The Beginner’s Guide to Hosting a Dinner Party

Speckled Serving Platter

Dinner parties can feel like the ultimate mark of sophistication. People on TV shows host dinner parties, and everyone always has a great time (until some mysterious figure from the past shows up and ruins everything, but how often does this happen in real life?). But if you’ve never hosted a dinner party before, it can seem like a difficult task. Don’t worry though, just follow our checklist, prepare well, and your friends will be talking about your legendary dinner party for ages.

Get the right music

Cocktail Kit, Tropical

Music isn’t something we always think about when planning a dinner party but it is definitely something you want. As the host, the last thing you want to hear as cutlery scraping on plates. That’s not to say that music will make people talk but, worst case scenario, at least you won’t have a silent dinner.

Don’t play your favourite songs, songs that you want to sing along to or dance to. This is a dinner party, not a house party. Artists like Michael Bublé are a dinner party staple for a reason. Classics like Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, and Bob Dylan will also go down a treat.

If you want something a bit more contemporary, try to stick to things with soft vocals. Or if you really want to play your favourite song, look for an instrumental or acoustic version instead. (Ane Brun’s cover of Beyonce’s Halo, Henry Green’s cover of MGMT’s Electric Feel, Devon Baldwin’s cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, or Zella Day’s cover of Seven Nation Army, are great examples.) This way you get to hear your favourite songs while still  maintaining the relaxed vibe crucial to a dinner party’s success.

Style it right

Sticotti Walnut Coffee Table

Another thing that we might not think of until it’s too late is the look of your space. It’s likely you’ll be hosting in your own home, which is great for you. You love the look of your home. But some of your guests might have a different style to you. You don’t have to change everything, but try soft colours like greys and beiges for the table linens to keep everyone comfortable.

If your event is likely to continue after dinner and turn into drinks, having some extra cushions on the couch can help to make the place feel more cosy to your guests.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try to style your space to create a theme. For example, if you’re serving tacos or tapas you could as some Latin-inspired décor to your space for a completed theme.

Offer simple drinks

Aloha Pineapple Cup & Drink Dispenser

When hosting an event, it’s easy to want to go overboard and serve each guest a different cocktail or mocktail, but it’s not necessary. If you want to try out your mixology skills, opt for one or two bulk made cocktails in jugs that you’ve prepared before the guests arrive. It’s often a good idea to offer at least one non-alcoholic option as well, for drivers, underage guests or those who simply dislike alcohol.

Sangria is fun and easy to make, but don’t tell the guests that. Just choose your wine and fruit pairings well and pop them in a jug or carafe for instant effortless style. Mimic this with your non-alcoholic drink by creating a fruit punch or by mixing a juice of your choosing with soda or tonic water for some fizz. Add fresh fruit or herb leaves such as mint for a little extra kick!

Plan that menu

La Cuisine Apron
This is the most important aspect to your event. The dinner in ‘dinner party.’ Cooking for a lot of people can be difficult, so it makes sense to be well-prepared.

If you’re an experienced chef, stick to what you know. But, as this is a beginners guide and not many of us know how to keep everyone happy with their dinners. Here are a few suggestions to help make sure all your guests are left feeling satisfied at the end of the night.

Start with appetisers. Not all dinner hosts serve appetisers, so this can be a way to stand out. You don’t have to do anything fancy. A favourite recipe of ours is simple and cute. Cucumber slices, topped with a cream cheese & ranch mixed with ranch, and half a cherry tomato. It’s colourful, bite-sized, and easy without looking like it.

As far as the main meal goes, a roast is one of the easiest meals to cook, no matter what mum or dad grumbles during the holidays. It takes a long time, that’s for sure, but the steps can be broken down to keep it easy.

If you don’t have that much time to cook dinner though, handmade pizzas keep it simple. Make the dough yourself if you can to keep it authentic. Once your guests arrive they can s design their own dinner. Offer them plenty of toppings and everyone will be happy with dinner.

Serve whatever you cook with a handmade salad for a healthy and fresh side. Again, don’t stress this one. Grab your leafy greens—kale, lettuce, arugula—then add in any extras like cheese and tomato, and grab a dressing, or make your own if you can. Find what tastes good to you when combined, and try serving it up.

Don’t forget dessert

Bake Cake Plate & Server Set

Dessert is arguably the best part of the meal. It’s delicious and colourful and fun. If you’re up to it, pre-baking a cake and revealing it after dinner is always a show-stopper. (And this way, the cake can be any flavour you want.) One big cake can be a lot though, so of cupcakes are a cute and simple option to keep your guests smiling.

If baking isn’t your passion though, a parfait such as an Eton mess will work like a charm. It’s a simple recipe of berries—normally strawberries or raspberries—sugar, cream, and pre-cooked—or store bought—meringues, and it looks marvellous! (And you look like you’ve come straight from Masterchef.)

Once dinner is over

Geometric Mug (Set of 4)

The hard part is over. Everyone is fed and happy. But don’t sink onto the couch yet. After dinner coffee and tea is an essential part of any dinner party.

Once they’re sated and happy, send them on their way with a gift bag. Some of the berries and meringues from dessert, or some other treat, are fun and easy. This small touch will keep your guests talking about your great hosting skills for ages.

Paige Riddiford is a writer and editor from NSW with a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong. When not writing, Paige is often found reading, baking cakes, playing video games, or binging whatever's new on Netflix.