5 Tips To Throwing a Successful Dinner Party

I absolutely love to plan, cook and host. Whether it be a dinner, a party or just a gathering... Who doesn't love any excuse to get friends together over food, drinks and laughter? One thing I've found is that having a theme to center the event around makes it more fun and easier to plan when deciding on the food selection and decor.

It means everything when you have moments to gather the girlfriends for an intimate dinner. A while back, I threw a small dinner at my old place to get everyone together to catch up. I went with the theme: "Celebrating the Harvest" and focused on changing seasons, planting seeds and reaping harvests. I wanted to toast and celebrate goals we were working on and our newest accomplishments and that is just what we did! I provided a spread of food and asked everyone to bring their favorite bottle of wine. We ate, drank and toasted well into the night, enjoying every moment of each others company.


Thinking about planning and hosting a dinner party? It's not as overwhelming as it seems! Learn the perfect tips to make your night a raving success!

1. Invitations

A pretty invitation is the perfect way to set the tone for your event. I'm a fan of Paperless Post, which has customized, themed invitations for any and everything. It lets you manage the invite, send out follow up messages and keep track of the guest list. For a sit-down dinner, I'd recommend sending the invitation out about 3-4 weeks in advance and having your guests RSVP no later than 1 week prior to the event. This way, your guests have a chance to clear or rearrange their calendar and you can plan out your setting and meal accordingly. I also asked guests to respond with any allergy or food restrictions when RSVPing so that I could plan the meal accordingly. Keep in mind, to keep the dinner intimate and cozy, a guest list of 8-10 is ideal depending on your space.

2. Decor

Decor sets the tone for the perfect event. Since I was planning a dinner with a harvest theme, I chose deep, rich colors like red, violet and marigold. Fresh flowers always set a warm and inviting setting, so I picked up a couple of bouquets for $4 each at Trader Joe's while grocery shopping. Another great idea is floating candles. Remember to keep whatever centerpiece you choose low enough so that guests can chat over it across the table. I decided to have floor seating for the dinner and found some amazing throw pillows at Target and my local thrift stores. Since my space was a bit small, I utilized my coffee table accented with a table runner, which worked perfectly for the amount of guests I had. I used a tall glass table for the appetizers as guests arrived and centered smaller side tables within arms distance of the dinner table for side dishes to be easily passed around between guests.

3. Preparation

I generally like to prep as much a I can way in advance in order to avoid any last minute issues. I research and plan the menu as soon as I have a pretty solid guest list. I had a girlfriend of mine that's really into music create an amazing playlist of old-school jams. I'm a huge fan of Soundcloud and Spotify for creating the perfect unique playlist. After the menu is planned, it's helpful to write out all of the ingredients and other items you will need for the event, so that you can determine which stores you will need to shop at. I recommend shopping for the decor a week out and the food a minimum of 2 days ahead of time, in case there is something you cannot locate at one store. Purchase the fresh items the day before or morning of. Prep as much as you can the evening before the event, like starting to decorate, marinating your meat and cutting up any veggies. This will help you from having to do everything and over extending yourself on the actual day-of, so that you can enjoy the event!

4. The Meal

The most important part! My menu consisted of a baked orange, maple chicken breast and pan seared halibut fish and fresh veggies so that there was something for everyone. Keep in mind that some of your friends may be vegans, vegetarians or just not eat a certain type of meat, so give options as well as a variety of veggie dishes. I also tend to shy away from any complicated recipes to avoid not being able to find the ingredients or mess-ups on the day of. Going with the fall-theme, I decided to make the side dishes full of root veggies and prepared a chili-lime butternut and beet kale salad, twice-baked sweet potato souffle and roasted asparagus. I find some of the best recipes on Pinterest and Food Gawker and make them my own.

5. Be in the Moment

The best part of planning and hosting an event is the memories that come from it. You get to be in the mix of the entire experience. Be sure to actually BE THERE. Get your friends to capture pictures from their POV but don't allow anyone to be on their phone #gramming and #snapping the entire night. I say, if you're going to host an event, be a great host. Go all out to make your guests feel comfortable and welcome. Answer any questions they may have, and cater to them. You want it to be an experience for everyone to remember. By prepping for your event and being a good planner, you will get to enjoy yourself and get the most time spent with your guests. Also, be proud of yourself and learn from your event. If you messed up on something the first time, or saw room for improvement, make a #notetoself and incorporate it the second go around but be proud that you created such a successful evening for your friends!

Most of all... Kick back, have a drink, take it all in and ENJOY EVERY SECOND!