Everyone loves a dinner party. From your neighbor whose whole personality is making a cheese board, to your friend who just grabs some grocery store cookies on the way, a dinner party is the perfect get-together that combines elegance and playfulness.
But the truth is that if it’s your turn to host, it can be tricky to plan everything from the invite list to the table settings.
While you might be more focused on mastering your mom’s mashed potatoes or that trending ricotta or cottage cheese recipe, one of the most important parts of any dinner party is the ambiance (though we do love the food, too).
We’ve put together eight dinner party ideas to set the mood so that you and your guests can kick back, relax, and ask overly personal questions all night long.
8 Ways To Set the Mood for a Dinner Party
If you want to pull off the perfect dinner party, you need to think beyond the menu. After all, your guests might remember the delicious green beans, but they’re even more likely to remember the conversations that sparked across the table.
Ambiance and atmosphere can enhance your dinner party and take it to the next level – but it’s not always easy to reimagine the space you’re used to living in every day.
We’ve got you covered with eight easy ways to transform your home or apartment into a swanky spot for your next dinner party, whether it’s a last-minute weeknight get-together or a special occasion celebration.
1. Set the Mood With a Scented Candle
The scent of your best tomato sauce or that random mix of cumin and paprika you threw on the chicken doesn’t have to be the only smell filling the room. If you’re trying to set the mood for your dinner party, start with a scented candle.
Snif’s Way With Woods is the perfect addition to a dinner party table. Combining warm and cozy amber woods with white tea, mandarin, sandalwood, and musk, this inviting scent will welcome your guests in and make them feel at home right away.
2. Let Natural Light Into the Room
Another easy way to make sure the vibe is just right for your dinner party is to let natural light in.
Even if you can’t host your dinner guests at a romantic Italian villa, you can still let them soak in that golden hour glow. If possible, try timing your dinner party to have your guests arrive before sunset so the night feels long and cozy as the sun goes down during appetizers.
3. Turn on the Tunes
Everyone loves music, and a track that transports your guests back in time or to a specific memory can help you craft the perfect setting. If you have a record player, spinning a record is a great way to set the tone and make your dinner feel even classier.
If you’re restricted to a Bluetooth speaker, though, not to fear — you can easily find pre-made dinner playlists that create the same vibe.
Picking music that is inspired by the food you’re serving is another way to go all out. If you’re serving goat cheese and roasted chicken, Edith Piaf or Charles Trenet are two iconic French artists your guests will recognize, making them the perfect fit for a classic, old-school meal. If you decide to make decked-out tacos for your guests, put on your favorite Latin music.
You can even opt for the “Nancy Meyers’ Kitchen” playlist to harness your inner hosting goddess energy. After all, her iconic movie sets are the ultimate hosting kitchens, and artists like Leon Bridges and Frank Sinatra mean this playlist has everything you need to make your next dinner party a hit.
Regardless of if you’re serving filet or chicken pot pie, music can take your dinner party to a new level if you choose properly.
4. Dim the Lights
In case you haven’t noticed, we think light is really important when it comes to pulling off the perfect dinner party. Don’t be afraid to dim the lights once you bring out the main course to encourage your guests to relax and focus on the food, whether you’re serving parmesan-toppedrisotto or butternut squash soup.
Dimming the lights will allow your friends and family to sink into the comfort of your home. We promise it’s an easy trick that will make all the difference.
Don’t forget the candles! Setting the table with a few candlesticks or your favorite scented candle will help you achieve a beautiful glow in the room.
5. Serve Aesthetic Appetizers
Another way to take your dinner party to the next level is to serve aesthetically pleasing appetizers. When you invite friends over for a dinner party, they’re obviously expecting dinner. Even if you have an easy dinner planned, you can always wow your guests with a round of appetizers.
When selecting appetizers, remember that everyone loves a variety from sweet to spicy to crispy. You can try something special like pan-roasted chorizo or a tasty filled puff pastry. If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of another course, remember that sometimes the best appetizers are classics.
You can always serve bite-size meatballs or simple sheet panveggies with a dip. These are classic apps, and they’re sure to be crowd-pleasers.
6. Set the Table Beforehand
Another tip for hosting a seamless at-home soirée is to set the table before your guests arrive. You’ll be less stressed, and your guests will be impressed when they walk in and see a beautiful table already laid out.
Setting the table beforehand will also free up your time at the beginning of a dinner party to welcome your guests and pour them a glass of red or white wine.
But don’t worry about having to go out and buy a centerpiece. Some of the best table decorations are items you already have, like your favorite candles, the extra books on your shelves, or the colorful bowls you keep hidden in the cabinet. Have fun and be creative to design a table aesthetic that feels right for you and your guests.
7. Pick the Right Dishware
To add a little class to your dinner party, you can use matching dishware if you want more of an eclectic look, you can also mix and match your dishes with different patterns across the plates, bowls, and cups.
You can also amplify your ambiance by having a variety of side dishes ready in dishware that is coordinated with the table setting. There’s something aesthetically satisfying about adding a drizzle of olive oil to a fresh focaccia that matches the plate the main dish is served on.
8. Spritz Your Favorite Fragrance
When you throw a dinner party, the smell from the kitchen will likely spill out into the rest of the house. Still, amidst the smell of baking sweet potato or freshly uncorked red wine, you can spritz a little bit of your favorite fragrance to make the evening feel even more luxurious.
A subtle scent like Sweet Ash will add an earthy undertone to your table that is sure to make your guests feel relaxed and at ease. On the other hand, a peppery scent like Salty Stares will add a refreshing layer to the scents at your table.
Set the Mood for an Unforgettable Dinner Party
So much goes into throwing an unforgettable dinner party.
Hours of searching through easy dinner party recipes, trying to decide between lasagna and pesto pasta, and figuring out what you can prep ahead of time versus what needs to be done on the spot. If you’re focused on the food, use these simple tips to set the mood and take your next dinner party to the next level. We’ll be on the lookout for the invite.