Autumn dinner party picnic | PartySlate
photographer: Maryssa Souza Photography | planning & design: Seven Oh Seven Events | floral: Lace and Willow | venue: Vintners Inn
The Best of | Celebrations

How to Host the Ultimate Dinner Party in 11 Simple Steps

Autumn dinner party picnic | PartySlate

Nothing brings people together like a dinner party. Dinner parties transcend an everyday meal with elevated cuisine, beautiful décor, and curated moments. PartySlate reached out to the catering experts at Catering by Design to learn how to host a successful dinner party. 

“No matter the size of any celebration, attention to detail is crucial to having a successful event,” the team tells us. “A dinner party is no different.” It’s also important to enlist the help of talented event vendors. “Organizing any type of event can be overwhelming by yourself—especially when it comes to critical elements like catering, event planning, and management.”

Learn how to host the perfect dinner party in 11 steps, plus discover how corporate dinner party trends can take your private event to the next level. Whether you’re hosting an intimate dinner for two, a small dinner party, or even a rehearsal dinner—celebrating in style has never been easier.

1. Make Your Guest List

Your guest list will determine everything from your venue to catering needs. Before you begin searching for a venue or assembling your vendor team, consider the following:

  • Type of celebration: intimate versus dynamic
  • Cost per person and overall budget

2. Choose Your Setting

Swap Your Dining Room for a Chic Venue

Too often, party hosts get stuck in the kitchen while their guests wine and dine. The party goes by in a flash, and then the clean-up begins. What should have been a meaningful celebration becomes a stressful experience.

Take the stress out of hosting by leaving your dining room (and kitchen) behind. Use PartySlate’s curated venue directory to find the perfect event space. Consider the following when selecting a venue:

  • Guest count
  • Venue type
  • Catering and beverage options
  • Included amenities

Elegant Progressive Dinner for Top Wedding Planners at the Hilton Chicago in Chicago, IL
photographer: LaCour Images | Hilton Chicago | Yanni Design Studio See More
Dinner party in Froines Room at Thompson Chicago | PartySlate
photo courtesy of: Thompson Chicago See More
Sinclair Ballroom dinner party at Waldorf Astoria Chicago Hotel | PartySlate
photo courtesy of: Waldorf Astoria Chicago Hotel See More
Romantic Valentine's Day Dinner at the New York Aquarium in New York, NY
photographer: From Parris with Love | New York Aquarium | The Style Marc See More
Tasteful Grand Opening of TACS Stables in Hawthorn Woods, Illinois
photographer: Rempel Photography | TACS Stables | NSWE Events See More
All of the Lights - Intimate Rooftop Dining at Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, WA
photographer: Southcote Digital | Four Seasons Hotel Seattle | CORT Party Rental See More

Utilize a Tent or Canopy for an At-Home Affair

Of course, at-home celebrations don’t have to be stressful — as long as you have the right vendor team. For those who prefer to celebrate at home, make sure to hire a rental team and design company to create a beautiful space that transcends the “every day.” You can also click on the following for the best at-home party inspiration:

Summery lemon theme dinner party in New York
photographer: Simply Perfect Events | Keren Precel Events See More
Summer Dinner Party in Greenwich, Connecticut
photographer: Ricky Rodriguez Photography | Smith Party Rentals | Nuage Designs See More
Sophisticated and Alluring Rehearsal Dinner in Stevensville, MI
photographer: Ann & Kam Photography & Cinema | Detaljer Events See More
Beautiful Backyard Thanksgiving Celebration in Paradise Valley, AZ
photographer: Harley Bonham | M Culinary Concepts See More

3. Consider a Dinner Party Theme or Style 

Go With a Party Theme

A great party theme ties the entire celebration together. It allows you to create a cohesive look, so everything from your invitations to the dessert feels curated. 

The team at Catering by Design recommends hiring a design and floral company to execute your theme. “Design and décor are vital to making sure your vision comes alive,” the team tells us. “The décor and design team can manage all of your rental needs (from candle votives to flatware, glassware, linens, lounges, draping, florals, and beyond).”

Some of our favorite party themes include:

Hawaiian Themed Dinner Party in Malibu, California
photographer: Peter Bohler Photography | JOWY Productions | Nuage Designs See More
Mulan Inspired Dinner Party
photographer: Ama by Aisha | Asia Society Texas Center | Swift + Company See More

Opt for a Party Style

Unlike a party theme, a style is more of an overall vibe. Think of a mood you want to create. Do you want your guests to feel upbeat and dynamic or more refined and elegant? Your style can be reflected in everything from décor to cuisine. 

