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5 Tips to Plan a Casual Dinner Party

We love entertaining with our family and friends here at the Ponds. Unfortunately, we have not been able to host as many events here this year as normal. However, we did plan a small dinner party to be held outside, around our outdoor kitchen to Welcome Fall. We took extra precautions to assure everyone was safe and it was a roaring success.

Here are 5 tips to plan a casual dinner party and not be stressed out in the process. The most important thing about hosting a dinner party, is that you have fun as well.

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.


The first tip is to decide where you want to host your party! Will your party be inside or outside? This will determine how many people you can invite. Due to the current pandemic, we planned our dinner party outside around our outdoor kitchen.

We just recently added the string lighting and couldn’t wait to see how they worked. You can see more about the lighting here.

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.

An outside event requires a little thought. We decided to do a Welcome to Fall dinner party because we knew the temperatures would be somewhat cooler and our guest would be comfortable.

Plan for the unexpected

As it turned out, the temperatures dropped more drastically than anticipated and some outdoor space heaters and a fire in the fire pit kept everyone comfortable.

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

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Guest List 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

Casual Dinner Party Menu

The forth tip to planning a casual dinner party is planning the menu. There are several things to consider 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?

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.

A casual dinner party doesn’t have to be expensive.

We like to choose a menu that doesn’t break the bank and one that is 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 like 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 and our guests brought appetizers and desserts. In addition, they provided their own alcoholic beverages.

Here is the appetizer table. I provided the plates and napkins but the guest filled the table with their delicious choices. You can see how I hand painted and made these custom table runner’s here.

For more entertaining information, see How to Plan Girlfriend Time and How to Set a Brunch Table also.

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.

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 peopled 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 note book with all the before planning and all the after notes. If a food item was a flop, I want to remember and definitely, don’t want to include it on next years menu.

Our casual dinner party was a great success and I feel our guest 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 hosts.

To decorate for this Welcome to Fall party I used these Cheap Table Decor Ideas. In addition, I’ll also be sharing my husbands famous Shrimp & Grits recipe.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

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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