13 Awesome Dinner Party Ideas with Wine

13 Great Dinner Party Ideas

It’s time to boldly go into the universe of dinner parties. Hosting a dinner party is a great way to build longlasting relationships and create a better community of friends. It turns out your friends are an ingenious source for good wine. On average, people are willing to spend more on wine for a party.

Yep. Time to host a party!

How do you make your dinner party awesome? Here are 12 dinner party ideas that aren’t only kickass but also simple to pull off. Read on!


A table set for an elegant dinner.
6-8 guests is an ideal number to pull off a classic dinner party. By A. Siarto

Elegant Dinner Party

The ultimate dinner party is best when it’s no larger than 6-8 people. Don’t forget you’ll be serving a minimum of 3 courses at a properly served table. Serve the first course while your guests are being seated and have the 2nd course ready to transfer into large warm serving dishes.
 
Everyone has allergies these days, so ask before they awkwardly spill the beans about being Gluten-free or Vegetarian.

Elegant Dinner Party Ideas

Wine Picks
6 bottles: 2 white & 4 red (8 people). Stick to classics like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Pre-plan who is bringing what.
Centerpiece
Keep the centerpiece short so that you can see your pals across the table. Use real fruit, real candles, or small flowers. After all, you’re real, right?
Etiquette
Serve Champagne before seating your friends because it works fastest. Place double-sided name cards at the table, so your friends don’t have to think.
Wine Place Setting
(From left right) Dessert, Red, White, Champagne and Water glass. Hydration is key.
Who sits where?
Split up couples, and don’t seat yourself at the head of the table.

An intimate dinner.
Candles always set the right mood. By 3mb.o.

Intimate Dinner Party

You probably partake in more intimate dining than you realize. Intimate dining is the classic double date. Rich foods match perfectly with long conversations and your best friends. With a small group, you can take risks with your cooking and wine selection.

Intimate Dinner Party Ideas

Wine picks
Mirror and match. If your friend is a serious Bordeaux lover, pick out a great white Bordeaux or Cremant de Bordeaux so their red wine will shine.
Be prepared!
Slow roast, soak, deglaze, crockpot everything either the night before or your party’s day. This is, after all, an intimate affair, and you should be at the table instead of in the kitchen.
Set the mood
Unscented candles make everyone look hot.
DIY drink station
Make a DIY drink station in the kitchen or living room so people feel welcome to break the ice.

An outdoor party.
Get your guests outside! By S. Gades.

Large House Party

Once in a while, you break down and host a huge party, where people come in at random times and expect to become well-fed and inebriated. This type of party is usually reserved for holidays and house-warming parties. The key to large dinner parties is crowd control.

Large Dinner Party Tips

Wine picks
Depending on the size of your party, prepare for over a half-bottle per person. 20 people? 12 bottles. 40 people? 2-3 cases of wine. If you have leftovers… is that so bad?
Get them out of the kitchen!
You can break up kitchen crowds by having mobile drink stations set up around your place. If your friends bring wine, make it easy for them to open and serve themselves.
One bite apps
A great way to moderate the expense of feeding everyone is through many small appetizers. Focus on variety. Choose a variety of sweet, savory, and healthy bites so that everyone is happy.
Ready your powder room
One of the most essential and overlooked areas in your home is the restroom. Be certain that your bathroom is well stocked and in tiptop flushing condition.
Send people outside
Take the theme outside with BBQ and ease the stress on the indoor living area.


 

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Finger-friendly snacks. Always.
Having a selection of snacks set around helps breaks the ice by giving people something to do. A great way to dress up a snack is to take them out of the bag. Fine china even makes potato chips taste awesome.

 

Spaghetti on a plate.
Pick a favorite food and go with it! By E. Aceron.

