Secrets Of A Perfect Dinner Party: From Party Themes To Decor And Entertainment Ideas

As lockdown eases down and we can gather our families and friends at our house once again, dinner parties are trending. Read on to learn about the past and future of traditional dinner parties and get inspired to arrange your own sophisticated soiree or elegant dinner.

What is a dinner party and where does the tradition come from?

The roots of the today's dinner party can be found in ancient Greece and Rome, where senators gathered to discuss the current affairs over a feast with numerous courses. The most famous dinner parties were thrown by emperors who created elaborate menus with live entertainment. Over time, dinner parties became more formal, with complicated etiquette around guest lists, dress code, serving food and entertaining guests.

Between 1500 – 1800, dinner parties were hosted in permanent dining rooms – a common feature in the houses of wealthy people. By the Victorian era, complex rules were established. For example, there were separate plates for every possible food, speciality glassware and different cutlery for every course, and strict seating charts to arrange guests around the table. Even the range of topics that could be discussed was defined. Being able to arrange such a complex dinner party was a sign of wealth and belonging to the upper classes.
In the late 19th century the dinner parties became more relaxed. Many more housewives from the middle classes could afford to host a glamorous dinner party in their homes. By the 1950s, dinner parties became one of the main forms of entertainment. Party hosts focused on selecting ideal guests and pairing them around the table to ensure everybody enjoyed lively and invigorating discussions.

In the era of the Millennials, the media proclaimed the death of dinner parties. Young adults often don't have money, time or space to arrange elaborate soirees. Instead, they opt for more casual gatherings with good friends. From a status event and an ideal of elegance and sophistication, dinner parties became simple gatherings. A potluck format of the party emerges: now guests are asked to bring their own food and beverages.

However, at Chaika Events, we believe that the elegant and sophisticated dinner parties of the past are relevant for the 21st century. That's why we're offering you some ideas and tips for planning a perfect dinner party to wow and amaze your guests.

How to host a dinner party

Come up with your party concept

Think of a theme for the party. Martha Stewart suggests getting inspired by the main course you choose. Arrange the whole evening around this theme, thinking through drinks choices, table decor, tableware and cutlery, and even background music to enhance the theme. For example, Martha suggests serving food in naan wraps instead of on traditional plates and arranging low seating with plenty of rugs and pillows.

We would also add some oriental home fragrances and aroma candles to set the right mood for the evening, and choose an Indian-themed playlist. For entertainment, we would choose Indian dancers or exotic acts, such as sword swallowing or snake charming. If it' a girls' night, why not to add on a mehendi parlour, where every guest can get a stylish Indian temporary tattoo?

Here are some other popular themes for a summer party in 2020:
Roaring 1920s
The Golden Age of Jazz suggests a Gatsby-styled party, possibly an all-time favourite. At our recent dinner party with a Gatsby theme, we styled the room with tall flower arrangements of blush pink and peach roses, added some elegant matching candles, and set the mood with live jazz music and a fine dinner served to guests at one of the most beautiful London hotels, The Lanesborough. However, we can re-create the same dazzling atmosphere at any other location, both indoors or outdoors.

Boho-chic Summer Party
Set this up in the garden or on the terrace with some tipi tents and low seating for children and rattan furniture and woven decorations for the lounge zone. You can swap out flower arrangements to compositions with pampas grass and dried maize stalks. Serve herbal cocktails, host a dream catcher-making workshop, and enjoy some light live music throughout the night.

Tropical Party
If you choose this theme, think bold colours, tropical flower and palm leaf arrangements, colourful cocktails, and ensure there are exotic fruits on the menu. For entertainment, we'd get a popular DJ and arrange a dance floor so guests can dance all night long. It's the perfect theme for a poolside party!

Capri Dinner
This sunny Italian island is famous for its citrus plantations and colourful majolica tiles. To arrange such a party, make dinner al fresco, decorate the table with fresh fruit, matching bright flower arrangements and funky glassware.

Summer Festival
If you are a big fan of outdoor summer festivals, which have all been cancelled or postponed this year, why not to host one in your own back garden? This party theme calls for street food, served from carts or food trucks, outdoor stage for the headliner of your choice, and improvised dance floor, decorated with colourful bunting and festoon lights. And don't forget about outdoor games and activities, such as crazy golf and bouncy castles, for the whole family!

