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Dinner Party Top Tips: How to Plan the Perfect Dinner Party Without the Stress

Gabriel loves to cook all kinds of foods, from baking to a full roast dinner and, of course, burgers.

The Perfect Dinner Party: Easy Top Tips

Dinner Party Top Tips

Dinner Party Top Tips

Dinner Party Tips

Dinner parties are a great way of getting together and having fun, whether we invite a couple of close friends, keep it in the family or fill the table with a whole bunch of people we enjoy spending time with. Before we get started, there is one very important thing to remember: you are one of the people that other people enjoy spending time with. What exactly does this mean? It means: you the dinner host/hostess cannot be in the kitchen fussing over your loin chops and baked bread balls all evening when your guests not only expect but want you to be sitting at the table too, sipping wine, laughing at jokes and generally enjoying the party! To cook in the kitchen and mingle at your table at the same time you must plan your food and your evening extremly efficiently with precise timing techniques. Military precision is required.

Before I venture over to the table and discuss the food, lets talk about friends. You may have lots of friends that aren't friends with each other, so make sure you make a good match with personalities that compliment each other and not ones that clash, otherwise your kitchen won't be the only source of heat, for all the wrong reasons! Once you have a good match of mates, you can move on to the food and the booze. I'm leaping ahead here, presuming you know what your friends like to eat and drink! It's important to know these things as people can have very different tastes not to mention fussy eaters. First and foremost know what your guests do and don't like to eat and drink!

Top Tips

  • Be organized
  • Choose your menu in advance
  • Choose your drinks to compliment your atmosphere and menu
  • Borrow what you don't have ie punch bowl or souffle ramekins
  • Make a shopping list
  • Shop the day before
  • Pre-cook any food that can be precooked
  • Prepare well in advance
  • Set your table early in the day
  • Create an ambiance
  • Select music
  • Choose a theme

Organization: The Most Important Factor

  • Designate someone to be your offical door opener, leaving you to concentrate on the finishing touches. If you don't have a little helper handy, nominate the first guest that arrives.
  • Designate a drink pourer. If this can't be arranged get a cooler for the white wine, and open a few bottles of both white and red. Make up some punch or sangria, adding plenty of ice and designate a drinks section. Guests can top themselves up, leaving you free to mingle. and be the hostess with the mostest.
  • The number of guests you invite to your dinner party is very important. You must choose a menu you can cater for with ease. And remember, more is not always merrier.
  • Know what your guest like to eat and drink. There is nothing worse than serving fish if one of your guests doesn't eat fish or heaven forbid you have someone with allergies.
  • Timing of your guests arrival is very important, actually it;s crucial. All guests must arrive on time, especially if your first course demands it. Demand a prompt arrival by all.
  • Set your table hours in advance or even the night before. Note who should sit where, use name cards.
  • Create an ambience. Are you opting for flowers, candles, twinkle lights, music, colour coordination?
  • Are you serving pre dinner drinks: cocktails or sparkling wine.
  • Will there be canapés? Delicate nibbles or simple cheese and olives.

I like to use white dinning sets because they are easier to add to if a plate gets broken. This set is very good, durable but not bulky and washes well in the dishwasher. They look good on the table with coloured napkins and the side plates and little bowls are ideal for starters/desserts. Highly recommended.

Set and Elegant Table for Your Guests

Napkins to Compliment Your Dinner Table

Set Your Table Well in Advance

Your table setting presented to your guests is almost as important as the presentation of the food served to your guests.

Table Settings:

  • Lay the fork to the left of the plate and the knife to the right.
  • The knife blade faces away from the plate.
  • If you fancy being really posh lay out starter cutlery.
  • The starter fork is placed to the left of the main fork. The starter fork should be slightly smaller than the main fork and placed 1/2 an inch higher. The same applies with the starter knife.
  • The dessert fork sits above the place settings facing away from the main and starter forks.
  • The dessert spoon faces the opposite direction.
  • Side plates go to the left and wine glasses or drinking glasses go to the right of the plate or place setting.
  • Fold napkins into a rectangle and place between the settings, if using paper napkins, shake the napkin out and pinch the very centre of the napkin between your fingers. Twist and turn right side up and place in the wine glasses.
  • Remember to leave serving utensils, cold accompaniments and condiments for your dishes on the table.

Cook's Tip:

  • Open plenty of wine. Use a cooler or ice bucket for the white wine, saving trips to the fridge. Wrap a napkin around the neck of the red wines and leave on the table.