Use our favorite wedding styles for your dinner party inspiration:

Pro Tip: Enlist the help of an event planner to narrow down (and execute) your dinner party style. 

Monochrome Dinner Party in Los Angeles, California
photographer: Peter Bohler Photography | JOWY Productions See More
Tasteful and Alluring Dinner Party in Los Angeles, California
photographer: Melody Melikian | Soirée8 Tabletop Rentals and Shop See More

4. Send Out Invitations

In an age of endless emails, distinguish yourself (and your celebration) with artful invitations. Your invitations are a sneak peek into the celebration ahead, so make sure to use a color palette and design that ties into your celebration as a whole.

Don’t forget, your invitation designer can also curate other print goods for your dinner party. Create a cohesive look from the invitations all the way to the menu design and signage for custom cocktails.

Use PartySlate’s curated vendor directory to find an available invitations & print company. Narrow your search by filtering for location, event type, services, and more.

Spring Planners Retreat at Bistro Bar at Blantyre
photographer: dani. fine photography | Sara Kovel Events | Fete Collection See More
Love & Conversations Luncheon at Pérez Art Museum Miami in Miami, FL
photographer: Judith Rae | Pérez Art Museum Miami | Alpine Creative Group See More
Summer Soiree at Ivy Terrace in New York, NY
photographer: André Maier Photography | Adam Leffel Productions | Ceci New York See More
7 Sins Deadly Dinner Theme in New Orleans, LA
photographer: Mo Davis Photography | Blue Gardenia Weddings & Events | Dogwood Blossom Stationery See More

5. Assemble Your Vendor Team

“As the host of your dinner party, you want to be able to enjoy the event just as much as your guests,” the team at Catering by Design shares. “However, when the host is responsible for coordinating every aspect of the event, he or she ends up missing out.”

So how do you avoid this common dinner party mistake? “Hiring a professional events team takes that stress away and lets you enjoy the process, because you know you have a team to support you every step of the way,” the team explains.

We always recommend starting with an event planner. Catering by Design agrees. “An event planner handles the details and timeline of the event, no matter how small they may be,” the team tells us. “They’ll also coordinate all vendor partners; including, but not limited to, photographers, entertainment, florals, etc. Your event planner may see things you may have missed if you were planning by yourself. And as the host, you deserve to enjoy the night, converse with guests, and make memories.”

Use PartySlate’s vendor directory to find the best talent near you. You can also click on the following:

6. Offer Opportunities to Toast

Keep the cheers (and the bubbly) flowing with an experienced bar services and beverages team. Make sure there’s something for everyone with curated cocktails and innovative mocktails. Most importantly, make it an immersive experience with the following beverage ideas:

Rooftop Dinner Party in Los Angeles, California
photo courtesy of & tablescapes: Soirée8 Tabletop Rentals and Shop | planner: Amethyst Event Productions | Lark Los Angeles

Create a Separate Bar Area

Make a separate bar area that doubles as event décor (and even a photo op). Use a rental company to curate a bar area that goes with your dinner party theme or style.

Intimate Dinner Party for 75th Celebration
photo courtesy of & planner: Little Coterie | floral: Flower Vibes | venue: Private Residence

Create a Place to Mingle over Cocktails

The dinner table isn’t the only place for gathering. Create a lounge space for guests to mingle over pre-dinner cocktails or post-dinner digestifs.  

Remarkable Autumn Picnic at Vintners Inn in Santa Rosa, California
photographer: Maryssa Souza Photography | planning & design: Seven Oh Seven Events | floral: Lace and Willow | venue: Vintners Inn

Serve Wine Pairings With Dinner

Make dinner even more special with wine pairing. For an immersive experience, consider hosting a wine tasting before your meal.

Curated autumn cocktails for fall dinner party | PartySlate
photographer: Kerry Jeanne Photography | planner & floral: Valley & Company Events | venue: Rockwood Farm | caterer: Table Catering Co.

Offer Curated Cocktails

Guests love curated cocktails (and mocktails). Make sure to feature cocktails that complement your color scheme and party theme.

7. Set Your Menu (With the Help of a Caterer)

A dinner party requires — you guessed it — dinner. After all, nothing brings people together like a good meal (and a good caterer). See how a caterer will take your dinner party to the next level.

