Tips for hosting a dinner party: how to be a good host

Don’t let your party turn into a chaos of nerves! Win at being a party host with our tips for hosting.

Updated August 5, 2019

table with different plated and foods

Hosting a dinner party doesn’t have to be stressful. All you need when planning a dinner party is a combination of the right ingredients – good food, tasty drinks - and the right company. However, as any experienced party host will tell you, it’s not always easy to pull off the perfect party. Keep reading to learn how to be a good host, find inspiration in our great dinner party ideas and pick up some essential tips for hosting.

As a party host, making sure your home is sparkling clean to receive your guests is key. Give every surface a wipe down with a multipurpose cleaner like Handy Andy - particularly the table where the dinner is to be set - and your bathrooms a deep clean with Domestos Thick Bleach

How to host a party? Essential tips for hosting

As a party host, you want your dinner party to be a night every guest will enjoy. However, those inexperienced at hosting a dinner party will likely find the whole affair daunting rather than fun. To pull off the perfect party and ensure you’ve got how to be a good host covered, pay attention to our essential tips for hosting a dinner party:

  1. Choose guests wisely when hosting a dinner party. Will each guest feel comfortable with the others? Is there any risk of tension or fallings out? Pay close attention to the number of guests you invite too: 4-6 is ideal, making for an intimate setting that's big enough to prevent awkward silences. If you have enough space you could invite more people but remember to walk before your run!
  2. Keep the food simple. When planning a dinner party, don’t make it a culinary challenge. It’s best to prepare dishes you’ve made before and that you know you can make. If you want to be a relaxed and engaging party host, cheat where you can! Buy the snacks, but make the dip, for instance.
  3. Create a soft and welcoming ambience. No one likes harsh lighting at a dinner party – set the mood with soft, low lighting that creates a chilled atmosphere. Turn off overhead lights and use lamps or opulent scented candles. Remember to have music playing as guests arrive to avoid any uncomfortable silences.
  4. Don't leave the entertainment to chance. Planning a dinner party isn’t all about the food and drink - you want your guests laughing and having a good time too! While dreaming up dinner party ideas and planning your dinner party menu, consider adding a bit of extra entertainment. Fun dinner party games for adults will have your guests in stitches.
  5. Shop early. Write a shopping list and try to stock up in the week before the big event. Only leave perishable items until the day before to buy.
  6. Prepare your home for guests. Give everything a thorough clean and ensure your dishwasher is empty - you'll have a lot to put in it by the end of the night! Take the garbage out and set up clear bins for waste and recycling so your guests can help your party be eco-friendly. Set the table the night before and make sure glasses are sparkling by washing with a quality dishwashing liquid like Sunlight. If adding a centrepiece to your table, make sure it's not too high or your guests won't be able to see each other!
  7. Time your cooking. Make a list of what needs to go in the oven and at what time, working backwards from the time you want to serve everything. Remember to consider resting time for foods such as meat to get the best flavour and texture too. Make sure a few drinks and appetizers are ready before guests arrive so that no-one goes hungry.

Selecting your dinner party menu: 3 golden rules

Now you know the basics, here are the 3 secrets to getting your dinner party menu just right:

  1. Choose dishes you can prepare early. Less time in the kitchen means more time entertaining. When selecting your dinner party menu, choose dishes you can prepare earlier in the day or even the day before. You’ll feel less stressed and won’t be as rushed off your feet during the party itself. 
  2. Select simple yet delicious recipes. If you’re grasping for dinner party menu ideas, go for something hearty and simple. Stews, curries and South African favourite potjiekos all make for a great dinner party fare. For a summer party, seafood or braai will go down a treat.
  3. Cater for everyone’s tastes. Remember to ask each guest if they have any special dietary requirements well in advance when planning a dinner party. Go easy with seasoning to allow for different palates - your guests can always add a little more at the table if they want. If you’re serving something spicy, either provide a milder option or keep hot sauce on the table for those who like heat.

Choosing your dinner party theme: classic ideas

When planning a dinner party, you may want to consider a theme for the evening. Why not try one of these classics?

  • Braai: a classic & popular summer theme everyone loves. Make use of the garden and sit outdoors.
  • Murder mystery: add drama and intrigue by turning your party into a murder mystery role play. You’ll find a wide array of murder mystery party kits to choose from online.
  • Masquerade: glam it up with a masquerade ball dinner party. Have guests arrive in formal attire, and either instruct them to bring their own mask or supply them as party favours.
  • Pizza bar: almost everyone loves a pizza, so why not prepare a variety of different pizzas to serve buffet-style? Or supply single serve pizza bases with a variety of toppings so guests make their own.
  • Movies, books & plays: pay homage to your favourite film, book or play by making it the theme of your dinner party. Serve appropriately themed food and have your guests dress up as characters.

Now that you’ve got how to be a good host under control, don’t let planning a dinner party cause you any stress! We’re sure these hosting tips will allow you to let go of logistics on the night and have a great time at your dinner party.

  • Choose a theme for your party.
  • Select food and drinks that match your theme and cater to everyone’s taste.
  • Prepare as much as you can as early as you can.
  • Don’t forget to have fun with your guests!
  • Originally published August 5, 2019