Tips for Throwing a Dinner Party

Hi everyone! My name is Alden, and I blog over at Food for the Foodies!

One of my favorite things to do ever is to throw dinner parties.

They just seem like such an adult thing to do. Rather than playing beer pong with Natural Light, you are discussing politics over a nice Bordeaux.

There is this unspoken obligation when hosting a dinner party that the table runner has to match the place settings and the invitations have to match the décor and the flowers (oh! and you must have pretty drinks). This is the epitome of dinner parties, but it is not easily achieved. Pinterest has us thinking that we can’t throw a party unless it’s picture perfect.

I am here to tell you that this is not the case that it should be about good food, good company and good conversation. Being such a food person this can sometimes be hard to achieve. I find myself poring over five pages of menu notes and before I know it it’s a five-course meal and I have to hire servers and bartenders. (Obviously, at this point I know I’ve gone over the top!)

So I am here to help ease you into the process with a few helpful tips that will have your guests chatting your party up for weeks and others jealous they weren’t there!

1. Accept Help

When people offer to help, take them up on it! People love to help, so if they offer, and you don’t even have to ask (asking for help gives me severe anxiety), just say “Yes, thank you!” Have them bring something to alleviate some stress from you, or have them come over early and help with the set up and prep. 

 2. Logistics First, then Menu Planning

There are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you get to the fun part:

  • How many people will you be serving?
  • Is it individual plating, or family style?
  • Do you have enough serving utensils and platters?
  • What is the occasion?
  • How much time do you have to prepare the meal?
  • Will you do a little every day, or all on the day of the party?
  • What is your budget?

I know this is the most boring part, but these are important questions.

3. Menu Planning

When planning the menu, keep it simple. Keep your grocery list to items you can find at the grocery store. The last thing you want to do is to be running all over town trying to find quince paste. (Try to plan your menu around weekly specials at your local grocery store, too!)

You also want to think about what is in season. Again, you don’t want to be running around looking for black truffles in the summer.

If it is summer, keep it light, your guest will appreciate you! Perhaps some mustard greens, arugula with grilled vegetables to go with grilled proteins like chicken, ribs or fish.

For winter, a simple hearty bowl of soup with homemade bread will go a long way. Another great option is to have bread on the table and let your guests fill up on carbs. It would surprise you how much bread people will eat, even with so much other great food on the table!

Be sure to have some small bites like crab cakes, mini quiche or fresh tuna nachos out when guests arrive. Also have your bar already set up with glasses, ice, shakers and garnishes for drinks. You could even have a pitcher of pre-made Bloody Mary’s for brunch or a light summer drink if your party is outside. Having all this ready will put people at ease and give you more time to finish up the last minute cooking.

When deciding on a main course, as I’ve said, keep it simple with a roasted herb chicken, or standing rib roast, then your sides will follow. Some great side ideas are goat cheese mashed potatoes with a chilled green bean salad.

And last but not least: dessert. Have your guest make their own banana split, or cheesecake with different toppings. This should be simple but delicious! Maybe even have a baker make your dessert to take some of the burden off of you. Don’t be afraid to mix homemade with store bought!

Thank you for reading! Hope you are inspired to throw your own low-stress dinner party!


2013-12-25 13.34.00Alden has been cooking since she could reach the stove and made it official in 2010 at Johnson and Wales, completing her culinary education in Charlotte, NC. She has since worked in many restaurants in Charlotte, Asheville and Columbia. She enjoys traveling and once drove from North Carolina to California and only spent $23 on lodging. You can keep up with her at her blog Food for the Foodies.


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