Tips for Hosting a Dinner Party

by Monica Bennion on August 2, 2015

Tips for Hosting a Dinner Party

Now that you’ve had a blast with your Blind Tasting Party, spent some quality time with your sweetheart on Date Night and dusted off and organized the bottles from your Cellar Cleaning, it’s time show off your skills in the kitchen, and the wines from your collection, by Hosting a Dinner Party!

This is your chance to pull out all the stops for your guests and give them something to talk about for years to come. In this blog post, we will outline a few of the Do’s and Don’ts for hosting a dinner party, and guide through a sample menu including recipes and wine pairings.

DO’S & DON’TS – 2-3 Weeks OutInvitation Blank

  • DO send out invitations 14-21 days before the party, and request an RSVP.  Go “old school” and send out paper invitations. Yes, they still make them (and don’t forget the stamps). The kind of invitation you choose can help set the mood or theme for the evening. If you plan on having a theme, encourage your guests to dress up accordingly.
  • DO plan the music. If you have a theme you plan to go with, find music to fit. For instance, if you are hosting a “black tie” style dinner party, look for some classical background music. If you’re planning a Mardi Gras style party, look for a Pandora station that has some Zydeco and Jazz.
  • DON’T over think the menu. Stick with tried and true recipes you’ve perfected, or, if you’ve found a new recipe that you think would be perfect, practice it a few times before the party to make sure you’ve got it down. If you’re offering hors d’oeuvres, make sure they are simple and not too filling.


  • DO select your wines and beverages to accompany your menu. Do plan to have aperitifs (def. a small alcoholic drink served before the meal) available to your guests when they arrive.  Delicate white wine, gin, vermouth and Champagne are classic aperitifs.


  • DO your shopping well in advance. The day before, get your recipes out and line up all the necessary ingredients. This is a great way to discover what, if anything, you’re missing and still have plenty of time to get to the store.
  • DON’T use your everyday dinnerware.  Bust out the nice china, stemware, linens and silverware.  Gussy up the table with a fancy tablecloth, cloth napkins and your best dinnerware and stemware. Need some help with place settings? Check out the Place Setting Guide provided by Emily Post.  Do a practice run the day before.

Informal Place Setting

  • DON’T go overboard with table decorations. A simple centerpiece, candlesticks and unscented candles are more than enough to set the mood at the dinner table.
  • DO print out menus. If you’re hosting a more formal dinner party, a simple menu outlining your courses and wine parings is a fantastic way to get your guests’ mouths watering. See our sample menu HERE.


  • DO chill your wines, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages. Champagnes, sparkling wines, mineral water and other beverages that should be served chilled should be refrigerated at least 12-24 hours before serving.
  • DO prepare as much of the food ahead of time as possible. Start with cold appetizers and salads that can easily be dressed and plated. Plan the timing of the meats or casseroles that need to be cooked so as to not spend too much time in the kitchen when your guests arrive.


  • DON’T wait until the last minute to get yourself ready. If you think you’ll need an hour to get showered, dressed and put together, plan accordingly. You don’t want to be blow drying your hair when your guests arrive. On that note, DO be prepared for guests to arrive 15-20 minutes early.


  • DO seat your guests in the living room, family room or den when they arrive. Offer them a drink from your aperitif selections and put out any hors d’ouevres you may have made. A nice selection of cheeses is always an easy and tasty option. Use a Slate Cheese Board for a lovely display and easy clean up.
  • DO sit, eat and enjoy. Your guests are there to enjoy both the food and your company. After serving the food and wine, make sure you sit down to enjoy it with them. If space allows, serve the food family style, and allow the guests to portion their own helpings.

First Course

  • DON’T pour the wine and then put it away. Instead, have a side table or console table set up to display and show off the wines you’re serving. If the white wine(s) need to stay chilled, use an ice bucket or Chill Cooling Pour Spout.
  • DON’T feel the need to clean up as you go. Have a sink filled with soapy water ready so you can drop the used plates and silverware in and move on. This step will help with clean up and keep you from ignoring your guests.
  • DO move dessert back to the living room, family room or den. Leave the mess of the table at the table and wind down the evening away from the table. Your guests will feel relaxed and happy and you will be able to continue enjoying their company.  Remember to offer coffee, tea and other after dinner drinks.

DO’S & DON’TS – AFTER PARTYMeme Soak Dishes

  • DO pre-rinse or soak your cookware and dishes. Yes, you’re exhausted and maybe you’ve overindulged a little, but your pots and pans will look much worse the next day if you don’t give them a little love.
  • DON’T waste the wine. If you have any wine left after the party, close it up and put it in the fridge. Better yet, use a VacuVin preserver if you think it’ll be a day or two before you reach for another glass of wine.

Download our Sample Dinner Party Menu

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