Whether you’re hosting your first dinner party or your fiftieth, there’s always some pre-hosting anxiety. You want all your guests to have a great time, and you feel that if they don’t, it’s a reflection on you.
The best cure for the pre-hosting jitters is preparation. The fewer factors you leave up to chance, the fewer opportunities you have for disaster.
To get that coveted “wow” from your guests, try these top dinner party ideas.
1. Plan a Breakout Mixer
In most dinner parties, you’re gathering friends who all know you but they may not know each other. That can lead to some awkward moments because guests don’t know each other well enough for casual chatting.
You can fix that problem by kicking off the party with a breakout mixer. Think of it as speed dating but for friends instead of romantic interests.
Guests pair up with one person at a time and get a minute or two to get to know each other. They keep switching partners until they’ve met everyone.
The goal for this is for guests to share just enough introductory information that they can easily pick up a full conversation later. Plus, meeting one person at a time is less intimidating for your guests who may have social anxiety.
2. Make the Party an Activity
Not everyone loves a party that focuses only on conversations. To keep the energy up, incorporate more activity into your dinner party.
For example, make the party a cooking lesson where guests get to prepare parts of their own dinners. You could also have a professional sommelier lead a wine tasting, pairing wines with each course of the dinner.
Whatever you choose, tell your guests what to expect on their invitations. Surprises don’t always go the way you may hope.
3. Go All-Out with Your Theme
Themed dinner parties are popular because they break away from the “usual” dinner party scene. If you choose a theme, carry it through in every aspect of the dinner party.
For example, let’s say you choose a beach-themed dinner party. Plan a menu with foods and drinks that remind you of the beach, like grilled entrees and Stone and Wood Pacific Ale cans.
Make sure your theme is clearly visible in your decor too. For some extra fun, invite guests to participate by wearing something that goes along with the beach, like sarongs and Hawaiian shirts.
4. Make It Personal
You don’t want guests to feel like they’ve stepped into “just any dinner party.” You want your party to feel like a familiar, welcoming, comfortable place.
One way to do that is by personalizing the party for your guests. Design each person’s place setting based on what you know about them, for example.
This makes your guests feel special and it also helps to start conversations. For instance, you might have a guest who’s a musician so you use a vinyl record as the charger for their place setting. Another guest sees it and they strike up a conversation about music.
5. Keep the Decor Practical
One of the most common mistakes with a dinner party is focusing too much on the decor and not enough on the party. Have you ever been to a party with huge centerpieces? It looks beautiful but now you can’t chat with guests across the table.
Your guests are coming for the party, not the decor. Focus on beautiful yet practical table setting ideas. You want the decorations to complement and fuel the party, not become a hurdle.
6. Think Beyond Taste for the Menu
When your guests are at a dinner party, they’re probably making the first impression on the guests they don’t know. People are conscious of this and want to make the best first impression they can.
To help with this, think about how easy it is to eat each item on your menu in polite company. For example, long noodles may not be the best choice. They tend to splatter and it’s hard to each them without looking messy.
Opt for foods that won’t make your guests feel self-conscious while they eat. Remember, the key is to make all your guests comfortable because this keeps conversations moving.
7. Host a Networking Dinner Party
Having a great time at a dinner party is wonderful. Having a great time while also building productive professional connections is even better.
When you plan your dinner party guests, consider bringing together people who have professional interests together. You’re not trying to create a dinner party full of shop talk, but you want to forge connections your guests will be happy to have.
As an added bonus, when your guests are in the same industry, they have more in common. This makes conversations easier so everyone at your party is more likely to have a good time.
8. Have More Ideas Than You Need
If you’ve ever given a presentation or taught a class when you had a specific time period to fill, you know the cardinal rule. You should always have more material than you think you’ll need.
You’ll want to have ideas for games to play or activities to enjoy after dinner. As you plan, follow that cardinal rule and have more ideas than you expect to need.
Think about the type of games your guests will enjoy and prepare materials for at least three or four of them. Think charades, celebrity, Pictionary, card games, and more.
Focus on games with minimal set-up time so you don’t have a lull in the party. You should also choose games guests can play together if they don’t know each other well.
Dinner Party Ideas to Throw a Dinner Party for the Ages
At the end of the day, what makes a dinner party a “wow” party isn’t extravagant decorations or surprise twists and turns. It’s all about the quality of the friendships you form and the enjoyment you give your guests.
The dinner party ideas above can help you impress your guests by providing them with a genuinely fun and comfortable evening. For more tips for your dinner party or any other outing you’re planning, check out more articles on our blog.