, but finding common threads among your guests can make them feel more comfortable when introducing them. 


Tip: To be sure everything flows smoothly, you can have someone help you with keeping the guests happy, engaged in conversation, and with a freshly poured drink in hand.


The Dinner Table


Bring out your nice dishware and silverware: your collection of china plates and cloth napkins were meant for special occasions like these.  If you'd like, create a seating plan and set out placecards on the dinner table.  Also, have some backup chairs to accomodate any surprise guests.


Browse restaurant menus and order food online via


How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party


The Appetizers


From finger foods to tapas, keep your appetizers simple and sharing style so that anyone can help themselves at any time.  By placing the small plates or appetizers in a separate section, it will give your guests a chance to gather around the table and mingle a bit.


How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party

Credit: L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge


The Drinks


Create a self-serve station to help your guests loosen up. Stock your bar with mixers, plenty of ice, and a variety of liquors or wines depending on your party theme.  It's also a good idea to have sparkling cider or mocktails for non-drinkers.


For drink recipes: 100+ Cocktail Recipes

How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party

Credit: L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge


The Dinner


Whether you're serving your guests at the table, or want a buffet-style meal, plan out your main dishes a week in advance, giving yourself enough time to make any last minute changes.  Plus, have a vegetarian or vegan option ready unless you know that all of your guests are meat-eaters.


Tip: Take any store-bought or catered food items out of their plastic containers, and place onto your dinnerware to enhance the attractiveness and presentation.


Browse restaurant menus and order food online via



How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party

Credit: Kinzie Chophouse


The Dessert


Because no dinner party is complete without a sweet treat.


How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party

Credit: Sweet Cupcakes