Send Out The Invitations

The main rule here is to plan your party in advance, so your guests will be able to save the date for your celebration. We are keen on stylish paper invitations that you can hand over in person or put in the post. When we design these for our clients, we work with professional designers and illustrators, creating bespoke stationery to match the theme of the party. For our Italian wedding on Pantelleria, an illustrator depicted the key sights and themes of the two-day celebration and for the V&A birthday party, we asked a calligrapher to hand-write every invitation, to add a personal touch.

When choosing your invitation, bear in mind any other stationery you may need for the event, including place cards, seating plan, menus and Thank You cards. We start to design these at the same time to ensure that they all work together and enhance the event theme.

If you favour the eco-friendly approach, go with a digital invite. You can get just as creative, sending not only a picture, but an animation or a video, to your guests.
watercolour wedding invitation with Pantelleria island landscapes
watercolour wedding invitation with Pantelleria island landscapes
watercolour wedding invitation with Pantelleria island landscapes and Studio 54 party

Choose your food and drinks wisely

It's up to you whether you follow the best traditions of dinner parties from the 19th century with a full three-course dinner menu and experiment with fine dining or opt for a more simple, family-style dinner. In either case, check with your guests to cater for their allergies and other dietary requirements without difficulty. If you are not up for the cooking challenge yourself, we can always find the perfect private chef for your party. They will design a bespoke menu to cater for your tastes and create a unique dining experience where food is as important as decor and the entertainment programme.

When choosing drinks, try to think not only about a good wine selection but also about great aperitifs, digestifs and cocktails. Get inspiration from our previous blog about aperitifs and maybe select some natural wines we've explored with a sommelier in that post. And don't forget to have some non-alcohol options on-hand! Our professional mixologists and bartenders can create a bespoke cocktail menu for you and serve drinks during the evening.

Dress up your table

Table décor and setting always helps enhance the party theme and turn a casual gathering into a special occasion. Think through all the details from tablecloths or runner and napkin choices to tableware, glassware and cutlery, serving bowls and dishes and decorations, such as flower arrangements, candles and other centrepieces.

We love signature floral and abstract patterns on table linen from Liberty London and classy French designs by Alexandre Turpault. For boho vibes, perfect for summer parties, check out the selection of woven placemats and macramé table runners at Anthropology UK.

For classic tableware and glassware, check out the Signature collection at Villeroy & Boch or Wedgwood's Anthemion Blue collection. If you prefer original modern designs, look at designer tableware by Royal Doulton or The Conran Shop. For a more whimsical party setting, why not opt for Yvonne Ellen's collection of tableware with animal prints? And for glassware, you can't do better than the amazing selection of handmade wine glasses from Riedel or elegant crystal glassware from Waterford. We especially love their Diamond Martini glasses and Lismore Evolution Tumblers.
When it comes to floral decor, think out of the box. Should you choose seasonal blooms or an exotic composition with tropical flowers? It depends on your party theme: a pampas grass and dried maize arrangement if you're looking for boho-chic decor or potted plants if you are planning a spring or farm-themed party.

For a more intimate dinner, think about lowering the lights and using candles. Lanterns and festoons can be a perfect addition to your outdoor dinner party. If you want to impress your guests, our in-house event stylist is here to help you.

Think about entertainment

While your guests may enjoy chit-chatting with one another during the reception and dinner, having background music is always a good idea. Arranging the dinner party yourself, you can prepare a playlist in advance or choose some ready-made sets on Spotify or iTunes to match the mood and theme of your party.

When working with us, you can rely on our DJ to set the mood for the party, enjoy a live band or solo musicians performing during the dinner and bring in some special acts to surprise your guests. We've arranged aerial acrobats for this stylish Corinthia wedding, fortune teller and fire show for the Game of Thrones party, cabaret-artists for the Moulin Rouge themed birthday celebration and flamenco workshop for that very special birthday celebration.

Follow our tips and all your guests will remember your elegant soiree or extravagant dinner party forever. If you need any help turning your ideas into an unforgettable dinner party, our expert event planners are always ready to take care of everything from décor and entertainment to catering and AV production.

Blog: Iconic Parties
What makes an iconic party? Maybe Marilyn Monroe singing the birthday song, or the most powerful and famous people in the world bidding at a charity fundraiser. We look back at the most famous celebrations in history and admire the vision and courage of the greatest party planners of all time.
Blog: Aperitivo Time
An important part of French, Italian and other European dining traditions, aperitifs have taken over the rest of the world. We explore what people drink all over Europe and share with you the best aperitivo cocktail ideas for your party menu.