Come dine with me? Big year-end party? Or just a get-together? Once you start, you’ll soon realise that you need a little more than a few plates and some prosecco. Like any event, a dinner party needs thought and planning.
A well-planned dinner party is a wonderful thing though, and well worth the investment of time and effort.
We’ve been involved in thousands of parties over the past two decades and we’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the best party planners in the UK.
From weddings to awards dinners and everything in between; this experience puts us in the perfect position to help you plan your dinner party or celebration.
With that in mind, here’s our full to-do list and planning guide for your dinner party.
Here's Your Dinner Party To-Do List
First things first – what type of party is it?
Is it a small intimate dinner party for 10? Or a larger gathering for 30-40 people? Or maybe it’s a full-on dinner party for 200?
This is where you start as clearly this will determine your location. You’ll be able to decide if you’re hosting the party in your home, in the garden (with marquee and heating), or at a venue. The time of year will also factor in, too. No one really relishes the thought of a UK garden party in December…
Once you’ve decided on guest numbers and the type of party you’ll have, you’ll need to decide on your theme.
Even a small party needs a theme because it makes it so much easier to plan it all. Once you have a theme, you have a roadmap, a blueprint, and set of directions for your party. Maybe you’re going for a style from a part of the world, or a movie. What about superheroes or famous sporting events?
It might sound a bit daft, but even if you just opt for a simple theme it will help you with the drinks, food, colours, invitations, and so much more. Have a think about the party themes and maybe take a look here at our Pinterest boards for more inspiration.
Now you have a theme for your party, and you know your numbers and venue you can think about the main part of your dinner party – the dinner!
Catering for even just 20 people is a challenge and in these very ‘intolerant’ times for food, you need to give people the option of food that doesn’t make their stomach churn (literally).
That aside, you can go fairly wild on choices, just make sure you have an alternative if you have guests who can’t handle dairy, wheat, or gluten, or don’t eat meat/fish/animal products.
Your theme can set the menu too which is why we mentioned it above. If you’re having a salsa evening, then you can have a Spanish-style dinner. Going for the classic black tie? Maybe a classic meal would suit you better.
Matching the food to the style of the event adds a real wow factor and it isn’t difficult to do.
Following on from the food, the drinks for reception, dinner and after dinner can be matched to the theme and of course the food. Your reception drinks (even if just for 20 people) can really help the party go off with a bang.
James Bond style dinner party? Gotta be Martinis, right?
Black tie event? Champagne or prosessco would be perfect.
Going for a more ‘colourful’ party? Cocktails are back, and you can really match your theme with the cocktails on offer.
One thing to be sure of is that you have plenty of soft drinks and that you match the wine with the food. Some things are just better left done in the traditional way. Forcing unpopular drink choices on guests might not give you the vibe you’re after.
Now that you know which drinks you’ll be having, you can think about the glasses you’ll need for the event.
Areas to consider will be:
- Reception drinks
- Table wine and water
- Bar drinks
- A toast?
Hiring the right number of glasses for your event is important and we have some really helpful guides to get this right for you.
Find out how many glasses you need to hire for your event here, and then work out how much fizz you need for your toast here.
Crockery and cutlery
Call us old-fashioned, but the modern trend of eating off slabs of wood or slate doesn’t wash too well with us. We like a dinner party to have plates! If you too are that way inclined, then you’ll need to hire your plates and cutlery for your event.
Things to consider are:
- Three or two courses?
- Tea and coffee course?
- Canapés at the start?
- Cake or dessert later in the evening?
- Evening buffet?
- And what will you be eating? As this will determine the plates, crockery and cutlery that you’ll need to hire in.
Tea and coffee will need hot water. It needs a cup to pour it in, a spoon to stir, a saucer to sit on, and then a milk jug and sugar bowl too. Just having tea and coffee at the end of your meal adds to your list.
Start from the beginning of your event and list all the eating and refreshments you’ll have and then consider what needs to be hired to make that happen. Need help? Just ask us.
Great events are planned, and they run to time. If you’re focusing the dinner party around a meal, then clearly the timing is important. You can’t just eat when you fancy – it must be planned.
From the start of the party to the ‘sit down’ time, toast, dessert, dancing(?), and evening entertainment, it pays to get your itinerary nailed early and then work out if you can stick to it.
This might sound a little meticulous for a small dinner party, or over-zealous for a larger event, but creating a timing sheet with every single event within the event will help you spot problems and ways to resolve them before they happen.
You don’t have to look like Jo-Lo from the wedding planner with clipboard and head mic, but embodying your inner planner is encouraged!
What does the fun look like? What entertainment do you need? Think about all the elements of your party for this. If you’re having a small dinner party, then after dinner or table games can really add the laughter and good cheer to the end of the meal.
At a larger event you’ll be thinking about a band, DJ, and even items like photobooths, outside games, and table magic.
What does your theme involve? That’s a really good place to start.
We’ve mentioned a few areas of the catering equipment already but it’s worth noting that you may well need some of the below, even for a small dinner party.
Crockery – Plates, cups, saucers, milk jugs and bowls for the soup.
Cutlery – Knives, forks, spoons, and maybe a cake knife for the big moment.
Glasses – Reception, dinner, bar, and later night aperitifs.
Linen – Table cloths and matching napkins can add polish to even the most intimate of events.
Furniture – Tables, chairs, outside seating, or just a few extra stools. What does your event need?
Kitchen hire – even smaller events need a helping hand with some extra water boiling or plate warming. But for larger events you’ll need to consider extra ovens, heating, refrigeration and more.
Heating – Don’t skimp on the heating, even in the summer. It can suddenly get cold in the UK as the sun goes down on your party so look into some sensible heating if you’re considering a marquee or outside event.
Failing to plan is planning to fail…
Whatever your event, make sure you get a plan and to-do list in place. It’s amazing how much you’ll spot before it happens with a good, solid plan.
Being involved in events has taught us so much and one of the biggest lessons is that those who don’t plan are setting themselves up to fail.
The good news is – we can help!
Planning a small dinner party or large event for 1000s? We’re SafeHire Certified and experienced enough to ask you the right questions.
Tell us about your event and we’ll tell you what you need. It’s what makes us a favourite choice in Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, The Cotswolds and the West Midlands for so long.
Contact us now and we’ll give you a helping hand to help your event run so smoothly that you can enjoy it as much as your guests do.