Preparation

“A caterer prepares the food and provides the service staff,” the Catering by Design team says. “They have the time and resources to shop, prep, and cook — and will plan properly for your personal needs and event size.”

Menu Selection

It’s often difficult to meet each of your guests’ food preferences. “A caterer will create a custom menu for you that meets every dietary need and food allergy,” the team tells us. “You can relax knowing each guest can enjoy their meal.”

Artistry

Caterers don’t just prepare food; they create an artistic experience. “They make sure each course is prepared and plated beautifully for the evening,” the team says. “The meal is a bonding moment and is the time to indulge a little more than usual.”

Creative cuisine comes in many forms. “This could be everything from grilling 50 oz ribeye steaks to a colorful meal with each dish being made from the same color ingredients to interactive and ‘Instagramable’ food stations,” the team says. “Plus, caterers can create fantastical foods as unique as your theme, and they have access to the best seasonal, fresh, and local ingredients around.”

Pro Tip: Make sure to use PartySlate’s curated directory to find a caterer for your dinner party. Use the filters to narrow your search by location, services, and more. And see some of our favorite catering ideas below:

Simply Marketing Event in Denver, Colorado
photo courtesy of & caterer: Catering by Design

Whet Appetites With Small Plates

Give guests a taste of things to come with individually-served appetizers and small plates. Consider using unique serving ware such as martini glasses and asymmetrical shaped plates for a photo-worthy presentation.

Charcuterie spread for engagement party | PartySlate
photo courtesy of: This Messy Table LA

Choose Charcuterie

Charcuterie spreads are not only delicious; they’re photo-worthy. Go all out and create a beautiful crazing table with the help of your favorite caterer.

ASCO Dinner (night 2 of 3)
photographer & caterer: Blue Plate Catering | décor: HMR Designs | venue: Chicago History Museum

Make Every Entrée a Work of Art

Consider your dinner plate a blank canvas. Use different colors and textures to add depth and beauty to each entrée. Finish with a swirl of gourmet sauce. 

Dinner party with live chef | PartySlate
photographer: Playful Soul Photography | planner: Dee Lee Designs | floral: Linda Vuong Tom | venue: Private Residence | caterer: Le Romarin Company

Bring in the Chef

Think beyond the band when it comes to entertainment. Guests will love watching the chef prepare dinner right before their eyes.

8. Make it Personal

Personalize Place Settings

Welcome guests to their seats with a personalized touch. Consider everything from embroidered napkins, personalized place cards, or even personalized décor items.

Summer Garden Dinner Party at a Private Residence in Dallas, TX
photographer: Caitlin McNeil | Social Llama Events See More
Boho Inspired Female Founder Collective Dinner at The GREAT in West Hollywood
photo courtesy of: Bob Gail Events See More

Leave a Sweet Treat or Party Favor

If you decide on a party favor, make sure it ties into your party theme, style, or color palette. You can find a favors and gifts company in our curated vendor directory.

Luxurious and Decadent Dinner Party in Scottsdale, Arizona
photo courtesy of: Benedict’s Catering See More
Something Navy October Launch Dinner Party in New York City
photographer: Eli Tawil | B Floral Event Design and Production See More

9. Create a Cohesive Tablescape

Go With Seamless Color Schemes

Keep a color scheme in mind when planning your tablescape décor. Consider everything from linen and florals to seating and lighting to complement your color palette.

Lovely Trendy Dinner Party in New York, NY
photographer: The Wedding Artists Co | 42 North See More
Dinner Reception at Ventana Big Sur, California
photographer: Jose Villa Photography | Standard Event Rentals See More

Don’t Forget the Rentals

In addition to floral arrangements, you’ll want to utilize linen, glassware, plate charges, and seating to distinguish your tablescape. Make sure to add in textured materials to create depth. 

Garden-Inspired Dinner Party at 620 Loft & Garden in New York
photographer: Roey Yohai Studios | 620 Loft & Garden | Party Rental Ltd. | Taylor Creative Inc. See More
Vibrant Outdoor Dinner Party at Kimpton Surfcomber in Miami Beach, Florida
photographer: oh Hello Media | Picnic Parlay See More

Keep it Floral-Forward

Florals instantly brighten any tablescape. In addition to centerpieces, consider floral ceiling installations suspended over your tablescape.

