5 Tips to Host a Successful Dinner Party

Lily Thorpe

Dinner parties are my love language. The greatest gift I can give to my friends is to invite them into my home, serve them a home-cooked meal, and enjoy each other’s company. I believe the art of hosting is something we have forgotten as restaurants became the new experience to have. While I love trying the latest restaurants in Austin with my friends, there is a different feel when hosting a dinner party at your own home. Something intimate and magical happens that gives me all the butterflies in my stomach. 

Perhaps the reason we are not hosting in our homes is the intimidation of the challenge. We often feel our homes need to be perfectly prepared before we invite friends over, or we need to be an expert in the kitchen. If we shift our mindsets away from the perfectionism of hosting and focus on the “why” for hosting someone in our homes, dinner parties will appear a lot less intimidating. 

Of course, over the many dinner parties I hosted over the years, there is a thing or two I picked up on to make my evenings run smoother. Today, I am taking you through five tips I use every time I plan a dinner party to ensure my guests, and I have a great time. 

Always let you guests bring something, if they offer

When you first extend the invitation to your dinner party guest, more often than not, they will ask if there is anything they can bring. For so long, I wanted to be a super host. Not needing any extra help during my parties. But it is important to remember many guests do not want to arrive empty-handed and want to contribute to the meal. This is especially true if you are hosting guests with any dietary restrictions. I always offer my guests to bring their favorite drink, appetizer, or dessert.

Have an appetizer ready to eat as soon as your guests arrive

People will arrive hungry and ready to eat. I always like to set out an appetizer or two to get the party started. Often, I prepare a charcuterie board for my guests. This appetizer comes together relatively quickly and always impresses. A few types of meat, cheeses, and crackers go a long way as an appetizer. If you don’t want to prepare an appetizer, the freezer section in almost every store carries great appetizers that always end up tasting great. My favorite to pick up are the cheese puff pastry bites.

Prepare a dish you’ve made before

I believe one of the biggest reasons people are afraid to host a dinner party is because they feel the need to prepare an extravagant meal. Believe me, I used to be that person. I learned over the years, it is essential to keep the dishes you prep at your comfort level. The best way to feel confident in the meals you make is to make something you have made before. This is your time to pull out the recipe for the dinner you make time and time again. By preparing something you have made before, the anxiety of, “will it taste good?” does not exist. My goto is always chicken parmesan because I know I can prepare it ahead and throw it in the oven to finish cooking once my guests arrive.

Keep the table setting simple

You’ve invited your friends over for dinner, prepared your home, cooked a beautiful meal, and now it is time to arrange the table. When I set the table for my dinner parties, I use a formula for my settings. First, the tablecloth or placemats go down, then the plates, napkins, silverware, and finally, fresh flowers and candles. The bottom line is, I like to keep things simple. I use the same vase every time, so I know exactly how to arrange my flowers. I use white linens, so I know they will match any occasion, and I like to accessorize according to the season or theme of the party. 

Ambiance is Key

Something always on my mind when hosting is the ambiance. Is the music playing? Are there enough mood lights on? Does my house smell good? Sometimes I find myself so wrapped up in these questions, I forget the most critical part of the night, my guests. To avoid getting wrapped up in my concerns, I get everything set before my guests arrive. I turn on my favorite dinner party playlist on Spotify, I turn on all of my extra lamps and ambient lighting, and I light my favorite candles around my house. By doing all of these things before your guests arrive, you will relax knowing your home is ready and your guests are set to walk into the perfect night. 

So what do you say? Are you ready to host the dinner party of your dreams? With the holiday season here, we are at the perfect time to invite your friends over for a special night in. 

I hope these tips ease your mind and prepare you to host a wonderful evening with the ones you love most.