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How to host a great dinner party — 13 top tips

Good food, good drinks and even better company — isn’t that what a great dinner party is all about?

But when we look beyond that perfectly curated cheese board and glass of vintage shiraz, there are a few factors that can turn a good dinner party into a dance-on-the-table-hoot (literally or figuratively, it’s up to you).

Hint: it’s not just about the food and drink.

This article will guide you through how to host a great dinner party (with tips from seasoned hosts — if we do say so ourselves).

Your “hosting a party” checklist

 1. Choose the right venue or space

Have you ever been to a party with a room that’s too big for the number of people, leaving you feeling like you need to do three cartwheels to properly use the space? Or on the flip side, have you ever been to a party where the space is too small, leaving you rubbing shoulders and weaving through the crowd just to get access to the cheese table (oh the tragedy)?

The right-sized space is intimate, while still having plenty of room for your guests to flow through. If you’re hosting your party at a venue, ask the organisers for the recommended capacity (and see whether this aligns with your guest list). If you’re hosting your party at home, visualise the number of guests in your preferred space and see how it feels — Cramped? Spacious? Juuuust right?

2. Consider what to serve

Ok, we know we said it’s not just about the food and drink. But carefully choosing what you serve can make your guests feel special, appreciated and relaxed. When choosing dishes, consider any allergies, intolerances or preferences.

Then once you’ve got that down pat, start to get creative. Share food that you love or create something that reminds you of home. And remember, variety is the spice of life.

3. Prep ahead of time

Choosing dishes that can be prepped ahead of time makes room for you to enjoy yourself more when the event rolls around. Some advice from having been in both camps: the “frantic-last-minute” and the “here’s-something-I-prepared-earlier.”

Maybe you can slice, par cook, marinate or wash in advance (then all you need to do is throw it all together as your guests watch in awe).

4. Place food and drink in a prime location

“Serve it and they will come.” (ok, that’s not the real saying, but we think it has a better ring to it).

Many seasoned hosts will know that people tend to flock toward the food and drink (can you blame them?) So, placing these where you’d like people to gather is a great way to organise your guests and make sure everyone gets mingling. We love placing food and drink toward the far end of the room as it draws people into the space (while also avoiding doorways and bathrooms).

As a bonus tip, you can also put the food and drink on separate stations, as this helps to spread people out and encourages them to move around the room.

5. Go easy on the cheesy

How many times have you been to a party and heard the dreaded words “oh no, I filled up on cheese!” Yep, we’ve all heard it (and probably said it once or twice, too). And nothing spoils a delicious main meal like not being hungry for it.

So as the host, try to be realistic with portions and go easy on the cheesy. Make it enough to get their appetite going — but not too much it’ll leave them with regrets when they see the brisket and perfectly crispy potatoes come out.

6. Set the mood with lighting

Entrees? Check.
Drinks? Check.
Main course? Check.

It’s a solid start. Buuuut a successful dinner party is so much more than great food — it also involves the right mood and ambience. And that includes lighting.

Each type of light will influence mood differently. Warm or natural lighting creates an inviting environment, cool lights create an energizing environment, while dim lights create an intimate environment. So, work out the mood you’d like to create and light up your space appropriately (and don’t be afraid to shake things up with candles and fairy lights).

If you’re hosting your party during daylight hours, try to make use of spaces with the best natural light to create a bright and feel-good mood.

7. Think about the music

Just like lighting influences the mood, so does music. So, here are our top tips for creating a banging Spotify playlist…

  • Make your playlist long enough to last the party (you don’t want to run out of tunes)
  • Choose music to suit your guests and ask them for requests in the lead up (this makes it even more fun when they hear their song come on)
  • Have a mix of genres to spice things up (because maybe Joey likes hip hop and Debbie likes jazz, you know?)
  • Choose music to suit the time of day and occasion (the mood of a daytime BBQ will be different to an intimate dinner)
  • And finally, do a sound check to make sure it’s crystal clear where your guests will be hanging out (ahem, the snacks table)

8. Choose sustainable decorations

Once upon a time, streamers, throw away plates and balloons were top of the shopping list when you were throwing a party. But these days, a great dinner party often considers sustainability. The best part? Choosing sustainable alternatives makes your guests feel good, too.

So, our top tip is to try and steer clear of anything disposable (oh, and there’s nothing better than drinking wine from a real glass).

We love using…

  • Reusable tableware — this includes plates, cutlery and serving platters
  • Fresh fruit, nuts or edible decorations — this adds a colourful, delicious (and healthy) touch to your party
  • Flowers — go with local, native flowers over imported varieties
  • Candles — not only do they look great, but they also help to set the mood
  • Plants — greenery can bring a space to life and make your guests feel relaxed and happy — plus, it can be as easy as a few sprigs of rosemary from the garden

9. Have drinks at the ready

Nothing starts a party quite like a drink on arrival. Once you’ve greeted your guests, make sure their glass is filled with whatever they fancy — whether that’s beer, wine, cocktails, soft drinks, soda water or juice. This sets the scene for a fun time together.

10. Make clean up easy

The food was beautiful. Your lighting was on point. Your guests had a ball.

But then it hits you: clean up time. Urgh.

Having a big clean up can really put a dampener on a fun event (and in some cases, put you off doing it again).

When you’re planning your event, it’s a good idea to think about the clean up, as this will make it a positive experience from start to finish. You might choose to make food that requires minimal dishes, ask your guests to contribute their favourite dish or create a recycling point.

At Put a lid on it, we love making sharing food and memories easy. Our range of servingware is made with pack up in mind (yep, just Put a lid on it). This means more time socialising, and less time rummaging through cupboards for a suitable container.

11. Once people arrive, enjoy it

As hosts, we can fall into the trap of making sure everything is “perfect” that we forget to stop, chat and enjoy ourselves.

Remember, things can go wrong. Guests might be late, food might get burnt and drinks might get spilt — but it’s all part of the ride. If you set the mood and create the party, your guests will soak up those vibes, too.

12. Ask or accept help

Accepting your guest’s offer to help makes everybody feel good. Plus, it takes the pressure off you to do absolutely everything.

Whether it’s a salad, dessert or cocktail — accepting a guest contribution is both fun and engaging. Plus, it makes for a great conversation when you ask “where did you get that recipe?”

13. Remember why you’re doing it

Often, we can get caught up in all the small details — the cheese board being the perfect balance of sweet and savoury, the kitchen being sparkling clean, and the potatoes being crisped to perfection. But as seasoned hosts, we recommend you take a moment to step back and remember why you chose to have a party in the first place — to bring people together.

How to host a great party with Put a lid on it

Whether you’re hosting 5 close friends, 30 colleagues or a room of 100 — these tips will help you turn your party from “well, that was nice” to “now that was an absolute blast.”

At Put a lid on it, it’s no secret we love parties and bringing people together (and grabbing a second serve of dessert, but that’s another story for another day).

That’s why we created a range of fun, practical and feel-good servingware made from 100% recycled plastic. Because it’s our mission to make sharing food simple so you can get back to what counts — connecting and laughing with your people.

Discover our range today.