Nell Matzen - 31 Jan, 2019

A host’s guide to throwing the best-ever dinner party

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Dinner parties are having a renaissance. The meticulously-planned soirees our parents pioneered fell by the wayside as the restaurant scene boomed. Today, it seems people are once again craving a more intimate, and not to mention wallet-friendly setting, where they can eat, drink and be merry with their loved ones. Cue the rediscovery of the almost lost art of the dinner party.

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Although the prospect of hosting a dinner party of your own may be daunting for some, there is no need to fret – with these simple tips you can guarantee a memorable and relaxing evening for all.


Music is one of the most important weapons in a host’s arsenal. The right music is essential to creating the perfect atmosphere for your guests, ensuring everyone is relaxed and happy, masking any uncomfortable silences, and hopefully encouraging a little dancing as the night rolls on.

Before you go trawling your library to create the perfect mixed tape, head on over to Spotify and browse their convenient, tailored playlists. Start the evening with one of their countless dinner party mixes and finish on a high note with hours of 90s nostalgia.


Lighting is key to creating a ambient setting. With a few clever lighting tricks, you can give your humble dinner party a sophisticated edge. Use lamps for your main source of lighting, keeping overheard lights low.

Scatter candles around the dining room for a lovely glow. There is no need to splash out on expensive votives – a tea light candle placed in a jar or water glass is a simple, yet chic, solution. To ensure you’ve nailed your lighting scheme, have a dress rehearsal the night before – remember your guests still need to see each other and your scrumptious food!


Nothing quite sets off a meal like the right glass of wine and with some basic knowledge, you can create food-wine pairings like a world-class sommelier.

Stick to the cardinal rule: white wines with lighter meats (fish and chicken) and red wines with heavier options (beef and lamb), and if you are whipping up some fatty fare, reach for a bold red to balance the flavours. Also, keep in mind that wine should generally be sweeter than the dish and both should share the same flavour intensity.

Offer your guests a drink upon arrival and try to avoid empty glasses throughout the evening.

Remember not everyone enjoys a tipple, so be sure to have plenty of non-alcoholic options on ice.


You may feel the urge to wow your guests with a complicated menu, but for the sake of your sanity and the success of the evening, simplicity is best.

An antipasto platter as an entrée is a great way to minimise time in the kitchen and maximise time with your guests. Head to the deli and pick up some goodies (cheese is always a crowd pleaser) and arrange them on a simple wooden chopping board, which can be placed on the table before your guests arrive.

how to host a dinner party

For the main event, take a dish that you know inside out and elevate it with some yummy sides – some chargrilled broccolini and a potato gratin will turn a one-pot wonder into an elegant meal.

To avoid any awkward situations, make sure you ask your guests about any allergies or dietary requirements before you start planning the meal.

Let your guests dictate the timing of the evening – when the antipasti dwindle head to the kitchen to put the finishing touches on the main and when your guests stop reaching for the wine it’s time for coffee and dessert.

Words by Nell Matzen.

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