Know Your Menu

  • Never, ever cook a dish you've never cooked before for a dinner party. Try it out on family or for a casual meal, but not at your dinner party.
  • Choose a starter and a dessert; one that is easy and one that is cold. This ensures you have plenty of time to concentrate on the main dish. I usually choose something grilled like Halloumi cheese and for dessert something pre-made like pavlova, see hub link below.
  • Make sure you have all the ingredients that you will need and re-check.
  • Allow plenty of time for cooking.
  • Allow plenty of preparation time.
  • Relax and enjoy the ride.

Pre-dinner Tips:


  • Anything that you know you will need and don't have: borrow the day before you need it. The last thing you need is to be running around like a blue arsed fly when you should be calmly preparing food, and looking forward to your evening.


  • Buy all the ingredients you need the day before, unless of course it's something particular, like fresh fish from the local mongers or freshly baked bread rolls.
  • Draw up a list and check a second time that everything you need is on it.
  • Don't forget things like candles, flowers or fruit if using. Also napkins if you don't have linen ones. Paper napkins these days come in great styles and colours to lift any table.
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Pre-cook and Prepare:

  • That goes for everything from chopping and pre cooking vegetables, to preparing salads. Right up to having sauces ready and dessert cooked. I even whip the cream for my coffee, before anybody arrives.


  • Calculate the time of your preparation and cooking to ensure foolproof measures and a successful dinner party. There are many foods that can be prepared the day before. Take the stress out of your party and be prepared.
  • Organize your booze. Allow a bottle of wine per person. This may seem excessive, but you don't want to run out. However, if your friends like a good knees up (party) double up (buy twice as much).
  • Serve white wines really chilled and red wines at room temperature. Ensure you choose a mix of wine flavors to enhance your menu.

Grilled Halloumi Cheese with a Balsamic Glaze

Starter: Grilled Halloumi Cheese

Starter: Grilled Halloumi Cheese

Make Dessert in Advance

Ambience and Music

  • Choose your lighting and your colours for the perfect ambiance. Don't spend big bucks on one night, but do be taste full.
  • Choose candles, night lights, scents or potpourri. Sprinkle flower petals or a little glitter on your table. Make a natural centre piece of flowers, fruit or a big scented candle.
  • Love music! just remember to match the music to your guests. More often than not soft music in the background is more suitable for a dinner party allowing people to chat easily. Choose wisely and ask for a second opinion. Who better to ask than your guests!

I highly reccommend this cocktail shaker set. I have mine for years and it comes out at every party. It's durable, easy to clean and comes with numerous added tools, including handy pouring spouts, a drinks measure, plus a cute stiring spoon which is my favorite.

Indulge Your Guests With a Pre Dinner Cocktail

Canapes and Pre Dinner Drinks on Arrival

  • Canapes are a great way to get your party started. Serve chilled sparkling wine or cocktails (pre made in a large jug in your fridge). Your guests will be really impressed.
  • Don't sweat on the canapes or the cocktails, check out the hub links below for some easy ideas.
  • A special gathering of family or friends for a dinner party deserves a treat: opt for champagne cocktails. The good news; sparkling wine equally does the trick. Champagne cocktails all round.
  • Popular cocktails and easy tapas for any party
    Parties with families and friends are great fun and a good way to get everybody together. Celebrating a special day or occasion always requires some good food and cool drinks to really kick off the party...
  • Champagne Cocktails
    Champagne cocktails are a true delight, adding a little fizz to your life. There are numerous budget sparkling wines that will work wonderfully in your cocktails. While certain champagnes like Dom Priqnon,...

Last Top Tips

  • If your guests are not big dessert people opt for a fresh sorbet (lemon or kiwi) or fresh fruit (strawberries and cream or blueberries and frozen yogurt).
  • Follow with a cheese board. Don't go mad with the cheese options. Three or four different cheeses are plenty. Choose good quality cheese from a deli. A few grapes, assorted salt crackers, a little sweet tomato relish or onion chutney with some pickled gherkins and you'll have a winner. Serve on a large wood board.
  • Always have a good brew of coffee with after dinner mints to compliment a perfect evening.
  • A good liquor to end a dinner party is always a good idea, opt for something complimentary; Tia Maria or Sheridan's.
  • Remember: being the perfect host or hostess means being in the same room as your guests and not in the kitchen with your head in the oven. Organization is the key.

© 2010 Gabriel Wilson


Gabriel Wilson (author) from Madeira, Portugal on September 09, 2011:

A knees up refers to a real lively party; double up means twice as much. If your friends are real party people you will need twice as much wine. Next time you host a party you'll be able to invite your friends to a knees up; ha! ha!

Nice to meet you Sandy :)

Sandy McCollum on September 08, 2011:

This is a good read, but I don't recognize some of the terminology. One term, for instance, if your friends prefer a knees up, double up. I did find useful ideas, tho! :)

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