Favorite Food Party

Center this party theme around your favorite food. This idea works great for birthdays and potlucks. When you have a theme, everyone involved usually gets more creative with their dishes and tries harder to make the favorite. Need some ideas? Try these: Mac & Cheese, Mushrooms, Bacon, Savory Pie, Pecans, Dates, Avocados, Pineapple, Pickles, Quiche, Oranges and Apples,

Favorite Food Dinner Party Ideas

Wine picks
Pick the focus dish and then work on the perfect wine to match with it. Have everyone pick the same type of wine, and you’ll get to taste a range of similar wines. Need some help? Check out Food and Wine pairings
Keep hot food hot!
If people are bringing over prepared dishes, make sure you have room in your oven to heat them up.
Make it a competition
Make your dinner a friendly competition and vote whose dish was the best. Everyone wins if the food is great!

Cheeseburger takeout
Don’t be afraid to arrange that takeout on a nice tray or platter. By A. Engle.

Last Minute Dinner Party

Sometimes a dinner party is spontaneous. Fortunately, you can dress up quickly made foods such as chili, nachos, and Chinese take-out with your best plate ware. A great party to rush together? A promotion party or spontaneous celebration.

Last minute Dinner Party Ideas

Focus on drinks
If your friends have a drink in hand, they are happy to wait while you toss things together to eat.
Wine picks
Go for dry, food-friendly wines like Grenache or Pinot Blanc that will pair with a wide range of foods
Put it in a dish!
The proper dish will make any takeout dinner more sophisticated.

A dessert and wine at a swanky dinner party.
Try strong contrasts when planning a swanky party. By A. Takil.

Swanky Dinner Party

A high-class party isn’t complete without the stark contrast of black and white. Take advantage of this color palate in your foods: white cheeses, caviar, mashed parsnips, and black pepper steak. This kind of party is perfect for engagement, graduation, and a holiday party.

Swanky Dinner Party Ideas

Wine picks
Choose bold and distinguished wines like Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Champagne.
Black & white
If you’re decorating, choose stark contrast and only one focus color.
Take home treats
Offer your dining guests tiny wrapped presents or bags of goodies. Swag is the key to swanky.
Dessert station
Keep desserts small and strong, like chocolate truffles and candied orange rind.
Heat it up
Keep your place around 74 degrees; the ladies will drop their jackets and show off cocktail dresses. Music helps too.

Pizza in a takeout box.
Everyone likes pizza! And if they don’t, we don’t trust them. By K. Bratko.

Takeout Pizza Party

Pizza is perfect. It goes with some of the best wines in the world, and it’s also well-loved. Dress up a pizza party by adding wine and a salad. Put delivery pizza on a tray and twice bake it in the oven to make it piping hot. Restaurant supply stores sell aluminum pizza trays for less than $5.

Pizza Dinner Party Ideas

Wine picks
Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Nero d’Avola, and Primitivo are wonderful red wines for pizza.
Add a salad
You can double your variety by offering a salad with pizza. One word: Arugula.
Keep it at the table
Keep the dinner party conversation around the table while you twice bake your pizzas.

Costume party and couch.
Stick with white wine if costumes are elaborate. By T. Sali.

Costume Party Dinner Party

Get people excited to attend by requiring a dress code. A costume party is a great way to get people to let go and have a great time. Need a theme? Ugly Christmas Sweaters, Masquerade Ball, Favorite Film Characters, Era Costume party.

Costume Dinner Party Ideas

Drink white wine
Avoid mishaps with white or sparkling wine.
Freeze candles
If you freeze taper candles before burning them, they are less likely to drip and make a mess.
Ornamental glasses
Bring out your goblets, crystal glasses, and hock glasses to transform the experience.
Appropriate music
If you’re throwing a medieval party, you should be looking into music from Gesualdo and Johannes Ockeghem.

An ice cream sundae.
…I’m sorry, what were we talking about? By K. Mendez.

