Dinner parties are a wonderful way to spend time with colleagues, friends, and family. The time-honored tradition of breaking bread in groups builds meaningful social bonds through the sharing of conversation, culture, and cuisines. Dinner parties can range in size from just a few people to thousands of guests for large celebrations like galas or state dinners. While there is great fun to be had in hosting large parties, here we’ll focus on how to host a fabulous dinner party for a small group of people.
Hosting a small dinner party is a thoughtful way to let your guests know that you value them, and want to spend time creating a special experience for you to share together. Entertaining a small group of people allows a host to pay more personalized attention to each guest, both while the host plans the party, and during the event itself.
But what is hosting, anyway? For some, it means making the restaurant reservation and showing up first to greet guests as they arrive. For others, this might mean a day in the kitchen crafting homemade creations for all to enjoy. Many hosts land somewhere in between these two, ordering prepared food for some or all of the meal, or inviting guests to bring a dish to share.
Wherever you fall on this spectrum of hosting, the most important thing to remember is to keep it simple! Your guests are there to enjoy your presence as much as you are there to enjoy theirs – do your best to avoid anything too complicated, and leave your attention available for socializing.
Step 1: Gather your Guests
Once you’ve decided to host a small dinner party, the first step is to consider your guest list. In some cases, it’s nice to gather together a group of friends who are already acquainted. Other times, it is great fun to mix things up and introduce people from different parts of your life to one another. Maybe you have a neighbor who has things in common with your running buddy, or perhaps you know various people who share an interest in sports or music.
In a small dinner party setting, partygoers have an opportunity to connect with one another more than at large parties, simply because there are fewer people to pay attention to. Consider what kind of connections you’d like to make over this meal, and invite your guests accordingly.
Being mindful of the hectic schedules that many manage, it’s best to send invitations a few weeks in advance of your ideal party date. Invitations set the tone for the event to follow, and they let guests know what to expect. Be sure to include the date, time, and location of your dinner party (or note that the location is yet to be determined), and ask the invitee to RSVP. For small parties, it’s fine to reach out via text, DM, or email, but for larger functions, an e-vite or mailed invitation would be more appropriate.
Tip: RSVPs are imperative for any size gathering! In order to plan seating arrangements and menus, hosts must have a general headcount of attendees.
Step 2: Location, location, location!
Having settled on a guest list, you should now consider the experience you’d like to share with those invited. Where do you want to fall on the spectrum of hosting for this event? Hosting at a restaurant means minimal work for you, but can come with a higher price tag than gathering at your home. Hosting at home can be a more cost-effective option, but can come with a heavier workload. Whichever option you choose, partygoers should always be invited into a clean and welcoming space, with enough seating and provisions for each guest to enjoy.
Tip: if your home isn’t available for hosting, consider picnic tables at a local park or beach, depending on the weather where you live. Bring a tablecloth (and weigh it down) to elevate the experience!
Step 3: Manage your Small Dinner Party Menu
One advantage of hosting a small dinner party is that you can curate the food and drink selections based on your guests. For larger parties, it’s wise to have a menu of crowd-pleasing dishes free of common allergens, but the small group setting allows you to check in with each guest about their allergies and preferences, and plan accordingly.
If you are hosting at home, consider printing menus for guests to reference, especially if you are serving multiple dishes. It is an unexpected, tasteful touch that’s sure to surprise and delight. It also allows diners to navigate the meal without the host explaining, or re-explaining what is on the table. No matter what you plan to serve, prepare as much of the meal as you can in advance, and leave only simple tasks for yourself to tackle during the party.
Tip: Some guests may have food allergies or dietary restrictions that you can’t accommodate in your home kitchen. Work with them directly to come up with an option that’s safe for them. This can sometimes mean finding a takeout option, or that guest may bring their own provisions. Ideally, find a dish that can be shared with the whole party!
Step 4: Spruce Up your Space for Hosting a Small Dinner Party
By the time your guests arrive, it is important to have the ambiance, or feeling of the space settled. Ambiance is the combination of sights, sounds, and smells that fill the party atmosphere. At a restaurant, great attention is paid to creating an inviting space where guests feel comfortable and relaxed, but simple touches can make any party space more welcoming.
Wherever you choose to host, the space should be neat and free of clutter, and have ample space for seating and socializing. Neatness is particularly important for small dinner parties because there are fewer visual distractions than at large gatherings. Guests may notice details that they would not otherwise pick up on.
Another layer of ambiance hosts can add to their small dinner party is pleasant background music. Music is a powerful influencer that can set the tone for any type of gathering. Many music streaming services offer curated playlists designed to cultivate a particular vibe. Start by searching “dinner party” in your preferred music streaming service to see what’s out there! If you are hosting guests you know well, personalize your listening experience by including group favorites, or hits from a year or decade that you all spent together.
Remember that at a small dinner party, there are fewer voices speaking in the room than at large parties, so adjust your speaker volume accordingly. Avoid selections that are too noisy or wordy, leaving room for conversation to carry over the music.
Tip: For a special touch at the dining table, create personalized seating cards and set them out before guests arrive.
Step 5: Enjoy Yourself at your Small Dinner Party
While hosting a small dinner party is about entertaining guests, it is also important for the host to enjoy the party! The host has a seat at the table, too, after all, and should enjoy the fruits of their hard work. By preparing the guest list, location, menu, and space in advance, the host is free to relax with revelers and enjoy the party they’ve prepared.
Overall, the host of a small dinner party should do their best to make guests feel special, welcome, and taken care of. In a small dinner party setting, hosts can pay extra attention to the needs of each guest, and enjoy themselves throughout the event.
Looking for friends to host at your next small dinner party? Choir is a great way to meet new friends. Learn how to join a choir here!