5 Must-Have Tips for Hosting a Dinner Party

by Alli

My first dinner party was a disaster with a capital D! I was in my early 20’s, a newlywed and didn’t really know my way around the kitchen very well. I was a total klutz!

You can read the embarrassing details here. It’s an oldie but goodie post that needs a photo redo. OMG!

That dinner was so traumatizing that I never wanted to entertain guests again. I needed to check into an entertaining rehab facility, but I couldn’t find one. It was devastating!

Since that ill-fated day, I’ve finally perfected the dinner party and here’s my 5 must-have tips for hosting a dinner party from start to finish.

5 Must Have tips for Hosting a Dinner Party


5 Must-Have Tips for Hosting a Dinner Party

1. Don’t Half-kill Yourself by Over-doing the Cleaning.

There was a time when I thought I had to clean out the closets, wipe down the baseboards and power-wash the outside of the house before having people over to eat dinner.

I remember once when pain was running down my legs because I had overdone the cooking and cleaning when preparing for guests to come over. I was silently wishing they would leave so I could remove my makeup, throw on an old t-shirt, gulp down a couple of Tylenol and creep into bed. That, my friend, is ridiculous.

I’m not saying that your house should be a pigsty. Shut the door to your home office and bedroom. Clean the bathrooms the day before and make sure all the rooms your guests will be in are clean. Trust me, no one will notice if the baseboards haven’t been scrubbed.

2. Use the KISS Method

Keep It Simple, Silly!  (I was going to say stupid but my mom taught me that it wasn’t nice to call people stupid)

5 Must-Have Tips for Throwing a Dinner Party

You know that one no-fail recipe you make that always gets rave reviews? Make that one. This is not the time to try Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon recipe. Trust me!

5 Must-Have Tips for Hosting a Dinner Party

3. Stick to my Rule of Five

Helpful Hint: Sometimes I serve appetizers and sometimes I don’t. It depends on the formality of the party. If it’s really casual, we go straight to the meal. If the meal is going to be a while, offer appetizers.

It’s a Do: Do offer guests a drink as soon as they arrive.

4. Make it Easy by Keeping it Semi-Homemade

Who says everything you serve has to be cooked from scratch? If you’re not a baker, visit your favorite bakery and buy gourmet cupcakes. I’ve been known to buy frozen cheesecake from the grocery store. I pop it out of the container, place it on a pretty cake plate and create a Top Your Own Cheesecake Bar.

Buy frozen rolls (I LOVE Sister Schubert’s yeast rolls). Pop them in the oven for 5-10 minutes. I like to brush them with olive oil first. After brushing with olive oil, you can sprinkle the rolls with dried or fresh chopped herbs to add flavor.

Dinner Rolls - 5 Must-Have Tips For Hosting a Dinner Party

5. Relax and Have Fun

If you’re tense, your guests will immediately pick up on it and they’ll be awkward, too. Entertaining guests is all about catching up, laughing, story telling and having a good time. You want your guests to leave with great memories, a full tummy and excited about the next get together (at their house, of course, according to proper etiquette rules).

Helpful Hint: Table decor doesn’t have to break the bank. Often times, I pick up a bouquet of grocery store flowers, arrange them in a pretty vase and that’s it. I’ve also used a bowl of lemons, apples or oranges.

Outdoor Entertaining Ideas

A good set of white dishes are always in style. I own dishes that have been passed down from my mom, grandma and aunt. Don’t be afraid to mix and match.

Music: Don’t forget to have music softly playing in the background.

How often do you host dinner parties? Any tips you’d like to share?

You may also like 5 Outdoor Entertaining Ideas. At this spring party, I used luggage tags as place cards.



Shirley Wood April 20, 2016 - 10:14 am

That does it! I’m coming up there to be your neighbor. All the fun is at your house! Such fabulous tips, I love them all. Now I’m inspired to host a dinner party using all your tips! I really like the KISS acronym!

Amanda April 20, 2016 - 10:22 am

I absolutely LOVE your tips. I have finally learned to keep things simple while entertaining so that I actually get to enjoy myself. Love your ideas of keeping things semi homemade and taking some help from the store. I also let guests contribute desserts or apps!

Erin April 20, 2016 - 10:31 am

Keep it simple silly! I love it! That’s my rule of thumb for most things but for some reason, I’ve never applied it to dinner parties!

Mimi Green April 20, 2016 - 10:59 am

I need to constantly remind myself to keep it simple. That does not compute in my brain; it just doesn’t. My crafty creativity take over and I’ve got a million things going on. Because I’m OCD I don’t allow anyone to help out of fear of them ruining my vision. Hahaahahaha

My daughter had a play date this weekend and I was still doing the most. It is hard for a creative to keep it simple.

I need rehab, I’m going to try these tips and see if they help me dial it back.

Pam April 20, 2016 - 11:31 am

For big dinner parties, a always do at least six members fm he food as semi-homemade. That way I can focus on making sure the homemade food is as good as possible and I can enjoy the party without too much stress

Jeanette April 20, 2016 - 11:51 am

I rarely host any kind of a dinner party. If I do first thing I do is offer them a drink when you walk in the front door LOL so we are definitely thinking along the same lines.

Jeanine April 20, 2016 - 12:50 pm

LOVE this! I’ve never in my life had a dinner party. I’m not a good party planner, and I really wouldn’t know what to do or where to begin so this type of post is super helpful as I’d love to have one at some point soon!

Sarah Bailey April 22, 2016 - 1:00 pm

Haha I’m an awful party planner as well – I never manage to remember everything I should. x

Chantal April 20, 2016 - 2:48 pm

These are great tips. I don’t host many dinner parties because I find them very overwhelming but this is very helpful to make it go smoothly.

Liz Mays April 20, 2016 - 3:20 pm

I definitely have to keep simplicity and DIY alternatives in mind. I don’t want to overprepare and overpay!

Jenn @ EngineerMommy April 20, 2016 - 4:35 pm

These are great tips to hosting a dinner party. I always try to do things semi-homemade. It saves so much time, but still looks like you put in a good effort! I also like the idea of keeping things simple!

Kita April 20, 2016 - 6:24 pm

These tips ate perfect Alli. I am hoping to host friends for a thank you dinner and I will definitely use your ideas.

Maureen April 20, 2016 - 8:14 pm

These are certainly great tips for dinner parties, you can have such fun entertaining guests. I love the colors you have for all of these must have dinner party ideas!

Miles L. April 20, 2016 - 8:54 pm

Tip no. three is really helpful. I should have these five things when having a dinner party.

Angie April 22, 2016 - 3:41 am

Great tips!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I like KISS rule and love your post!

ashley April 22, 2016 - 10:10 am

Love these tips! We’ll be having people over a lot this Summer and these are SO helpful! Love the KISS idea, too.

Sarah Bailey April 22, 2016 - 11:03 am

I have to admit I’ve not heard of the “kiss” method before – I totally need to keep it in mind though!

Yolo Spinks April 22, 2016 - 6:50 pm

These are great tips. I’m definitely bookmarking to use for my next shin-dig. Also, KISS always keep me sane…as a perfectionist.


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