How to host the perfect dinner party

Hosting a big dinner can be a bit of a blind panic – any party can be a stressful situation for the host, and it can make the evening feel a lot less fun when you’re sweating from running around the kitchen. Well, we’ve got the ultimate guide to hosting the perfect dinner party, with easy dinner party ideas from food suggestions to party games and conversation starters. 

A good dinner party is defined by the food, atmosphere and hosting capabilities, so we’ve got a wealth of dinner party ideas you can use as inspiration to host the perfect night. Not only that, but we’ve got some brilliant party games and conversation starters so that you ensure everyone is having fun and getting to know one another under your guiding hand. Read on for our top dinner party ideas and to get all the inspiration you’ll need!

Dinner party starters

It’s a good idea to start off strong when it comes to a dinner party – getting the starters right is the first step in having a great evening! Find the perfect wine pairings for your starters here to give you another helping hand. Set the tone with some of our tasty and sophisticated dinner party starter ideas:

  1. Canapes – the small decorative delight that is a canape can be made from so many different ingredients and made to look however you like – whether you’re a seasoned chef or hopeful beginner, you can try your hand at making blinis or crackers topped with your favourite meats and cheeses. 
  2. Vol au vents –  these delicious puff pastry treats are an excuse to use up all sorts of veg from your fridge, as they can be filled with anything that takes your fancy. You can keep it casual with veggie vol au vents or crank it up a notch with some smoked salmon and cream cheese.
  3. Edible table decorations – fruit, artisan bread and green and black olives both look and taste beautiful, so can be used to decorate your table for the guests arriving, and can be easily picked up to have as easy starters with their cocktails. 
  4. Seasonal specials – If your dinner party is happening in the summer, it’s a good idea to keep the food pretty light and fresh, using fresh fruit and veg, but at Christmas you can get creative festive foods like mincemeat, cranberries and pastry by making something like a Christmas pastry wreath or your own cranberry hors d’oeuvres. 

Dinner party mains

The main dish is where you can truly test your culinary skills. This is also the area where you’ll want to be totally sure of your guests’ dietary requirements – gluten free, dairy free or vegetarian/vegan, you need to ensure that you cater to everyone and don’t leave anyone with a sour taste in their mouth and an empty belly! Try some of these dinner party ideas and tips for exciting inspiration:

Use seasonal foods

Stay environmentally friendly and get everyone in the mood for the season with vegetables and meat that is perfectly primed. Think: lamb in spring; root vegetables in autumn and winter; strawberries in summer. 

Go all out

This is not the place to scrimp and save, because it will be noticed most in the main course. Go to the butchers for your beef, or the fish counter for fish, and go organic for your veg so that your guests can really taste the difference. 

Pick a theme

Your meals will be cohesive if you stick to a certain theme, so if you picked tapas style nibbles for your starters, then why not opt for a large seafood paella with king prawns and orzo, or if you went with Chinese starters such as prawn toast and dipping bites, then try your hand at some pork dumpling soup or General Tso’s chicken with delicious vegetables.

Prep your main meal ahead of time

You don’t want to get caught off guard with your guests arriving before you’ve even finished prepping the meat and veggies. Begin to prep the morning before, or if your main needs marinating beforehand, even prepping the night before.

Dinner party desserts

Now’s the time to tie all of your culinary skills together, with a sweet (or savoury!) dessert to complete the trio. This is generally a step down from the main as the big event, and is intended to relax your guests and not get in the way of the discussion that will now certainly be brewing – especially if you follow our below conversation starters! Find some sweet inspiration from our delicious dessert dishes:

Use up leftovers

You’d be surprised how much waste can be made from making dinner for a large group of people. For example, use leftover egg whites from your carbonara main to make meringues you can serve with fresh berries and cream. 

Add a personal touch

You’re serving your friends and family dinner, you are (most likely) not a professional chef and or do you need to feel pressure to cook like one! Own your food’s imperfections and always feel free to rename puddings that crumble or crack to reclaim them as your own.

Get your guests to lend a helping hand

It can often be quite fun, and a bit less stressful, to get your guests to decorate or even make their own desserts. This can be everything from making a lovely cheese board that they pick themselves or even using a cheese or chocolate fondue which guests can help themselves to. 

If you’ve got the capacity, go big!

If you’ve been super efficient and have everything prepped way ahead of time, then you’ve definitely got time to make a show stopping dessert. Whether it’s a 17-layer cake or you make your own flavoured ice cream, if you’re feeling up to it, go for it!

Dinner party ideas

Now that the food is out of the way, you’ll be wanting to relax with a glass of wine or even a classy cocktail, and enjoy each other’s company. If your show-stopping food didn’t spark a conversation, then there’s sure to be something in our lists of conversation starters and games that gets people talking!

Dinner party conversation starters

  1. Where was everyone born?
  2. What was your favourite TV show as a child?
  3. What are everyone’s star signs?
  4. What is one thing you’ve always wished you could do?
  5. Aside from ourselves, who are your ideal dinner party guests?
  6. All costs aside, what is your dream Christmas present?
  7. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  8. What was the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?

Dinner party games

  1. Everyone picks another guest’s name out of a hat and has to learn and recite three facts about them – a great game for a dinner party with lots of strangers.
  2. The newlywed game is a fun way to quiz your partner about your relationship – this is a fun one for a group of couples. 
  3. Never Have I Ever is a classic party game that is solely designed to embarrass each other – go for either a clean or NSFW version. This is a great way to find out someone’s biggest office Christmas party regret
  4. Kiss Marry Kill is a fun game to find some surprising secret celebrity crushes amongst your dinner party guests. 
  5. Two truths and 1 lie is another great icebreaker, where guests need to guess which of three facts is a lie. 

If you’re going to be attending dinner parties this holiday season, make sure to be a perfect guest and bring along a lovely card and a gift. Don’t forget you can send a thoughtful thank you card retrospectively, along with an extra-thoughtful gift with any of our cards. Just add on anything from flowers or a luxury candle, and for more ideas, check out the rest of the thortful blog