How to Instantly Elevate Your Next Dinner Party
Americans like to party at home. According to a recent survey, the average U.S. citizen usually spends $1,422.65 to host at-home gatherings each year.
Of course, delivering a special night with good food, overflowing cups, entertainment and great company is your top priority. But perhaps you’re also trying to find ways to enhance the dining experience for everyone without breaking the bank.
Here are six ways you can instantly elevate your next dinner party.
1. Find Inspiration
Party planning is time-consuming and requires some creativity. Naturally, you want to host a memorable dinner your friends will talk about forever.
If you’re unsure where to start, seek inspiration from Pinterest, blogs and magazines. Cut out photos of decor and pretty tablescapes and observe the food and beverage pairings in photographs.
Coming up with a theme might help you develop your ideas more easily. Are you hosting a get-together during a specific season or holiday? Maybe you’re celebrating a milestone or watching a sporting event.
Even deciding on a color scheme is an excellent place to begin brainstorming for your next dinner party.
2. Choose Your Menu
Traditional Italian dinners consist of three courses and a side dish, not including dessert and drinks — but don’t worry. Your guests won’t expect you to prepare five courses for them. Who has time to do all that prep work anyway?
For your next dinner party, plan a menu that includes appetizers, an entree dish with two sides and something sweet to finish up with. It doesn’t have to be a complicated menu with multiple options — keep it simple. There are ways to turn an average bowl of spaghetti into the main event.
Also, keep your theme in mind when planning your menu. Marinated pineapple-apricot chicken with grilled pineapple slices and a side of rice is an excellent option for a mid-summer dinner with a tropical theme.
For a delicious fall or winter gathering, consider using a slow cooker to make Swedish meatballs — they practically cook themselves. Prepare a side of mashed potatoes in advance and saute fresh spinach right before serving dinner.
As for appetizers, charcuterie boards are aesthetically pleasing and delicious for pre-dinner nibbling, while make-your-own sundaes or store-bought cakes and cookies make great desserts.
Pick your menu early so you can write a grocery list and schedule when to make everything.
3. Decorating the Dining Area
Some people relish decorating a tablescape for a dinner party, but it doesn’t always need to be extravagant. Refer to your theme when choosing a pattern or color for tablecloths and napkins. White plates and your everyday utensils are also perfectly acceptable — save your grandmother’s silverware for Christmas.
You can also elevate your table setting with placemats and unique napkin rings or purchase decorations from the craft store. Colorful leaves and pinecones can heighten the fall-themed dining experience.
However, watch your dining area come to life when you enhance your lighting game. Find a dimmer setting appropriate for each meal course, just not so dark your guests can’t see what they’re doing. Installing smart lighting will allow you to control your dimmer settings from your phone or even change the color.
Finally, candles and twinkle lights infuse instant ambiance and create a romantic atmosphere. You might even include a large hurricane candle, multi-candle centerpiece holder or scattered votives to create a cozier effect.
4. Learn Basic Drink Recipes
Stock your bar cart with the essentials before your guests arrive. According to recent data, 22% of Americans only drink beer, 17% prefer wine and 14% lean toward liqueurs.
Many people like to bring a bottle of wine for the host, which means there should be plenty to go around. You could also ask everyone to BYOB so they can enjoy their favorite beverage.
As the host, it’s a good idea to at least learn the basics for making the most popular, classic cocktails. For example, the first Old-Fashioned was mixed in 1806 and is now a timeless indulgence. Keep a bottle of bourbon, Angostura bitters, sugar and orange peels on hand in case there’s a request.
5. Make a Playlist
Take your dinner party up a few notches by crafting a playlist of your favorite music — but consider your guests’ preferences and the overall vibe of your dinner party. The music you choose should ultimately set the tone and not overwhelm the conversation.
Of course, your theme can inspire your playlist. For instance, Frank Sinatra or Norah Jones are excellent for a fall dinner party. Otherwise, vintage Italian tunes are an exciting choice for dining al fresco on the patio.
If you don’t know what to add to your playlist, allow Spotify or Pandora to do the hard work for you.
6. Dress Up
While hosting dinner at home is an opportunity to slide into something fancy without fearing wardrobe mishaps, make sure whatever you wear is still comfortable. When it comes to clothing, pick a breathable fabric that won’t cause you to break a sweat.
Did you know there were approximately 6,290 high-heel-related emergency room visits in 2020? That’s actually lower than the 16,000 reported between 2016 and 2019, thanks to COVID-19 shutdowns. Opt for comfortable shoes to avoid blisters or injury since you’ll probably be on your feet all night serving and mingling with guests.
Another option is to start your evening in whatever high heels or plunging neckline you want. Since you’re at home, you can always make a quick wardrobe change.
Elevate Your Dinner Party for Lifelong Memories
You know you’ve hosted the perfect gathering when your friends talk about it weeks, months and perhaps years later. A bit of extra planning can truly elevate your dinner party, so try following some of these tips to make your next event one to remember.