How to design the perfect dinner party

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I love a relaxed kitchen supper with friends but sometimes I like to spoil my guests a little and throw a ‘proper’ dinner party and so recently I threw a Burn’s Night Supper in the dining room. When I throw a dinner party, I design it in the same way I design an interior. I have a concept and I aim to create an experience. Paying attention to the details, just as I do for my interiors, ensures that my guests are excited to be invited, feel thoroughly spoiled when there and they are still raving about it for sometime afterwards. In short I treat them to my very own brand of lived-in luxe, heres how I design the perfect dinner party

The Guest List

Choosing the right mix of guests is definitely a key part of ensuring dinner party success. Ideally I choose people who either all know each other well or an even mix of some who do and some who don’t. Its can be difficult to find yourself amongst a bunch of people who are all big buddies but less overwhelming if there are one or two others who also don’t know everyone. Equally it’s important to give some thought to whether they are a group of people who will get along and find similar interests and may benefit from being introduced.

Burns night supper table decor

Creating a theme

My Burns Night Supper party was obviously a very definite theme and so there were plenty of nods to tartan, thistles, whisky and Haggis. However there are times when I’m not throwing the dinner to celebrate a specific event but I always have in mind a theme as this gives me a starting point on which to build the table decor, menu, drinks etc..Having a theme, just as in a room scheme means there is a thread that runs through the evening in terms of colours and styling, this creates flow and an elegant feel.  I find it is usually the season that inspires my theme and I will use the colours of seasonal flowers as a starting point. Once I have a theme in mind I find the ideas for table decor, food and drinks etc..naturally flow.

A sense of occasion

I want my guests to be excited to be attending and so I like to create a sense of occasion by sending a invitation either via email, try paperless post, or even more special, a written invitation sent by post. Who doesn’t love to receive a lovely card in the post. When I receive a card invite to an event, it sits, pride of place on the kitchen mantle, rather than being a date buried on my iphone somewhere and a sense of anticipation emerges as the date draws nearer.

It also gives me an opportunity to give all the details for the timings etc and I have learnt that giving a dress code is important also because the invite definitely does create that sense of occasion and I don’t want my guests to agonise and stress over what to wear or arrive feeling under or over dressed, not a good start!

Burns Night supper invitation

Setting the scene

Once I have my theme I get to work on setting the scene. Designing  perfect dinner party is all about creating an experience, ambiance is achieved by attention to detail and stimulating all the five senses of sight, smell, taste and touch.

cocktail bar cart

Making an Entrance

Making sure the entrance looks inviting is the first thing I look at. Plants around the door, prettily lit by lights and/or lanterns and gorgeous scented candles in the hallway, make for a warm and inviting start to the evening, my favourite candles are Cire Trudon

Following swiftly into the sitting room, where the fire is lit and gorgeous drinks or cocktails are served along with delicious canapés. Good chilled champagne served in beautiful long elegant flutes or maybe in a cheeky vintage saucer, is my favourite. All wonderfully displayed on an elegant bar cart.

The playlist

I head to Spotify for a ready to go dinner party playlist to suit all tastes



The Menu

More often than not, the season will dictate my menus, but if I can think of other little things that add a touch of novelty I will. For example I once used Valentines as inspiration and so included chocolate cocktails for the ladies and chocolate puddings for the gents. Everyone ended up sharing a bit of both, which was the intention, it was fun and relaxed whilst at the same time quite decadent.


Burns night supper menu
Burns Night supper table decor

If I’m entertaining more formally in the dining room which will normally involve more than 6-8 guests, I will usually hire a private chef Leith’s list, is my go to resource for this . This is not as expensive as some might think, depending on what food you choose. I enjoy cooking for more informal kitchen suppers but frankly running in and out all evening with drinks and plates is just hard work and if I am making an occasion of the evening I want to be relaxed and enjoy my guests and the evening also. The guests also come to see you, they don’t want you in the kitchen all evening and frazzled.

The table plan

I always do a table plan and set little place names down at each setting. I do this for two reasons; one to ensure everyone is well mixed and two, because I find guests prefer it, they will often feel awkward and are not sure where they should go when faced with a large set table. I usually arrange boy-girl if possible to make it easier and I place couples apart. I will often ask the men to move around following each course, this usually goes down quite well as everyone gets to chat to everyone and it keeps the conversation moving and fresh.

Effortless hospitality

Scented candles flicker, the fire is gently crackling, everyone is smiling and looking stunning in the gentle light glow. All the hard work can now be enjoyed. The best dinner parties are elegant but with just the right amount of relaxed to keep them from being stuffy. The art is for the whole evening to flow as if effortlessly and to make that happen a whole lot of planning and attention to detail needs to go in to designing the night. The  most essential ingredient of all though are my guests, essentially I really care that they feel thoroughly spoiled and I really want them to have an amazing experience. Attending to all the small details to make that happen means that my guests really feel I have thought about them and will hopefully leave with the underlying memory of my care and hospitality even if something doesn’t quite go according to plan.

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