Party Planning: How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party

How to Host the Perfect Dinner Party

With the holiday season right around the corner, it’s the perfect time of the year for entertaining. I’ve talked about throwing a holiday soiree on the blog before, but today I wanted to share some tips for throwing a dinner party. I love hosting larger parties and celebrations, but there’s something special about an intimate, grown-up gathering…


Having an accurate guest count is essential for a dinner party. Sending out formal invitations is a great way to remind your guests to RSVP and set the tone for your event. I’m a big fan of Paperless Post, which has some adorable designs and is also the eco-chic thing to do. (How cute are these designs for a holiday party?) For a formal dinner party, I recommend sending out your invitations three weeks in advance, and asking guests to respond no later than a week before the event. Knowing your guest count a full week out will leave you ample time to plan your menu, grocery shop, and prep. Also, keep in mind that dinner parties are meant to be intimate. I’d recommend inviting a maximum of 8-12 guests for this type of gathering.

Table Setting

A beautifully set table is the canvas for a delicious meal. I love going to the flower market the morning of my dinner party and arranging some fresh blooms for the centerpieces. If you are having floral centerpieces, the rule is to keep them low enough that guests can talk over them. You don’t want your guests craning their necks just to make conversation. I also love a candlelit table, but stick to non-scented candles during a dinner party since you don’t want to interfere with the tastes and smells of your food. BHLDN is a great place to look for cute cocktail napkins, striped straws, and other little details. I recommend setting the table early in the day, before you even begin cooking, since it’s an easy step to get out of the way. Tip for small spaces: If you don’t have a big enough dinner table to host a large gathering, bring in a folding table for the night and cover it with an elegant table linen.


Assigned seating certainly isn’t a requirement these days, but it can help the conversation flow more effortlessly at larger parties. Put some thought into which guests have the most in common, and seat them next to each other. It’s always fun to play matchmaker or be responsible for a beautiful new friendship. Plus, assigned seating means the opportunity to craft some cute place cards to complement the table setting.


Music is one of the easiest ways to create an ambiance for your dinner party. Keep in mind that while background music prevents awkward silences during the meal, the volume should be kept low enough that it won’t interfere with conversation. I’m a big fan of iTunes Radio for all types of gatherings. The Indie Alt-Folk station is great for a casual dinner party, and jazz or classical music work well for a more formal event. Classic holiday tunes are also fun this time of year.

Preparatory Measures

I have a collection of pretty aprons from Anthropologie and The Little Market that I like to wear when I’m playing hostess for the evening. They’re cute enough that I can keep them on once guests start to arrive, if I’m still putting the finishing touches on the meal. If you’re the guest, a cute apron also makes a great hostess gift.

Hors D’oeuvres

Having hors d’oeuvres set out when guests arrive will give you some extra time to finish cooking while guests mingle and munch. A cheese plate and a platter of crudité is my go-to, but I’m also known for my decadent bacon wrapped dates. Set out platters at different spots throughout the living or dining area to guests from crowding in one corner of the room.


Make sure that you’ve asked all of your guests ahead of time if they have any food allergies or dietary restrictions. You don’t want anyone to go hungry or feel awkward refusing food. Also, stick with dishes you’ve made before. The day of your dinner party is not the time to experiment with that elaborate soufflé recipe you saw on the Food Network. Your guests will appreciate a simple, home-cooked meal as much as something more gourmet. When I’m in need of some culinary inspiration, I always browse the Recipe Gallery for ideas.


Dessert is the best way to ensure that everyone’s night will end on a sweet note. I love baking pies, but not every meal requires an elaborate ending. For me, dessert is just as much about presentation as it is about taste. So if you’re spending more time on the meal and want to keep dessert simple, you can dress up basic cookies or cupcakes by placing them on a pretty cake stand. It’s also nice to offer coffee or tea with dessert. If you’re only making one pot, decaf pleases most everyone after dinnertime.


Sticking with wine and one signature cocktail (like one of these yummy Malibu Island Spiced drinks) keeps things simple and classy. If guests ask you if they can bring anything, have them bring along their favorite bottle of vino. If you don’t already have a full set, it’s worth investing in a dozen Ikea wine glasses to use anytime you host a large gathering.


Hosting a dinner party should be enjoyable for the hostess too. Once your guests have arrived, relax and enjoy yourself along with them. Resign yourself to the fact that dishes can be done the next morning. Tonight, enjoy the good company, delightful ambiance, and delicious food you put so much work into. And if it really bothers you to have pots and pans sitting in the sink, place everything (even items you plan to hand wash later) in the dishwasher temporarily. This will get them out of the way for the night. Or, take up a friend’s offer to wash. Grateful guests are truly happy to help.

Will you be hosting any dinner partied this season?

What’s on your menu?

XO Lauren

Photo: 100 Layer Cake
Categories: Lauren Conrad, Party Planning
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  • Ashley

    I love this post! You put thought into each aspect of what is entailed when planning and preparing for a dinner party! Thank you for your insight! :) If I host a dinner party, I’ll be stopping back here!

    • chris

      Love this! Thanks for sharing and for the blog on Party Planners

  • Jessie

    These are fabulous tips! Great post :)

  • katie at Miss enchanting

    This is brilliant! I love hosting dinner parties and you have everything covered here! Fab…

    Katie x

  • jessica marie

    Thank you for posting this!

    Just in time for planning. I am hosting a holiday gathering in December with my closest high school girlfriends and our significant others. xo

  • NYCfitfoodfashion

    Thank you for the awesome tips! I will definitely use these when planning my next dinner party!

  • christina p.

    Love this! I’ve never hosted a dinner party before and this information has been very helpful! Now I feel like I know what to do so I can host one soon :) Thank you!

  • Allegra


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  • Deanne Castro

    Great tips! :)

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  • Raven Locks

    This was really helpful. I love aprons from Anthropologie! They’re so cute and super feminine.

    xo Azu

  • Shoegal Out In The World

    I would love to throw a dinner party during the Holidays & these tips will certainly help me & make it a successful one…

    Have a great weekend!!!

    xoxo Violeta, your Shoegal Out In The World

  • Chelseaness

    When I get my own house or apartment, I definitely want to throw a dinner party. These are great tips that I will definitely refer back to!

  • Hailey G

    Love these tips!

    Hailey from

  • Kate Noto

    When my mom, grandmother, and I host something it turns out to be OK. We don’t do anything special because we can’t afford something very nice. For our food we go to Publix and for napkins, plates, and other things we go to our local party store.

  • Carly annette

    I made these brownie batter pops for a potluck dinner party I hosted recently! Easy and delicious – I definitely recommend :)

  • Tea Jae

    excellent tips something I totally had not thought about thank you LC :)

  • Chris Harmen

    You are always awesome at your work. I love watching your techniques and style. It is totally different and your parties are also amazing

  • Holly Sellwood

    Thanks for the tips Lauren. Dinner parties are something I hold frequently as my husband has a huge friend circle and they keep meeting at once in a while. And this meeting takes place in one of the group members house. As a result I have become a pro at hosting dinner parties. I do the cooking by myself and for the seating arrangements I turn to chair rental. Though it takes a lot of time and exhausts you at the end of the day you feel immense satisfaction.
    Once again. great tips dear…

  • LeiMation

    Hi Lauren, another site for invitations is I have some fun and original hand painted Evites that are great for parties and special events. Thanks! Laura

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    thanks for sharing this information, it helped me a lot. first time visiting this site and i just found it very interesting


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