You’re getting a little bit older now, and understandably, you want to throw a classier party than the keggers you used to throw. As an adult, it feels like your number one option is to throw a dinner party!

But, how do you host a dinner party for the modern age? Well, we have broken down the steps for planning a dinner party into multiple stages and included wine pairings along the way!


How to Plan a Dinner Party


Invite your guests *at least* two weeks before.

Make sure you invite the right mix of people as well; you wouldn’t necessarily want to invite all strangers or people YOU KNOW won’t get along. As host, don’t shoot yourself in the foot before the dinner party even starts!


Plan your menu ahead of time.

Don’t be caught the day before the party without knowing what you’re serving, it will be a mad scramble to get ready – and you WILL forget something. Planning ahead also lets you plan ahead for dietary preferences or allergies. Don’t serve your vegan friends’ steak, and don’t put out a fried cheese dish for your lactose-intolerant friends (you’ll regret it).


What Do You Serve at a Dinner Party?

  • Appetizers: Various charcuterie (cheese, meats, veggies, pickles, olives, crackers), chips, bite-sized hor d’oeuvres
  • Entrees: Lamb chops, beef tenderloin, pork loin, chicken, fish, vegan substitutions
  • Salads: Goat cheese salad, Caesar, etc.
  • Desserts: Pastries, pudding, fruit, etc.


Tidy/clean your house.

Your guests’ first impression of your dinner party will be as soon as they walk in the front door. Make sure you’ve put away all clutter, cleaned your floors, shelves, etc. and that your home looks warm and welcoming.


Make a playlist.

Make a playlist that will last a few hours into the evening, ensuring that there is always some ambience and background noise. Just don’t play it too loud.


Dinner Party Checklist
How to Host a Successful Dinner Party


Place all of your ingredients out on the counter two hours before guests arrive.

There’s nothing worse than starting to cook your meal and realizing that you don’t have everything you need. Give yourself a little leeway in case you need to run out and grab a ginger root.


Start cooking before your guests arrive.

Dinner doesn’t need to be ready for when your guests arrive, but they shouldn’t be waiting too long.


What Time Should a Dinner Party Start?

It depends on a few factors, such as everyone’s schedules, the ages of your guests, what commute times are and more, but generally speaking, you should start a dinner party somewhere after 6p.m. and before 9p.m. The sweet spot in our eyes is asking guests to show up around 7p.m., and then plan to eat dinner for 8p.m. That keeps the night moving at a decent pace while still giving everyone time to relax and enjoy the dinner!


Appetizer Wine: Pre-Dinner Wine Pairingchardonnay-dinnerparty

Serve your guests a light-bodied wine. Try something fresh and crisp, like a chilled Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. The freshness of these white wines will uplift your guests’ appetites and prepare them for the main course.

JustWine Recommendation: Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay. This crisp and acidic white wine is the perfect way to kick off your dinner party and prepare your guests’ palates for the meal ahead.


Be willing to accept help, but don’t rely on your guests too much.

If they ask if they can bring anything – let them know! Keep those requests limited to smaller items, however. Such as crackers for the charcuterie, or a bottle of wine for later.


Make your guests feel comfortable.

Try to be relaxed as you welcome your guests into your home! Once again relying on the magic of The Office, don’t do this.

Dinner Wine Pairing

Wondering what wine you should drink during dinner? Well, this completely depends on what you served. Don’t worry though, we’ll give you an option for each type of meal!

For seafood and poultry, try a Pinot Blanclakebreeze-whitewine-dinnerparty

JustWine Recommendation: Lake Breeze Vineyards Pinot Blanc. A crisp and fruity white wine, this Pinot Blanc is the perfect combination of freshness and citrus sweetness, making it versatile enough to be used for almost any meal!


For red meat, try a dry red wine like a Cabernet Sauvignoncabsav-redwine-dinnerparty-redmeat

JustWine Recommendation: Bodega Catena Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon. A full-bodied and rich red wine experience, this Cab Sav combines cedar undertones and berry flavours to create an elegant wine perfect for a dinner party!


For a vegan meal with flavours from nightshades, herbs, root vegetables, beans or nuts, try a medium-bodied Roséfrance-rose-wine-dinnerparty-vegan

JustWine Recommendation: Arnoux Et Fils P’Tit Clocer Rosé. The flavours within vegan dishes are quite delicious and complex. This Rosé wine is the perfect match and is made to be crisp and light on the palate – and it should go with everything!



If you’re serving multiple dishes at your dinner party, choose a wine that can easily complement all your dishes. For a closer look at pairing wine and food, check out our food and wine pairing guides.


How long should you leave between courses at a dinner party?

It’s recommended that you wait 30-45 minutes in between courses at a dinner party to ensure your guest have enough time to let their food settle and build up an appetite for the next dish or meal.

Use the nice stuff.

We’re talking nice everything. Use cloth napkins, and please make sure that your cutlery and dinner-ware all matches. Incorporate high-quality ingredients and wines into your menu.


Tips for Serving Wine at Your Dinner Party

  • Work your way from light to full-bodied
  • White wine and Rosé before red wines
  • Drink more acidic wines before moving onto sweeter fortified (dessert) wines


Serve a light dessert.

Based on your menu, decide on a dessert. If you’ve had a very rich meal with red meat, consider the pairing of food and wine with your dessert, and maybe consider something with a dark chocolate flavour! With poultry or fish, perhaps a dessert dish with a lemony or fruit-oriented flavour. Check out our wine and dessert pairing guides for more ideas.

Image source: FTD



Dessert Wine: Wine Pairing for After Dinnerport-dessert-wine-dinnerparty

Once you’ve finished dessert, everyone is likely to be very relaxed and very full. Finish the evening by serving your guests a glass of Port wine, which is a rich and sweet dessert wine – perfect for a nightcap.

JustWine Recommendation: Gould Campbell Vintage Port. The fruity aroma and chocolate and cedar flavours add to this Port’s reputation as an after-dinner drink, and this vintage Port could perfectly pair with dessert!





After Your Dinner Party


Start to clean up before you go to bed.

Do your future self a favour, and start a few of the dishes, let the bigger things soak and tidy up a bit. You’ll thank yourself the next day, especially if you are having a few glasses of wine with your guests.


Send thank-you notes to your guests.

A text or phone call should suffice! Writing formal thank you notes for your first dinner party isn’t required.


Post-Dinner Party Wine Pairing dinnerparty-redwine-gift

Chances are, your guests will have brought wine to thank you for hosting the dinner party at your home. And most likely, this wine is a Malbec! Malbec is the safest choice for guests to bring to a dinner party – everyone likes it! Search more Malbecs here!

JustWine Recommendation (should you receive it): West Cape Howe Malbec. A Malbec such as this is perfect for any occasion, whether you’re having a quiet glass of wine to yourself, sharing a pour-over a romantic dinner or saving the bottle for your next dinner party!



Looking for more wine and dinner articles? Check these out:

The Ultimate Guide to Pairing Wine With Any Type of Food
6 Easy Wine Foil Packet Recipes Perfect for Quick Dinners
10 Wine Grilling Recipes Perfect for a Quick and Easy Dinner