A Timeline-Based Guide to Planning The Perfect Dinner Event
Your dinner party is only as good as its planning. Make sure your next event goes off without a hitch by following this timeline-based guide on how to plan a dinner event. Use these tips and tricks to make your next dinner party a success!
1 Month to The Event
Planning a dinner party takes time and effort, so start early! There are several things to do a month before your event, such as choosing the date and guest list, sending out invitations, and planning the theme or aesthetic of the party. When it comes to hosting any type of event, planning ahead is key, and especially for a dinner party. By getting organized early on, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy yourself on the day of!
Prepare the Guest List
About 1 month before your event, you should have a good idea of who will be attending. If not, now is the time to create your guest list. Once you know how many people will be at your dinner party, you can begin working on other aspects of the planning process. Having a firm guest list will be essential when it comes to planning a menu and arranging seating.
Send Out The Invitations
Now that you know who will be attending your event, it’s time to get organized. Choose a date and send out invitations at least 4 weeks in advance. This gives your guests plenty of time to RSVP and make any necessary arrangements. Make sure to include all the important details, like the date, time, and address of the party. You could even add a link to an online map so that your guests can find your home with ease.
You can send out invitations virtually, by Email, WhatsApp, or a Facebook group, send physical invitations through traditional “snail mail”, or simply ask your guests in person. A personalized invitation, whether virtual or handwritten, can add that extra special touch to your event.
Other information you may want to include on your invitation includes venue, dress level, whether food will be served, and the size of the party.
Choose a Theme
Now comes the fun part—picking a theme! Unless you’re throwing something like a costume party, your dinner party does not need to have a strict theme or dress code. But choosing a general theme for decorations, menu, activities, etc is a great way to make your event more cohesive and polished.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to choosing a theme for your next dinner party. You might pick a certain country’s cuisine, such as a French-inspired meal with French food, wine, music, and decor, or a historical theme such as a roaring 20s speakeasy party. Nature themes are also popular, drawing inspiration from the seasons, botanicals, animals, etc.
Verify That Your Date Works, or Adjust Accordingly
It can be difficult to find the perfect date that works for both you and all your guests. Check to make sure there’s no other major event happening on the day you have picked out. With a small guest list, it might be worth it to reschedule if several of your guests have conflicts. Most of all, verify and make sure that the date you pick out is perfect for you and any other hosts.
2 Weeks to The Event
The closer the event gets, the more there is to do. Planning the menu, making a shopping list, picking the music, choosing decor—the more you can do ahead of time, the less stressful those final few days before the event will be.
Decide on the Menu
You should decide on a menu at this point, taking into account any dietary restrictions or food allergies guests may have, as well as your budget for the event.
If you are having food catered, keep in mind the size of your guest list and the type of party you are throwing. Is this a formal sit-down dinner that would require a full meal with several courses, or a casual appetizers and drinks event? You can also plan a menu that suits the theme of your party.
Are you preparing the food yourself? If so, keep in mind what ingredients are in season and what can be prepared a day before or the day of the party when you plan your menu. You might need to choose simpler dishes that one person can prepare, or dishes that can be prepared ahead of time.
You can also plan a menu that suits the theme of your party. Consider how you want the table to look when you serve the food, and think about whether you’ll need any special serving dishes, food prep tools, or garnishes. Don’t forget the drinks! Consider whether or not you will serve alcohol at your event, and be sure to have a non-alcoholic option if you do serve wine or another drink.
Make a Detailed Shopping List
Once you know what you’ll be serving, you can make your grocery list. A detailed shopping list is the key to a successful shopping trip. A comprehensive list will ensure you have everything you need to prepare a stunning meal for your party, with no last minute trips to the store for a forgotten ingredient. Planning out exactly what you plan to buy ahead of time also helps when it comes to sourcing your materials. One store may have better fresh produce, while another has a specific garnish you need. Make a detailed shopping list ahead of time to make your life easier when you begin preparing the food for your dinner party.
Curate the Music Playlist
When planning a dinner party, don’t forget the music! Curating the right playlist for the night will help set the tone for your event. The right selection of songs can create the atmosphere you’re going for, whether that’s a lively party or an elegant formal evening. Music also helps conversation by filling any quiet moments and giving your guests something to enjoy while mingling. Take the time to thoughtfully curate the perfect playlist to make the evening truly memorable.
Plan and Start Purchasing Decor Items
The decor is very important when planning a dinner party—it helps set the tone, contributes to the theme, and of course gives you those Instagrammable pictures! Two weeks out from the event is a good time to start planning and purchasing your decor items.
In addition to buying decor pieces, you can also repurpose items you already have, such as tablecloths or centerpieces. The decor doesn’t need to be elaborate or expensive to look great. Your guests will appreciate the effort you’ve gone to in order to make their evening special and memorable.
3 Days to The Party
Nearly there! As the event draws closer, there are several tasks that you need to complete. Make your home a welcoming space by tidying, arranging the furniture, and having sufficient toiletries on hand. This is also the time to get your groceries and send your guests a reminder about the event.
Tidy Up The House
Be sure to tidy your house before your guests arrive, or at least the areas that will be visible during the party. A clean, organized space will create a more relaxed and inviting atmosphere, and you won’t have to worry about your guests needing to maneuver around a cluttered space.
