Elegant Dinner Party Ideas
Planning your first dinner party? These dinner party ideas
you creative inspiration… from delicious recipes, beautiful
table decorations, to the best dinner music to make your party
While I love hosting big events, I really enjoy
parties. It is a more intimate affair, usually limited to the
number of chairs you have around your dining room table. It
wonderful time to gather a few close friends and serve up some of your
favorite recipes. With a smaller group of people, you can
more time (and money) on the food you prepare. It offers more
time for conversation, so you can catch up with friends.
parties can be used to introduce friends to one another (play
matchmaker), network with colleagues (find a new job opportunity), or
simply to share your cooking talents with others!
Here I share some of my dinner party ideas, covering
invitations, table decorations, menus, music, and wine
selections. I hope you’ll find these dinner party
help make your event memorable and stress-free.
Dinner Party Ideas: Who to
Begin the planning by deciding who you will invite. You
plan the rest of the party without knowing who will be there and how
many you will be serving. Dinner parties work best for 6 to
people. Meal planning for more than 12 people is definitely
possible, but it starts to get more complicated.
need larger cooking vessels and more stove top and oven
stick with a reasonable number of guests, and make sure they can all
fit comfortably around the dining table where you will serve the food.
As I mentioned above, dinner parties can be an excellent way to have
your friends meet one another if they have never met.
is a good idea to make sure each dinner guest knows at least one other
person besides yourself. This allows your guests to mingle
you are doing last minute dinner prep, and they will not feel
uncomfortable. You can then arrange seating by
guests you would like to meet right next to one another.
Dinner Party Ideas: What
to Serve (and how to do it)
The next step is to figure out exactly what you would like to
serve. You can
keep dinner parties relatively simple, but I
it is fun to use this opportunity to serve up more fine cuisine for
your guests. Since you will have a smaller amount of people
serve than a big party, you may have more to spend on
ingredients. If this appeals to you, be sure to see my list
gourmet dinner party recipes. It includes appetizers, salads,
main courses, and wonderful desserts!
It is traditional to serve the dinner in courses, beginning with an
appetizer, a soup, a salad, the main course, and dessert. The
dessert can be served with coffee and an after dinner drink (if
Will you be cooking? Or will you need some help? Go through your menu
and create the shopping list. Next to each ingredient make a
if you can buy it ahead of time or if it needs to be bought the day of
(like fresh produce or bread).
Dinner Party Ideas: Menu
I always think it is nice to
print out menu cards to place at each
table setting. Not only does it look pretty, I think guests
to see what types of food to expect and look forward to.
can also take these home as a way to remember your party.
If you have a Word Processing program you can easily type up a menu
card. Use a nice font; there are so many pretty ones to choose
from! If you are making this an elegant affair, choose
cursive. You can then print them up on heavy card stock.
There are so many fun possibilities at the online photo printing
website now, such as Shutterfly. These sites allow you to
invitations (and menu cards) using their pre-designed
They print off the quantity you need and send them to you in the
mail. In many cases, you can also pick up their prints at
local store they are affiliated with as well.
Dinner Party Ideas: Table
For an elegant dinner
party, you will
need a nice tablecloth, and cloth napkins. This is
time to use your china! You can keep it simple too, of
course. But I think it is fun to make dinner parties a bit
fancy. Here is an example of how you set the table, if you
reminder of placement:
As I mentioned above, I think menu cards at each place setting is a
nice touch. It is also nice to have place name holders, so
everyone knows where they will be seated. These can easily be
handwritten or printed out on card stock that is folded in half so it
stands as a little tent at each place setting. Think about
people you are inviting and who would like to sit next to one another
to talk. It is easiest to talk with those on either side of
and right across the table.
There are so many fun ideas for beautiful centerpieces. Here
are some of my favorites:
large decorative plate, arrange different sized pillar
You can keep them all the same color or in the same color
You can add a few fresh flowers to the base on the plate, or put
colored marbles on the plate.
be simpler? Grab a bouquet of fresh flowers while shopping
morning for your fresh ingredients. Add them to a vase and
have the perfect centerpiece.
Vase filled with
a large clear vase, and fill it up with something from
I’ve seen beautiful vases filled with seashells, rocks, or
pine cones. Vases filled with fruit look beautiful
Lemons look great as a summer table centerpiece, or vase filled with
real cranberries looks beautiful as a winter centerpiece.
