DIY Dinner Party Ideas

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These DIY dinner party ideas are from notes I’ve collected over the past 40 years.

Yep, I have a party file!

Some of my notes I turned into…


DIY dinner party ideas

I made *free* party printables just for you.  A party checklist, place cards and “thankful” questions to get the conversation going!  Check the bottom of the post for the party image and click on it to get your download sent to your email.

Plan the party

Plan the table setting and centerpiece weeks before the party.  Then plan the food.  The more guests the simpler the table.   The more guests the more times I set food on a buffet table.

Plan the food.  If serving a large meal, keep the hors d’oeuvres and desserts simple.  If serving a simple meal, serve hearty hors d’oeuvres and extra desserts.  Oh, and make enough.

Serving home-style sparks conversation.  Set food on a buffet or move a narrow table close.  Then pass food around the table.

Setting up a buffet table gets people moving.  Pretend to walk through the buffet.  You can see where best to set stuff.  Remember to leave room to set the plate down so guests can butter their bread!

Serve a signature cocktail.  Or have ingredients, glasses, barware, and recipes out for guests to make their own.  Serve non-alcoholic drinks too.

Plan to have a lighter dessert option for those watching sweets.  A bowl of fresh fruit works and is decorative too.

Party simple and on your budget.

Make and send invitations through the mail.  People love to get mail in these text and email times.

Decorate the Party

With all the adorable DIY place card ideas it’s fun to add to the table.  People like them.  Plus if you have a plan or vision in mind they help set people where you want.  Write the name on both sides of the card.  A great tip if guests don’t know each other.

Create a music list to play.

Make DIY party favors for guests.  A few ideas for favors:

succulents in small clay pots
small candies tied up in a bag
cookies in handmade envelopes
small scented candles
bath salts in a jar


If you only have dish sets for 4 and have 8 guests coming.  Try this tip.  Set every other setting with a large plate from one set.  Then set the large plate from the other set.  Mix the smaller plates on top.  Above notice, I even mixed the silverware and glasses.   It’s okay to crowd guests a bit. It increases interaction. 🙂

Check your lighting a few days ahead of the party during the times of the party.  Add light where needed.


Collect vintage white napkins to use for dinner parties.  Another inexpensive no sew idea for napkins; buy a couple of yards of white open weave fabric.  Cut into squares and fray the edges.

Day of the party

Stack guest napkins for drying hands in the bathroom with a liquid soap dispenser.  Replace any half use rolls of toilet paper with full rolls.  Stash the half use rolls in a cabinet.

Plan to serve the main meal 30 to 45 minutes from the party time.  This gives guests time for mingling and casual conversation.  While saving the real conversation around the table.

Set up a drink station away from the kitchen.  If guests arrive early this keeps they busy on their own.  You can finish details in the kitchen.

If you’re running late, hide dirty pans filled with cooking utensils.  You can deal with washing them after the party.  I hid pans in the garage once….or twice!

Set bowls of easy to nibble nuts, olives or simple hors d’oeuvres around the living room.  Let’s those that are hungry nibble until you’re ready.

Have the coffee ready to make.

As guests arrive

Allow help.  It took awhile for me to learn this one.  Now I set aside small last minute tasks for helpers.

Be ready, but don’t seem to ready.

Take photos and if you are brave, had a bowl for cell phones.

Introduce guests that may not know each other.  Add a tidbit about the person.

During the party

Never plan on doing the dishes until after guests leave.  Clear dishes under one condition. If you plan to serve dessert at the table.  Clearing dishes is a sign the party of over.  Leave glasses if the conversation is still going strong.

I serve dessert where the guests are.  If they are mingling at the table, I serve it there.  If they move to the living room…three steps away, I serve it in the living room.  Many times I find them on the porch, so dessert on the porch is perfect.

Buy small cute containers that fit the desserts.  Many times guests are too full but offer a dessert doggie bag and they will take it every time!


My Party Disasters

Earlier this year I invited several ladies over for a luncheon.  It was to be a fun casual summer Saturday afternoon.  I picked a busy summer weekend…because only one shown.  Yep, just one!  But we had a blast anyway!

One Thanksgiving I created a dried flower arrangement full of fall color.  Then placed two tall candles on each side.  Luck to have it, it took awhile for the candles to burn down.  As I cleared the dishes, the centerpiece…caught on fire.

And then there was the time I forgot to add the greens to the sandwiches.  We ate sprouts on everything afterward.

I’ve learned when disaster strikes, laugh.  Friends and family will tease you about it for years.  How do you tell if a party was successful?

The host had fun. “D

Remember Mary Tyler Moore’s dinner parties?


Click above to have the download sent to your email!

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  1. Hi Jeanette,
    Thank you so much for this. This is definitely useful to me and my wife. However, can you help me out with the printables? I tried going to the link and it doesn’t work. Thank you.

    1. Hi, James, the link seems to be working. What type of device are you using? It is set to work on mobile phones too!

  2. Great advice and love how you tell about your disasters as well! All we can do is laugh and continue on, lol.

    1. I’m so sorry Linda! I made a party image to click and get the download. But I added it along the bottom of the post. I just realized it doesn’t stand out much. Check again for me. I made it stand out a bit more. Thanks.

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