Arrange The Furniture
Make sure you’re prepared for your next dinner party by arranging the furniture in your home. You can rearrange your furniture to maximize space and create a seating area that will ensure your guests are comfortable as they mingle. Don’t forget to add a few decorative touches! Investing a little time and effort to arrange the furniture will help make the space more cozy and welcoming.
Buy enough Supplies of Toiletries
A good host makes sure their guests are as comfortable as possible. Part of making your guests comfortable involves making sure you have a supply of toiletries on hand for your guests’ use. Stock up on items such as hand soap, napkins, paper towels, sanitary products, etc, to help your guests have a comfortable and hygienic experience in your home.
Do Grocery Shopping
It’s finally time to go grocery shopping. Since you made that handy shopping list already, buying all the ingredients to make the food for your party should be simple. Of course, if you’re serving foods such as fish or some fresh fruits, or if you plan to buy and display fresh cut flowers, you may need to purchase these items a day or two closer to the event.
Make Sure You Have Enough Serv-ware
Ensure that you have all the necessary items to make your dinner a success—plates, utensils, glasses, serving dishes, etc. You don’t want to have a matched set of place settings with one or two that don’t match because you didn’t have enough of a certain color! It’s also a good idea to have a couple of extra place settings or spare supplies, just in case a guest comes to the dinner who didn’t rsvp.
Sen a Follow-up Notification
It’s always a good idea to remind your guests about a week before the event, just in case anyone has forgotten about it or has a last-minute conflict. If you’re short on time, consider simply sending a group text or email to remind everyone about the date and time of the event. A follow-up notification shortly before a dinner party is good etiquette and will help ensure all the guests who have rsvp’d will be there.
The Day Before
The day before the event is likely going to be the most intensive prep day you’ll have for your dinner party. This is the day to decorate, touch-up cleaning, and cook and prepare as much of the food as you can. Like every other stage, the more you can get done the day before the event, the easier your life will be on the day of the party.
Start Cooking Preparation
Looking to wow your guests? The key is in the preparation. Start doing all the necessary cooking preparations ahead of time to ensure your dishes come out perfectly. Purchasing and preparing ingredients in advance will give you plenty of time to focus on the actual cooking process so that everything comes out tasting and looking great.
Set The Table
Another task you can do the day before to make the day of the party easier is to set the table and start setting out decorations. Of course, if you have mischievous pets that would make leaving out delicate dishware or decorations impossible, you can also wait until the morning of your dinner party to set the table and finish decorating. If you’re breaking out the nice dishware, don’t forget to wipe down any pieces that have been in storage before serving food on them.
Final Clean and Touch-Ups
Today is when it pays off to have done a detailed tidying of your space a week ahead of time. Your home should still be in good enough shape to only need a touch-up, rather than a deep clean. Think about surfaces that will be seen and used the most by your guests, such as furniture and floors. Giving everything a once-over will let you focus on being a good host and enjoying the party, rather than on how tidy your home is.
The Party Day
The day of your dinner party is finally here! But your real work is just starting. On the day of the event, you’ll need to do all your last minute setup, whatever cooking you have left, chill the drinks, and then actually host a dinner party. And on top of everything else, hopefully you can also enjoy the night that you’ve put so much work into.
Last Minute Decoration Setups
Hopefully by now most of the decorating and setup has been completed. All that should be left is to put out any last-minute decorations or settings. Maybe you bought fresh flowers to go on the table, or maybe you have a high-energy pet that didn’t allow you to put out the nice dishes until right before dinner. Now is the time to get your home looking exactly how you want it to appear for when your guests arrive.
Finish the Cooking
Don’t let the stress of cooking for your dinner party stop you from enjoying the night! Prepare all you can ahead of time, and consider serving a simple appetizer that your guests can enjoy with drinks as everyone arrives. This will give you time to finish preparing and serving the main course, so you can wow your friends and family with the menu you’ve selected and prepared.
Chill The Wine
When serving drinks, you want to make sure everything is served correctly. Chill the wine if it should be served cold, and finish arranging the area you’ve designated for drinks. Spruce up the beverages with a cute garnish or unique wine glass charms! Having a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink options will help make your dinner event a success.
Be a Good Host
Taking the time to make sure your guests feel welcome, relaxed, and comfortable in your home is one of the best ways to ensure everyone has a good time. Whether you serve a delicious meal, set up a fun game, or offer interesting conversation, being a good host is the key to a successful dinner party. If you’re concerned about conversation stalling, you can plan a fun activity, or even look up some conversation-starting questions ahead of time. Most importantly, a relaxed and engaged host will help the guests to enjoy the night.
Enjoy The Night
When it comes to dinner parties, people often spend way too much time stressing over every little detail instead of just enjoying themselves. With the amount of work you’ve put into this event, you deserve to enjoy it too! Even while managing the meal and keeping an eye on how the guests are feeling, don’t forget to relax, take a sip of that wine you carefully selected, and have a good time.
The work’s not over yet just because the party is! After your guests leave, it’s time to start the cleanup process to get your house back in order, and say thank you to your guests for attending.
Say Thank You
A thank you note will cement the evening in your guests’ minds as an unforgettable experience. Your thank you should match the tone and formality of the invitations, whether those were mailed out on nice paper or a cute evite. Even a simple thank you tells your guests that they helped to make the evening successful.
Everyone’s favorite part of the night! The clean up. While you don’t need to scrub everything up the second the guests leave, it’s a good idea to at least tidy away any trash, store leftovers, and start soaking the dishes. Taking a couple of simple steps to start the cleaning process will make the next day much easier.