A Spicy Perspective

Easy Dinner Party Ideas

Easy Dinner Party Ideas #partySo you desperately want to host a dinner party this spring… but you’re scared. Fear not. These Easy Dinner Party Ideas will help you feel like the hostess-with-the-mostest and keep you calm and collected before and during your soiree!


I love throwing dinner parties in the spring.

The weather is warm enough to open up the house and have cocktails out on the deck. My favorite flowers are in bloom. I start finding good produce at the farmers market and grocery stores again. And almost anything goes, because spring is a time of transition.

However, my kitchen is currently under construction so there are no parties on my calendar in the near future.

Kitchen Makeover 2

We are in the eye of the kitchen remodel. After weeks of choosing fixtures and tile, and working with the kitchen designer to try to make the most of this rickety old space, we are thrilled to be close to having a new kitchen. Of course it’s a little inconvenient not having a kitchen for a few weeks, but we’re making due.

Really, it’s a small price to pay.

If you haven’t seen what’s going on, you can follow along on Instagram and Facebook for more Kitchen Renovation updates.

Here are a few iphone shots to keep you in-the-know….

Kitchen Makeover 1

My entire “kitchen” is currently stacked on top and below my dining table.

Kitchen Makeover 5

Taking down cabinets and trying to salvage the granite.

The designer worked hard to configure a beautiful kitchen, that met all our needs, around the existing countertops. Usually you’d chuck the countertops and start fresh, but it’s granite and I couldn’t swallow the idea of throwing it out.

Kitchen Makeover 3

We’re tearing out a wall to open up the kitchen and dining room. And of course we found pipes. Lots of pipes…

Kitchen Makeover 4

We are eating out of laundry baskets in my once neat, now cluttered office. In all the mess I’ve lost one of my children, can you find him?

So back to dinner party ideas…

Simple Dinner Party Ideas and Tips #howto #partyplanning #party

Since I won’t be having one soon, I was sort of hoping today I could inspire YOU to throw a spring dinner.

Dinner Parties don’t have to be difficult. Although I have thrown a few fine-dining style dinner parties, I prefer to go casual.

Calamari Salad

Planning a casual dinner party doesn’t mean paper plates and hotdogs. It can still be nice.

It simply means getting rid of fussy elements that we spend tons of time worrying over, and no one really appreciates. Like floor-length linens, perfect centerpieces, and stuffy place settings with way too many forks.

I find that what people really get excited about, is simply being invited to partake of a great meal with good company.

That’s it.

Everything else is just gravy.

Gnocchi with Grilled Grapefruit and Asparagus

However, if you want your party to look special without being starchy, here are a few dinner party tips.

Dinner Part Ideas

1. Decide on a simple dinner party menu, using fresh seasonal ingredients. Don’t over do it. Simple dishes that are well-prepared have a much greater impact than lavish dishes that don’t turn out.

2. Make as many items ahead as possible. You’ll be able to keep cool right before the dinner party if you don’t have a long list of items to cook. Appetizers and dessert are often good make-aheads.

Southern Shrimp and Grits

3. Whether you decide to serve at the table or set up a buffet, pull out your serving pieces ahead of time.

When we’re hosting a large party with lots of dishes, I like to incorporate white serving pieces with metal and glass/crystal. The combination goes well together and provides me with more options.

They don’t all have to match, just go together.

Easy Dinner Party Tips #howto #partyplanning #party

4. Lay out your serving pieces and label them, so you know you’ve got a pretty dish for all your menu items. Put out serving utensils as well, so you won’t have to scramble when the guests arrive.

All these awesome white and glass/crystal pieces are from Villeroy and Boch and the metal pieces are mostly from my mom.

Easy Dinner Party Ideas and Tips #howto #partyplanning #party

5. Think eclectic, when deciding on table settings. If you’re anything like me, you probably have a few different types of napkins, placemats and dishes, but not one single set large enough for a dinner party.

No worries, mix it up!

Use neutral placemats and napkins mixed with your brighter fabrics. This creates a fun casual feel that relaxes your guests.

How To: Easy Dinner Party Ideas and Tips #howto #partyplanning #party

Also, play with your napkins. There’s no need to starch and fold them into swans. Try tying loose knots or placing them haphazardly under plates, for a simple carefree look.

Knotted Napkin

Under the plate….

Place Settings

You could also use some common scarf-tying techniques on your napkins, just for kicks.

Tie Napkins Like Scarves

Or scraps of fabric, instead of cloth napkins.


Then once you’ve:

  • Decided on a menu and bought your groceries
  • Made some items ahead
  • Set out and labeled you serving pieces
  • And set the table

Relax. Pour yourself a glass of wine and cook the meal just as if you were cooking it for hubby, sister, or oldest friend. You’ll do a better job if you’re not stressed.