Glamorous Bridal Dinner Party in Dallas, TX
photographer: Caitlin McNeil Photography | Social Llama Events See More
Glamorous Cloud Five Inspired Dinner Party at Fairlie in Chicago, IL
photographer: Karen Obrist | Lola Valentina Designs | Strega Flora See More

Cue the Candlelight & Twinkling Lights

Create a warm and inviting atmosphere with lighting. Candlelight adds romance to any tablescape, while a canopy of twinkling lights creates an intimate and magical space.

Intimate Dinner Party at Third Ward Houston Residence in Houston, Texas
photo courtesy of: Beck&Call Events See More
All of the Lights - Intimate Rooftop Dining at Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, WA
photographer: Southcote Digital | Four Seasons Hotel Seattle | LightSmiths See More

10. Create an Instagram-Worthy Moment

You know your party is a success when it makes the rounds on Instagram. Create an Instagrammable moment that will have guests reaching for their cameras. The best moments are interactive, so consider the following ideas:

  • Cold fireworks
  • Flair bartending & creative cocktails
  • Photo booths
  • Confetti drop
  • Live greeters

Night With The Nobles Dinner Party at Felix Culpa in Dallas, TX
photographer: Maribel Morales Photography | LLG Events | David Kimmel Design See More
Globe & Mail, Planners Open House in Toronto
photo courtesy of: The Food Dudes See More

11. Make Sure to Hire a Staffing Company

“To maintain organization and add luxury to your dinner party, service staff is a must,” the Catering by Design team tells us. “Avoid the hassle of you and your guests cleaning up or getting refills and allow your service staff to take care of everything for you. Similar to an upscale restaurant dining experience, servers will be in uniforms, and they’ll typically assist with event set up and breakdown. This allows you to focus on enjoying the evening with your guests.”

They go on to tell us, “A service staff is typically part of the catering team and they set up, serve, bartend, and clean up. This creates a whole new world of service that will impress and delight your guests. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the dishes!”

Plus, Steal These Ideas from Corporate Dinner Parties

For a dinner party that takes dining to new heights, look to corporate dinner party trends. With an expertise in branding, corporations know the ins-and-outs of creating an immersive and unforgettable experience. Take your cues from the experts for wow-worthy décor, tablescapes, and entertainment.

You can check out even more ideas below: 

Over-the-Top Décor

The 4th Annual Couture to Cocktails
photographer: Scott Clark Photo | Shannon Gail Events | Bourgeon See More
Field to Vase Dinner Experience at Bloomia in Washington DC
photographer: Manda Weaver Photography | Evoke Design & Creative | Petals by the Shore See More

Unusual Table Shapes

7 Sins Deadly Dinner Theme in New Orleans, LA
photographer: Mo Davis Photography | Blue Gardenia Weddings & Events | Kim Starr Wise Floral Events See More
Experiential Dinner Party for Vera Wang Spring/Summer 2020 Bridal Collection
photographer: Jonathan Connolly Photography | YSD Events See More

Bring on the Live Band (and Dance Floor)

Luxurious 25th Corporate Anniversary Party
photographer: Solei Media, Liliane Calfee | Jennifer Anderson Events | Cagen Music LLC See More
Elegant Tented Dinner Party
photo courtesy of: Michelle Olivia Events See More

Don’t Miss How Catering by Design Transformed This Dinner Party

Catering by Design shares the details: “​​In 2021, we catered an especially memorable dinner party for an out-of-town client and their friends. The dinner took place at T-Lazy-7 Ranch in Aspen, Colorado where the stunning National Forests and Rocky Mountains were the backdrop. 

Rustic birthday dinner party | PartySlate
photographer: Filip Wolak

“We covered large wood tables in lush greenery and florals and hung crystal chandeliers to set the tone for an elegant and rustic evening. Guests started their meal with a plated pre-set charcuterie and cheese course, followed by a family-style meal with quinoa & palisade peach tabouleh salad, orzo and roasted vegetable salad, tomahawk steak with grilled peach & mustard salad, pan seared salmon with herb parmesan risotto, chimichurri grilled broccolini, and roasted green beans. Instead of classic chicken fingers and French fries, kids feasted on a pasta bar with homemade meatballs with classic marinara sauce.

Rustic Birthday Party at T Lazy 7 Ranch in Aspen, Colorado
photographer: Filip Wolak

“Additional décor was brought to set the scene for the evening. Custom created passing trays and walls were made to match the trees you would find in Aspen by our master craftsman for a unique one-of-a-kind design. We even set up our fun wooden pig and chicken stand to hold the kids hors d’oeuvres of mini franks in a blanket and fresh vegetables with dip.”

People Also Ask…

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