Food & Drink

How To Throw A (Stress Free) Dinner Party

By Lauren Matilda Matthews
16th Jul 2021

A group of people at a rooftop dinnerparty.

Contrary to popular belief, throwing a dinner party doesn’t need to involve a three-course Michelin Star-inspired menu that starts with an amuse-bouche and ends in tears. Biting off more than you can chew is certainly the number one way to fail in the dinner party game, dashing all hopes of ever being crowned the host(ess) with the mostess—the elusive title that many dream about, but few ever own.   

Great Guests Make Great Parties  

Eight is the magic number. Any less, it’s not really a party. Any more, statistics show there’s a 94 per cent chance your domestic oven, and you, will spontaneously combust. Choose a few different guests that don’t know each other but you know will get along. Don’t invite all strangers of each other—you don’t want to be awkwardly holding the conversation together the whole night while you’re frantically whisking your crème anglaise over a steamy bain-marie. Choose anchor guests—someone who can hold a conversation and pull a few laughs. Then, build guests around this person. 


Plan dishes that can be prepped beforehand. Yes, there will be some components that require last-minute cooking or reheating. But, you want to appear aloof and completely under control, and this only happens when you plan ahead and prep as much as you can.  

The Menu 

Try to pick a loose theme. Don’t do a zingy Asian dish to begin followed by a roast—it just doesn’t make sense. The easiest way to pick a theme is to choose a certain cuisine. If you go down the Italian route, choose flavours that complement each other—no one likes a confused palate. 

Bank The First And Third Course 

Adhering to this rule will allow you to prep as much as possible before guests arrive. They will witness you nonchalantly throw this and that onto a plate like you’ve done it a million times. Entrees—think ceviche, individual antipasti, duck liver parfait—tasty dishes that don’t require cooking before serving. Same for the dessert; tiramisu is a winner, in both taste and ease of preparation. And while a chocolate tart may be more complex to whip up, at least you can do it ahead of time so guests don’t have to witness a pastry-induced meltdown—you can happily have that meltdown in peace beforehand.  


Don’t be a martyr—if someone offers to help. Say yes.  


If Linda and Paul want to lug little Tommy to your soiree say, “no way, José’. I don’t have anything against those rugrats. I do, however, have a huge intolerance to pre-cut carrot sticks, wailing screams about absolutely nothing and having to be conscious of whether or not I can curse in my own home. And the same goes for you, if you’re hosting a dinner party—get a sitter—unless you’ve managed to train your infant to pass around canapés and shake up cocktails, of course.  

Music: Set And Forget 

Create a playlist of music that is upbeat, but still suitable to talk over. If you do not have time to create one, check out the best on Spotify here.

Ambience Is Key 

You’ve invited friends over for dinner. Please clean. That’s a given. But also there should be some effort involved in creating a certain je ne sais quoi in your abode. Think simple table settings, fresh flowers, candles and mood lighting.   

Have Fun 

In all honesty—if you’re not going to enjoy yourself, why bother? Relax, laugh, have a good time and bask in all the glory that comes from pulling off the ultimate dinner party. I have faith that if you follow this guide, that title will be yours.

A dinner party isn't complete without a platter! Check out How To Build The Perfect Platter for tips.

Image credit: Candelori's

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