Tag Archives: summer dinner party

Dinner Parties Without the Drama

If you watch the popular BBC America series Come Dine With Me, you’d be forgiven for thinking that hosting a dinner party for some close friends is one big drama from start to finish with argumentative guests, deflating soufflés and the fussy vegan guest who refuses to eat anything you put on their plate. Cooking for friends can be great fun and also completely stress-free, as long as you do some preparation and get organized before the guests start to arrive.


Of course the main focus of any dinner party is the food, but an evening when you are having friends over is not the time to be experimenting with a dish you have never made before or which your cook books rate as for experts only. Try to prepare as much as you can before your guests arrive; a cold appetizer such as a shrimp cocktail or salad can be made in the afternoon and popped in the fridge, and a cold dessert can be made the night before. Have all your vegetables chopped and ready to go, and prepare as much of the main course as you can in advance so that all you have to do when guests arrive is to put the food in the oven and sit down to enjoy your starter. Tried and tested recipes are the best so that you can cook with confidence.


Many guests will bring wine as a present, but always have a couple of bottles of white chilling in the fridge and some red open and ready so that you can offer people a drink as soon as they arrive. Ask one of the other guests to help you by keeping glasses topped up while you are in the kitchen, or with a group of close friends, ask them to help themselves. Try not to have too much to drink before serving the food as a tipsy host leaves things to burn on the stove or drops servings on the floor more often than a sober one.


It’s not necessary to completely revamp your kitchen and dining area when you are having friends over to eat, but it is worth investing in a plain white tablecloth which can be accessorized with table runners, funky colored napkins, candles and even confetti to create a party feel. Make sure you check all of the light bulbs in your black retro kitchen lights so that people are not

Pan seared Shrimp
Pan-Seared Shrimp-just heat and serve.

eating in the dark, and for a more formal dinner, print off menus and name cards to put by the place settings. If you don’t have enough matching tableware or glassware for all of your guests, several rental outlets and party stores will rent glasses for a small charge. Consider buying some new black retro kitchen lights if your lighting is not up to scratch, and always ensure the kitchen and dining area are scrupulously clean before inviting guests  for something to eat and drink.

The Contemporary Home offer a fantastic range of black retro kitchen lights – just the thing to create a great atmosphere for your dinner party.

And remember, if cooking is too stressful, MagicKitchen.com can help out with already cooked delicious meals! Keep your dinner party simple and easy with prepared meals.


15 Tips for a Perfect Summer Dinner Party

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There’s a lot to be said for a good old fashioned dinner party – it never goes out of style!

Whether you want to introduce people you know, or just find an excuse to get all your friends together again, here are my top tips to make sure your dinner party is a success…

1. Set the Mood

Get everyone into the party spirit from the moment they arrive with well thought-out decor. I can’t stress enough how important it is to tidy to perfection! When you’ve got a beautiful blank canvas, start filling it in again with posh crockery, and dim the lights down low if it’s an evening dinner.

2. Go Outdoors

Since it’s the summer, why not take advantage of the mild weather and move the party outdoors? Lay your garden furniture sets with your finest tableware, then string fairy lights through the trees or hang jars from the branches with a candle in each, for a romantic and magical setting everyone will love?

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3. Send Invites

Forgo emails or texts and do things the good old fashioned way, with a hand-written invite sent by snail mail. It will make your invitees feel super special, and look like you’ve put more thought and effort into the dinner!

4. Create a Playlist

Music really helps to set the tone of the evening, but you don’t want to be jumping up every five minutes to switch tracks. Create a long playlist and then play it quietly in the background – the guests need to be able to hear each other! Add a relaxed, summery feel with chilled-out Cafe del Mar tracks.

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5. Start Early

You don’t want to be rushing around trying to finish the food, tidy up and get dressed when the first guests arrive – and remember they may show up early! Plan the party for a day you know you’ll have time (not when you have a big deadline at work that could overrun!) and start preparations well in advance.

6. Don’t Experiment

It can be tempting to try and go all out with the menu, but unless you’re a gourmet chef it’s best to stick to tried and tested recipes – or have a trial run a few days before!


7. Create a Sharing Platter

Start the meal off with a platter of hors d’œuvres in the center of the table, or Spanish-style tapas in ceramic bowls – not only will it get the conversation going, it will give you plenty of time to add the finishing touches to the main course.


8. Turn Your Phone Off

Nothing kills a party flat like modern technology! Switch your phone to silent and ask your guests to do the same – pop a ‘no phones allowed’ message in fancy writing on your invites as a polite way to ask for this!

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9. Keep Centerpieces Low

Don’t go overboard with the centerpieces – a beautiful, floral arrangement or unique sculpture adds to the theme or decor, but if it’s so tall people can see across the table you’ll be getting in the way of good conversation!


10. Dress Up

A dinner party is the perfect excuse to dress up, plus it helps to set the party mood! So tell your guests to dress nice, then pop on your best cocktail dress and heels!


12. Have a Backup

If this is your first time hosting a dinner party, or you’re something of a disaster in the kitchen, make sure you have a Plan B in case it all goes wrong – stock the fridge with prepared meals that can be served in an emergency. Plus if you hide the packaging no one need ever know…


12. Keep Snacks on Hand

It’s a good idea to have small snacks dotted around the table in case guests get peckish waiting for your culinary delights. Simple things like crisps and peanuts suddenly become gourmet when you pop them in fancy bowls –whatever you do, don’t put garish crisp packets on the table!


13. Don’t Forget the Drinks

Nothing gets the conversation flowing like alcohol, so make sure you’ve got a fully-stocked bar. You could even set up a self-serving bar in one corner with summer-inspired recipe cards (strawberry champagne anyone?) and let the guests have fun making their own cocktails! Don’t forget to have a non-alcoholic option or two available also – no one likes to be stuck drinking tap water all night!

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14. Introduce Guests

Plan out your seating arrangement in advance and add hand-written name placards to each place setting. Encourage conversation by seating everyone by one person they know and one person you think they’d like to know.

15. Add Small Touches

Last but not least, it’s the tiny things that can really make a big difference. Don’t skimp on the details – remember the small touches such as warmed plates, ribbons tied around cutlery or even little, gift-wrapped party favors for the guests to take home!

Do you have any tips of your own to add?


Elise Lévêque is a bubbly freelance writer who loves to put her creative skills to create gorgeous dinner party settings for friends and family to enjoy. She blogs for Capital Gardens, where she picks up outdoor lights and ornaments to decorate for garden dinner parties!