Formal Dinner Party Tips

Fork And Spoon Circle Dinner Invite

We all love spending time with friends and family at a dinner party. But being the host of a formal dinner party can come with the pressure of standing up to your guests’ expectations of delicious food and great times. A formal dinner party is an ideal opportunity to share the comfort of your home with others, as well as the perfect stage for introducing new people into your circle of friends. Set the stage with irresistible dinner party invitations. Then with good company, good food, and good wine you’ll have all the makings of a perfect evening. Here are some tips to help you plan your formal dinner party.

Formal Dinner Party
Formal dinner party invitation by PurpleTrail.

Deciding Your Party Budget

Organizing a proper budget for your formal dinner party is a must. You should keep in mind the amount that will be spent on food and beverages such as wine or liquor, as well as any party supplies which you may require. Remember that the most expensive brands of food aren’t necessarily the best, so skip on fancy packaging and go for casual stuff. Even the smallest dinner parties can be elegant affairs if the right amount of care and attention is paid during the planning stages.

Clear Pre-planning For The Party

Dinner parties can be relaxed gatherings or formal dressed affairs. Whether you’re planning a formal or casual party, you’ll need to decide on who to invite, the menu of the party, and your budget. Here are few questions you need to answer before sending out your party invitations:

  • How many guests are coming? For a formal dinner party the best idea is to invite 8 to 10 guests, so that you are able to give special attention to each one of them. Guests absolutely make a dinner party. Inviting the wrong ones can be a nightmare. The aim is to have a group that mixes well together, or at least does not offend or embarrass one another.
  • What are you planning to serve for the menu? This is one of the first things that you should decide. The menu should be special. A good hostess always keeps their guests in mind while planing the menu. If you know of anyone who has a food allergy or is on a special diet, you’ll need to keep him or her in mind as well.
Formal Dinner Party
Dinner invitation by PurpleTrail.
  • Before hand kitchen preparations: Any good dinner party requires preparation and proper planning. The best way to plan is to have an action list of what is going to happen and the order in which it will be served. Try and choose dishes which allow you to do some kind of pre-preparation so that you are not spending too much time in the kitchen during the party.
  • What will be the method of service? Be clear about the food serving method at your party. You will want to inform your guests if they will be served at the table or you will have a buffet style dinner. Keep in mind that a sit down dinner is more formal than a buffet, so think about the mood you want to create.

Formal Dinner Party Invitations & RSVP

Once the pre-planning is done and you are prepared with the list of guests you want to invite, you are ready for the invitations. For a formal party the best way to invite your guests is by sending out formal dinner invitations a couple of weeks in advance. If you’re sending out online invites, select a formal dinner theme and customize it by including date, time, your address, and contact information. Explain the event, as the guests need to know exactly what you’re inviting them to and what the purpose of the gathering is. Decide ahead of time what you will say to guests who ask what to bring when they RSVP. “Bring yourself!” is a standard answer. Lastly, request a response so that you will know how many people are attending.

Party Food & Drinks

As this is a formal party, you should plan an elaborate menu and use dinnerware. In general you should plan to serve 2 to 3 appetizers, salad, a main course and 2 side dishes or vegetables. To finish the dinner, be sure to offer a delicious dessert. It is also a good idea to have several beverage choices available throughout the evening. Remember that a formal dinner party is not the time to try out a new or challenging recipe. A week or two before the party, do some general cleaning. If there are any dishes you can cook ahead and freeze, now is the time. Another excellent idea is to prepare cold appetizers and desserts so that they are not taking up precious oven space.

Formal Dinner Party
Formal dinner invitation by PurpleTrail.

As for drinks, it is always important to have great wine, or spirit to go along with your dinner menu. In the hour before your gathering, set out non-perishable drinks and beverages and take care of any last minute cooking. Put out the ice bucket and remaining perishables just before your guests arrive. If you choose to play music, turn it on at this time. Remember to play a wide variety to keep everyone happy. For added ambiance you can light a few candles. After the meal be sure to offer mints and a nice liqueur or dessert wine. Coffee is also excellent with dessert and will help give finality to the meal.

Dinner Table Settings

Set your dining table with your best linen, china, and silverware. Formal dinner parties are among the few opportunities we have to treat our guests to a complete dining experience. You could set your table a day in advance or the night before the dinner, as this will give you enough time to attend to other finer details before the guests start arriving.

  • The first thing that comes to mind is seating arrangements. Dont be afraid to break up the regulars and mix them in with the new people. To make it easier you might want to consider putting name slips on the table so that when the guests arrive there will be less confusion.
  • When coordinating the tablecloth, napkins, and place mats try not to have too many conflicting patterns or colors.
  • Set your table in an uncomplicated manner. Simple fresh flowers as a center-piece look wonderful. However, remember to keep the height of the flowers low enough to enable your guests to see each other over them. Candles also work well, but be sure to use unscented ones so that they do not mix with the smell of your delicious dinner.
  • Silverware that is used first should be the furthest away from the dinner plate so that your guests will be using their flatware from the outside and work towards the plate.
  • To give everything a very tidy look, place the silverware one inch in from the edge of the table. Plain white napkins always look elegant, but make sure they are stain free and neatly pressed.

Dinner Party Games & Activities

At a formal party the best way to keep your guests entertained is by arranging for some simple games. Even a formal dinner party can use games. Try putting winning tags on the bottoms of certain plates, so that the person with that plate receives a prize. Another option may be to have random drawings and door prizes. Even something as simple as two truths and a lie over dessert can be a fun way to learn new things about your guests. Keeping your guests engaged during the party will surely make your dinner more of a success.

formal dinner party
Heart shaped formal dinner party invitation by PurpleTrail.

Dinner Party Gifts

If you are the guest to a formal dinner party, it is always nice to bring along a special gift for the host. Flowers and candies are always good options. As the host of a dinner party, it is often nice to give gifts for the guests to take home as well. This is especially true if you are hosting a corporate dinner party.

Dinner Party Shopping List

One week prior to the party, after receiving all the RSVPs, you should begin shopping according to your plan of action. If you plan to hang decorations, you can purchase them in advance. Buy any food items that can be bought in advance and stored. If you have fewer things to do on the day of the party, you will have less stress.

Keep your hospitality simple and not too ostentatious – your success as a hostess does not depend on how expensive the food served is, so don’t try to be too formal and elaborate. Don’t forget to keep your animals and kids away from your dining area. Of course, put away the clutter from the area where you are going to eat, vacuum and make sure the room smells nice. Everybody loves a dinner party and they are excellent times to get your friends or family together to reconnect and celebrate. (Read More on Quick Recipes & Easy Party Food Ideas)

Be a great host and don’t forget to have fun!

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