Dinner Party Ideas: Set the Mood with Music
Sometimes music is not
thought of or
planned for. But every event benefits from some background
music. If you don’t plan for it ahead of time,
be scrambling through your CD’s or MP3 files when guests are
already there. Pre-plan for it, and have it already playing
low level) during the cocktails and mingling, and during the dinner
With all the new technology it is so easy now to have a variety of
music at your fingertips. If you have access to Pandora
radio), either through your smart phone, computer, or Smart TV, you can
play channels of music throughout the entire night (of course, be
prepared for commercials if you do not have the paid
you type in “Easy Listening Radio” you will find
artists. Or check out a few CD’s from the library
throughout the evening. Piano and instrumental music works
nicely for a dinner party. Try out Kenny G, Jim Brickman,
David Crain, or Michael Dulin, to
Dinner Party Ideas: Games and Icebreakers
You'll probably only
icebreaker if you have invited guests that do not know everyone else.
As I mentioned above, it is always a good idea to make sure
guest knows at least one person besides yourself. But that
doesn't mean they will know everyone in the room.
An icebreaker is a nice way to get people talking at the beginning of
the party while you are busy finishing up the meal. It is
nice way to ensure you have some interesting conversation going on
during the meal!
Celebrity Am I? - This game gets your guests
moving around, mingling, and talking. As each guest arrives,
tape a piece of paper on their back (without them seeing it) with a
famous celebrity written on it. All guests should walk around
the room, asking others questions about the celebrity on their back
until they can figure out who it is.
To make it extra funny, once the guest has figured out their identity,
they can impersonate them for the rest of the cocktail hour!
Statement is False?
- This one can be played during the mingling time or during dinner
itself. Each guest makes three statements about themselves.
Two are true and one is false. Guests then try to
guess which statement was a lie.
Would You Do? - This makes for interesting
dinner conversation. Think of a question to propose during
dinner, then have each guest take a turn giving their opinion.
You can think of your own questions, or try one of these:
What is your dream vacation, if money or time wasn't a concern?
What four things would you save from your house, if you
could, if you had a fire?
If you could go back to college and pick a new career, what would it be?
What are the top 5 things on your bucket list?
Dinner Party Ideas:
Make a Schedule
Your dinner party will be
much more organized and stress-free if you have a schedule with the
order (and time of events). This is really a must when
cooking and serving the food yourself, to be sure everything is done
cooking at the same time and is served hot.
Your schedule should include the time to begin each part.
Keep this somewhere for you to see and refer to, then keep an
eye on the time and keep the party moving along!
Here is an example of a dinner party schedule:
4:00 PM - Prepare the salad and place in the fridge; get the bar and
4:30 PM - Shower and get yourself dressed and ready
5:30 PM - Preheat the oven; butter the garlic bread and place on baking
5:45 PM - Place chicken in the oven, begin to cook the rice.
Light candles and begin the dinner music.
6:00 PM - Guests being to arrive. Greet guests, show
them to the cocktail table/bar. Explain the icebreaker
6:30 PM - Start the brussel sprouts.
6:45 PM - Remove chicken; allow it to rest. Add bread to the
oven to broil.
6:55 PM - Remove bread, place in bowl and keep warm. Invite
guests to be seated.
7:00 PM - Serve dinner
7:45 PM - Start coffee
8:00 PM - Serve dessert, coffee, and after dinner drinks
8:15 PM - Move into living room for conversation and/or games.
Dinner Party Ideas:
Now that you have all these
dinner party ideas, you are ready to make the invitations.
You'll have a good idea of what type of party this will be
(formal, casual, ethnic flair, etc) and you can make your invitations
reflect that accordingly.
It is really easy these days to make up invitations on your own using
your computer. There are so many pretty fonts available.
You can print them out on heavy card stock for a professional
Invitations give the guests an idea of what to expect. They
will know how formal it is going to be, and therefore, how to dress.
If you have a colorful invite with bold printed letters
inviting them to an outdoor summer barbecue, they will know that shorts
or a sun dress is appropriate.
If on the other hand, the invitation is formal with cursive lettering
it suggests a more elegant affair, and they should know to dress
Be sure to include the date and time, and an idea of the cuisine you
may be serving. Also be sure to ask for an RSVP by a certain
date so you can plan for food.
I hope you enjoyed my dinner party ideas. Do you have any
other dinner party ideas you would like to share with us? We
would love to hear your special dinner party ideas.