Your dinner party doesn’t have to be perfect to be a fabulous!

For more tips on entertaining and scarf-tying visit my friends at Relunctant Entertainer and Kevin and Amanda.

PS… I want to hear all about your party!

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31 comments on “Easy Dinner Party Ideas”

  1. We completely understand your kitchen remodeling experience! We bought and gut renovated our apartment. Everything went – floors, cabinets, the entire kitchen and bathroom including old pipes, and walls! Whew. It was a lot of work but completely worth it in the end. Can’t wait to see your finished product!

    As for the party planning tips – very helpful, thanks. We always try to plan ahead, especially with desserts and simple appetizers. I love your post-it idea – that is brilliant when feeding a large group.

  2. Lots going on at your house Sommer! I know it will be great once it’s done and you’re back to entertaining. Great tips!

  3. You listed some awesome tips :) thanks! I hope your remodel goes smoothly.

  4. I love entertaining and glad you posted your tips on the subject. Thanks for sharing a stress-free entertaining post, Sommer.

    ps: Just spotted your little guy peaking over the fruit bowl :D

  5. I love entertaining and your tips were spot-on. Such a great list! And I can totally sympathize with the kitchen remodel. We’re about to move into our house…and we have quite a few projects ahead. Thank you for sharing!

  6. I think the “don’t over do it” part is really key. I do my best to make dishes that aren’t too complicated and that use bright, seasonal ingredients. Great tips!

  7. Great one Sommer! Love to see more of these

  8. I need some menu ideas for a dinner party. II’m scared to death, about hosting one, but we have some recently new friends, and they have had us over for dinner several times, plus have recently helped us with renovating our house. I really feel I need to return the favor. I have dead cow in the freezer with an abunance of roasts. I was thinking a nice beef/veggie stew with fresh potatoe rolls, but I’d love to hear other ideas. Everyone tends to bring something to share, so I figured I’d ask guest to bring dessert or appitizers.

  9. Great tips- I need them! I am the reluctant entertainer and am having some neighbors here tomorrow night for appetizers. I am trying to pull together a crostini bar of sorts but wish I was more at ease with entertaining.

  10. I feel your home renovation ‘pain’. ;-) Inconvenient, but will all so be worth it! I’ll be following your tips when our kitchen is done too!

  11. I want to come to your house for a dinner party! Your kitchen may be in a state of chaos right now, but I’ll bet it’s going to be gorgeous when it’s finished! By the way, I see your cute little guy peeking over the fruit bowl. :)

  12. Great post!! Oh my gosh girl, you are going to be so glad to get back in the kitchen!

  13. Great tips, Sommer! i love planning dinner parties and I love your tips. I usually end up stressing too much about the actual menu!

  14. Great tips! Spring is my favorite time of year and it is a great time o host a party.

  15. Excellent ideas! I like to mix make-ahead items with store-bought food. When I first started hosting dinner parties, I thought I had to make everything from scratch. It drove me crazy! Now I know better :)

  16. Great tips, Sommer! I agree about as much make-ahead as possible to keep things stress-free!

  17. How did you know I needed this advice?

    We’re planning Daisy’s 2nd bday party and I think I’ve got everything in order, but as the day gets closer, I may possibly be started to stress out!

    I’ll keep you in mind, though, w a kitchen remodel in progress.
    What a rockstar you are. Party on!

  18. What great ideas! Your table settings are so simple, yet so pretty!

  19. Great tips, Sommer! I think labeling the dishes with Post-Its is especially smart – I do that now and it keeps me from getting totally frazzled and confused!

  20. The remodel looks exciting + stressful ;) LOVE the dinner party ideas!

  21. love all your white plates and beautiful linens! great tips!

  22. Can’t wait to see your kitchen.

    So, the table is set … can we set a date? :)

    Love ya!

  23. Great casual entertaining ideas, Sommer! My favorite tip for this time of year… neutral placemats and mixed colorful napkins. Without really trying, the overall look would feel coordinated. Thank you!

  24. great tips and such fun ideas!!

  25. Great tips Sommer. Can’t wait to see your big reveal!

  26. adorable table!! I always do the post it notes on the platters- good tip!

  27. What a fun post Sommer! Great ideas here, love!!!

  28. I’m really hoping to add a little elegance to our family dinner this weekend so these ideas will come in handy. Thanks!

  29. Such great tips! Ha, ever since beginning to blog and thus collecting a million white dishes, I always love pulling them out for entertaining. An easy and eclectic way to match, and they always make food look great.

    Those spring flowers look absolutely beautiful too!