I really love to have people over for a dinner party or game night. You don’t need to invite every person you know; you just need a few friends and great conversation. You also don’t need to make every get-together an over-the-top event. However, there are a few simple ways to easily elevate your next dinner party and I’m sharing them below.
I’m breaking things up into three categories: food, mood, and the table. Within these three categories you’ll find a few specific ideas to help elevate your next dinner party.
You don’t have to do every single one of these for every get-together you have. (Unless you want to, then have at it!) I personally don’t do them all every time unless I’m hosting something special like a holiday, but I do recommend choosing at least one from each category so that you’re covering all your bases.
Ready to elevate your next dinner party? Let’s get started!
How to Elevate Your Dinner Party
Plan a Menu
Planning a menu is equally for you as much as it is for your guests. It can be as easy or as complex as you like.
You’d be surprised at how much planning a cohesive, thought out menu can elevate a dinner party. Even picking a type of cuisine and sticking to it from start to dessert is super fun!
I like planning a menu so that I know what I’m serving ahead of time, but also so that I can plan for prepping. The last thing you want to do when you have friends or family over is be stuck in the kitchen where you can’t be part of the conversation.
I always like to serve a handful of made-ahead appetizers so that people can graze, and you can enjoy some time with your company before throwing something in the oven or in a pot. (One of my go-to appetizers that everyone always loves are these pigs in a blanket.)
Planning a menu also helps to guide any beverages you might want to serve. For example, if you decide on taco night, then you probably want to serve margaritas and beer, not champagne. For a handful of easy drinks you can make at home, click here.
When in Doubt, Make a Board
A cheese or charcuterie board is easy to make ahead of time, and can be set out for the duration of your party. It’s also a great “centerpiece” food to elevate your dinner party so guests can gather and chat.
When in doubt (or if I’m hosting something last minute), a board is always a crowd-pleaser.
- How to Make a Harvest Charcuterie Board
- How to Make a Waffle Breakfast Charcuterie Board
- How to Make a Healthy Breakfast Charcuterie Board
Like pairing your food with the right drinks, you want to make sure that what you’re serving feels right for the season you’re in, whichever one that may be. You probably don’t want to serve a warm, hearty dish in the middle of summer, just like you wouldn’t want to serve a BBQ spread in the dead of winter.
Lean into seasonal cooking and buy what’s fresh for the moment to really embrace it.
Have a Playlist
I’m not saying you have to play DJ all night, but background music always elevates a dinner party. Choose something low key that won’t be distracting from conversation.
This is especially helpful when you have guests that might not know each other, because it fills quietness and dead conversation space with some ambient noise.
You don’t have to pick every single song for the night. Spotify has a lot of stations you can choose from by genre or artist, so type something into the search bar and start there.
I recommend using a bluetooth speaker if you don’t have built-in speakers. It makes things feel way more elegant than music just coming out of your phone. We have this Sony Sound Bar that we also connected to our TV. It works great while being aesthetically pleasing.
Spoiler alert: you do not have to have every single light in your house on when you have people over.
You can completely change the vibe and mood of your party with lights. If you have dimmers, use them! You can keep the dinner table moody and dark and the living room brighter to encourage gathering there, or vice versa.
You can also use light to guide your guests to where you want or don’t want them to go. Turn off lights and shut doors to off-limit spaces. If you have a room for people to put bags or coats, guide them with lighting to their destination.
I always love walking into a hotel, restaurant, or store to be greeted by a great fragrance in the air. There’s something welcoming but also fancy about it.
Lighting a scented candle, burning incense, diffusing essential oils, or even using a nice room spray is one of the easiest ways to elevate your dinner party in seconds. (Candles also work great at creating some mood lighting!)
I love Nest candles because they actually smell when they’re burning, not just when they’re on display. Saje Wellness is where I get almost all of my essential oils from, and they have the most beautiful diffusers. (Use code CAMILLE15 for 15% off). For a room spray, my go-to is this berry scent.
ELEVATING YOUR DINNER PARTY TABLE
Greenery or Florals
I love having fresh flowers up around my home. It really livens things up, and the same goes for having greenery or florals at your dinner party.
Be sure to cut the stems to fit the height of your vase.
If you’re buying a pre-made assorted bouquet, open the bouquet, and re-arrange the flowers based on the vase you are filling. This will make the flowers look a little less “packaged” straight from the store.
If you want to mix and match your own flowers, you can’t go wrong with a monochromatic palette. My go-to for an elevated look is always baby’s breath and matching white flowers with some greenery. I even love eucalyptus!
If you’re putting flowers as the centerpiece of your table, keep them low so people can talk over them instead of craning their necks or shouting.
Candles are major dinner party elevating multi-taskers. They set the mood with light, add fragrance, and honestly, simply just look good. I love having tiny votives along the table for added ambience while dining.
So, if you’re having a giant family style dinner party, cloth napkins can be a bit overzealous (and expensive). But if you’re having a more intimate get-together with a few friends, bring out the cloth napkins.
Cloth napkins are a true sign of adulting! For $10 you can get this pack of 4 neutral linen napkins, and instantly your dinner table will be that much chicer.
Name cards also may be too stressful for a big dinner party. However, I really love these for small things or special celebrations. I always have a pack of blank name cards on hand. You can also use name cards to label appetizers, or meals, if you’re serving buffet-style.
If you don’t have perfect calligraphy skills, that’s okay. There’s something special about the personal touch of a handwritten anything these days; literally nobody will care if your writing isn’t pristine.