Planning a Dinner Party: A Quick & Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Dinner parties are a special and elegant way to spend good times in the company of friends and family. Sharing delicious food made from the heart and a bottle of wine makes for an enjoyable evening. Planning a dinner party is about bringing all of this together 

And of course part of the fun is the planning. Dinner party planning is about being creative, expressing your personality and trying not to stress out.

Whether you’re planning a dinner party for 10 or planning a dinner party for 30, have fun with it. Maybe you want a simple party where everyone brings a plate to share. 

Or think about a themed party where everyone dresses to impress. 

No matter what you decide you are in control so get planning. Whether you’re planning a dinner party for 10 or planning a dinner party for 30 or more. 

We’ve put some tips together to make planning your dinner party at home simple and stress free.


Planning a Dinner Party Checklist

When planning a Dinner Party there can be a lot of things to remember. Project Party has compiled a checklist of everything you need to remember to make your dinner party run without a hitch.

  • Choose a Date
  • Make a Guest List
  • Choose a Theme
  • Plan your Dinner Party Menu
  • Prepare your Drinks Menu
  • Plan Games and Entertainment
  • Create an Ambiance with the Perfect Decorations
  • Make a Cleaning Plan
  • Prepare as much as possible in Advance
  • Avoid Stressing Out with these Tips


Choose the Date for your Dinner Party

The first thing to do is to choose a date. Pick a date that is at least three weeks in advance so your guests have time to add it to their schedules. 

Generally,  if you make it a Friday or Saturday night, more people are likely to make it. During the week is usually hard as people are busy and have work in the morning.

Make a Dinner Party Guest List

How many people are you going to invite? 

Do you want a small, intimate dinner party with only half a dozen guests or do you want to go all out for up to 30 guests? 

Just remember, no matter what, you need to feed everyone. 

When deciding who to invite, consider who will get on well together so everyone has a good night. Maybe invite friends who know each other then add a couple of outsiders. Or keep it to couples so no one feels on the outside.

Send out the invitations via email or text. Make sure you include the theme, when, where and what time. And check if anyone has dietary requirements.

It’s a good rule to follow up with guests at least a week in advance of your planned dinner party to confirm RSVP too.

Choose a Dinner Party Theme

Choosing a dinner party theme can make the night more fun and interesting. 

A popular dinner party theme is to hold an Italian themed dinner party.

Set the scene as an Italian café. Serve Italian food—pizza, pasta, fish, salads and vegetable dishes with crusty breads. Serve with a selection of red and white wines and a selection of cheeses. 

Don’t forget to top the night off with something sweet. 

You can find hundreds of theme ideas in Project Party’s Theme Builder. FInd inspiration for your theme, and the suppliers who can bring it to life for you.

Dinner Party Menu Planning

No matter how many people you are cooking for, decide on the menu well in advance. When planning a dinner party menu, it’s a good idea to give your guests variety and surprise them with some unexpected twists. 

Make a few different appetisers and side dishes to suit different tastes. And keep in mind your guests’ preferences. Someone may be vegan or can only eat gluten free, or they may have a food allergy. So plan your menu accordingly. 

Some tasty suggestions for non-meat eaters include:

  • Spinach and mushroom lasagne
  • Yoghurt dip with roast cauliflower
  • Vegan Indian potato bake
  • Spicy pumpkin soup
  • Kimchi fried rice
  • Vegan ice cream
  • Avocado chocolate puddings.

You don’t want people going home hungry and your guests will appreciate that you thought of their needs when planning the menu.

If you’re looking for something luxurious, and to save yourself from cooking for a large group, then consider catering. Professional caterers could provide a selection of unique dishes made by qualified chefs to blow your guests away.

You can find the best caterers in your area with Project Party. To avoid over catering and wasting food use an online party food calculator to avoid waste.

Select the Drinks to Serve

Depending on your guests and the menu, choose the drinks you want to serve. No matter what, make sure guests have a drink in their hand soon after arriving

While cocktails are great, so is wine and beer and even champagne for an added touch. Choose drinks based on the menu you are serving and make them to your guests’ tastes. 

Make sure you have non-alcoholic options available as well. It’s popular to hire a bartender to make your event extra special. A bartender can not only serve drinks, they can usually mix cocktails and will also help with setup and clean up. Now that sounds like a real lifesaver!

Plan your Dinner Party Games and Entertainment 

Plan your entertainment for a little fun at the dinner table. When some of your guests don’t know each other, start the night off with something to break the ice. 

Project Party has many ideas for games and fun at your dinner party. Games can be a great way to introduce guests who don’t know each other and encourage them to work on the same team. There’s plenty of games where you don’t need a board.

And if you’re after something a bit crazier then play some drinking party game. These help people get to know each other.

Where everyone knows each other, party games set the scene for a bit of competitive fun. Wait until you have the main course out of the way, then do something that will get you all laughing before serving dessert. 

And remember to have the music ready to go so you can all bop along after dinner.

Create an Ambience with the Perfect Decorations 

As part of your dinner party planning, find decorations to create a perfect ambience on the night. A big part of a memorable party is creating a mood so everyone feels like they’re really escaping from the mundane. 

Where you have a theme this can be easier. You already have an idea of what you want. 

When planning a 90’s dinner party for example, pick your colours — pale pink, green, yellow and white, for example. Stick to those colours to decorate your table. Use old CDs as drink coasters and find other decorations that match your theme.

But if you’re planning something more formal, add a vase of beautiful flowers to the table. And get out your best crockery, cutlery and glassware. Adding candles and low lighting is one of the simplest ways to make a big impact on a dinner party scene.

And don’t forget the music, it’s critical to put a lot of thought into music at different times of the party. From introductions and mingling, to while you are eating, to later on into the night. It’s a great talking point if you pick the perfect music and have a few popular back ups in case the mood is dwindling.

If you are after some inspiration for decorating then reach out to one of the amazing party planners and decorators on Project Party for a quote.


Get Cleaning

On the day of your dinner party, clean and tidy your home to make it a welcoming space for your guests. Don’t go overboard, just focus on the spaces that will be used by guests. 

You don’t need to clean the whole house. Just clean the bathrooms, kitchen, lounge and dining rooms. 

One of the benefits of a dinner party is having low light to set the mood. In low light you can’t even see the dust on the shelves!

Prepare in Advance

Make sure you prepare for your guests early. Get all the decorations set up and the table ready. Make sure the crockery, cutlery and glassware are sparkling, ready to use. 

Cook as much food as you can in advance and try not to leave shopping to the last minute. Buy all the ingredients at least the day before or have them delivered. 

And mentally prepare yourself for a fun night ahead. 

Cleaning Up After your Dinner Party

The quickest way to clean is to start early, straight away as people start to go home. Start by clearing the table and picking up all the glasses and load them into the dishwasher.

If you don’t have a dishwasher, leave them in the sink overnight if you’re too tired to do dishes at 1 am. And remember to blow the candles out.

Avoid Stressing Out

Avoid stressing out, you’re meant to be enjoying this as much as your guests. Be confident and enjoy the company of friends and family. There’s always something that will go wrong, even the best laid plans can miss something. 

If you can laugh about it then you know you’re handling thing well, and your guests, if they are understanding friends, will laugh it off as well.


Final Thoughts .. Let the Dinner Party Begin!

Project Party has you covered for everything you need, whether you forget something last minute or your bar staff have to cancel.

There is no need to feel stressed while planning or enjoying your dinner party. Relax. Take it easy. 

Enjoy the food and entertainment. 

When everyone has fun, you know you have been a success.