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6 Tips to Plan a Casual Dinner Party

Here are 5 tips for planning a casual dinner party without stress. The most important thing about hosting a dinner party is that you have fun as well. We love entertaining with our family and friends here at the Ponds.

The thoughts of planning, cooking, and entertaining everyone can be daunting.

So here are some of the things I’ve learned that help me relax and enjoy the party itself.

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1 – Location For Casual Dining

The first tip is to decide where you want to host your party. Will it be inside or outside? This will determine how many people you can invite.

We enjoy entertaining around our outdoor kitchen, which features a large area for tables, a fire pit, and an outdoor bar. We recently added string lighting and couldn’t wait to see how it worked. You can see more about the lighting here.

Alfresco dining should be casual and relaxed. The food is prepared on the grill, and the evening ends with everyone bundled around the fire pit.

If you are planning an indoor party, you can set up food in various areas of your home to keep guests moving around. Or, you may plan a casual sit-down meal. Either plan works well as long as you keep everything stress-free.

String lights around the outdoor kitchen for a casual dinner party

2 – Set the Date

The second tip is to set a date that will work with your location. If you are planning your casual dinner party to be held inside, the date isn’t nearly as important.

However, an outdoor event requires a little thought. We decided to have a Welcome to Fall dinner party because we knew the temperatures would be somewhat cooler, and we wanted our guests to be comfortable.

When planning an outdoor dinner party, you need a plan B.

3 – Plan For The Unexpected

Unexpected weather conditions should be considered. Do you have adequate shelter in the event of a storm or a drop in temperatures? Can the party be moved inside?

The temperatures dropped more drastically than anticipated for our Welcome to Fall Dinner Party. Thankfully, some outdoor space heaters and a fire in the fire pit kept everyone comfortable.

Another consideration for an outdoor event is the possibility of rain. We had planned to move the tables to the porch for such an event. It’s better to be prepared ahead of time than to suddenly crowd everyone inside your home. Yikes!!!

Casual outdoor dinner party around the fire pit.

4 – Guest List and Invites for a Casual Dinner Party

The third tip is to plan your guest list. Things to consider when planning your guest list will include your location and how many people it will accommodate. In addition, I like to make a list and keep a record of who I’ve invited and who plans to attend. For a small dinner party, this may be unnecessary, but I tend to forget who said they were coming and who declined. I may have a problem. LOL

Keep a guest list

Insider Tip – Invitatations

For a casual dinner party, it’s not necessary to mail written invitations. Consider these options.

  • Email
  • Text Messages
  • Phone Call
  • Digital Invitations such as

Whether you are mailing, emailing, or texting your invites, you should always include some details.

Be sure the guests know it’s a casual dinner party. Make recommendations for dresses such as jackets for a fall evening or cool clothing for a summer outdoor party.

If you are asking guests to bring items, be specific. You don’t want everyone showing up with a dessert.

5 – Casual Dinner Party Menu

The fourth tip for planning a casual dinner party is planning the menu. Several things should be considered during this process.

  • Are there any food allergies among your guest list?
  • Who’s going to prepare the food?
  • What is the cost involved?
  • How will the food be served?
  • Are you providing all the food?
  • Are you providing alcoholic beverages?
Set up for a casual dinner party with separate beverage station.

The bar area is set with wine glasses and a few extra bottles of wine. In addition, the outdoor refrigerator holds extra beverages just in case they are needed.

These are all decisions you need to work around.

Keep good records of guest list.

Budget Friendly Menu

We like to choose a menu that is affordable and easy to prepare ahead of time. As you may know, my husband loves to cook and grill, so that responsibility usually falls on him. In addition, I’m in charge of making it look good.

If neither of you likes to cook, purchasing food from an outside source is another great idea. I’ve purchased from restaurants and from friends or neighbors who do like to cook. Don’t feel you have to do all the work yourself.

Because this was a casual party and the guest list included some of our best friends, we planned the main menu. Our guests brought appetizers and desserts, and they also provided their own alcoholic beverages.

DIY Hand-painted table runner for casual outdoor dinner party

Here is the appetizer table. I provided the plates and napkins, but the guests filled the table with their delicious choices. If you don’t have an outdoor sink, be sure to provide hand santizer at the tables.

Insider Bonus Tip

My best tip when planning a casual dinner is to let your guest help. They don’t want to arrive empty -handed and they actually prefer to contribute. This method began with a supper club group many years ago, and the tradition continues today.

Ask your guests to bring a dish. Be sure to specify what type of dish you want them to bring. For this party, the guests provided their own beverages, and each one brought either an appetizer or dessert. We provided the rest of the menu.

6 – Keep a Record of Your Dinner Parties

The last tip is to keep a notebook with all your party details so you don’t forget. When planning our annual Christmas Party, it’s so important to refer back to previous years. Who was invited, who declined, how many people attended, and what was the menu? These are all important things to remember, and quite honestly, without my notes, I’d be lost.

I like to keep a notebook with all the plans before and after the party. If a food item is a flop, I don’t want to include it on next year’s menu.

Keep a record of party ideas, guest lists, menu's etc.

Our casual dinner party was a great success, and I feel our guests thought so as well. My husband and I were relaxed, and the food was great. The true mark of a successful party is when everyone has a great time, including the host and hostess.

Plan a casual dinner party ideas


Thanks so much for stopping by.

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6 tips for hosting a casual dinner party.


Tuesday 22nd of September 2020

These are great tips and I miss having parties so much! I love feeding my friends and family and I have been missing so many events I would normally have people over.


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Wednesday 23rd of September 2020

Cindy, I know how you feel. This was our first event this year. Rachel

Miche Ortega

Tuesday 22nd of September 2020

What a fun night. Thanks for all of the useful tips. I can't wait for the shrimp and grits recipe.

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Wednesday 23rd of September 2020

Miche, It's coming if I can ever get my husband still long enough to write it down. Rachel


Tuesday 22nd of September 2020

Looks like it was a really fun time Rachel🙋🏼‍♀️

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Wednesday 23rd of September 2020

Ann, It really was a lot of fun. Rachel

Kelly Radcliff

Monday 21st of September 2020

These are such great tips! I miss dinner parties so much...but you had so many great ideas to make it doable!

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Wednesday 23rd of September 2020

Kelly, I really appreciate this. thanks for stopping by. Rachel