Dinner Dessert Party

Champion the often overlooked part of dinner and host a dessert party. For a dessert party, pick wines that are sweeter than the food. If you would like to know more about why wine should be sweeter, read 5 tips on food and wine pairing. Get your friends to bring the desserts based around a theme (i.e., chocolate, fruit, frozen, etc.), and you can provide the booze. Perfect for a girls night in, bachelorette parties, and weeknight dinner parties.

Dessert Party Ideas

Wine picks
For chocolate intense desserts go for Banyuls, Maury, or Vintage Port. These wines are rich enough to stand up to the richest ganache. For more delicate desserts such as cheesecake, a Sauternes or late harvest sweet white wine will do nicely.
Healthy options
For the few on a diet, offer fresh cut fruit so everyone can have fun!
Crowdsource sweets
Get your friends to bring dessert, and you can provide the wine.
Offer savories
Ever meet someone who systematically avoids dessert? You can offer a cheese course along with the sweets in perfect harmony.
Trust the pastry chef
Unless you have a degree in pastry, look to professionals for the perfect cake or confection. Work harder on making the perfect atmosphere in your home: music, candles, and a cushy powder room.

Late night wine party.
Serving late? Focus on drinks. By K. Chance.

Late-Night Dinner Party

For the night owls, late-night dinners are the best. You can base a late-night dinner party around a film and serve dinner alongside or afterward. Late-night eaters tend to be indulgent, which is the perfect opportunity to bring out your smoked salmon mousse recipe.

Late-Night Dinner Party Ideas

Wine picks
Late-night diners indulge, so bring out your heavy hitting wines like Zinfandel, Shiraz, Amarone, and Priorat from Spain. Be fair to non-wine drinkers and offer cognac, bourbon, or whiskey.
Smaller portions
Keep foods rich and small. Allow guests the opportunity to portion food themselves.
Weekends only
Reserve late-night parties for the weekends for the obvious reasons.
Playlist
Equip your playlist with upbeat music to keep people awake… but not too loud.

Portuguese Bacalao goes best with Vinho Verde.
Portuguese Bacalao goes best with Vinho Verde. By J. Blanco.

Regional Cuisine Dinner

A regional cuisine dinner focuses on a specific area. Instead of generalizing “Italian Food,” focus your dinner on one particular area, such as Basilicata, Italy. Suddenly, you can create harmonious dishes more efficiently based on a localized cuisine. This dinner party idea is perfect for birthdays and celebrating the seasons.

Regional Cuisine Dinner Party Ideas

Wine picks
Choose wines from the same region as the focus of your dinner.
Regional playlist
Select regional music to bring people into the scene of the region.
What grows together
Ever heard “What grows together goes together?” Use this as a strategy for your regional cuisine.

Curry spices.
Spices like cinnamon, chiles, and ginger. By E. Crowley.

Spice Focused Dinner Party

Think like Iron Chef and select a spice or an ingredient to focus your dinner around. You’d be surprised how many spices can transition from savory foods to dessert. Whole spices work better than powder. Need some inspiration? Try Ginger, Cardamon, Chiles, Cinnamon, Garlic, 5-spice powder, Fennel, Coriander, Cumin, Black Pepper, Teriyaki, Allspice, Cloves, Anise or Basil.

Spice Focused Dinner Party

Wine picks
Match your spice with a spice-driven wine. Check out these affinities: Zinfandel (5-spice), Grenache (citrus zest), Sangiovese (peppers and tomatoes), Barbera (anise), Gewurztraminer (ginger and cinnamon), Riesling (Galangal), Sauvignon Blanc (green herbs), Vermentino (grapefruit)
Palate cleansers
Because spices are intense, you should offer palate cleansers such as lemon sorbet.
Give control
Let your guests add the spice if they are sensitive to heat. Make sauces for the table and keep your meats relatively plain.

Vegetarian dishes.
Vegetable dishes pair well with lighter red wines. By B. Lark.

Vegetarian Wine Dinner Party

Let’s be fair to our veggie friends and throw dinner in their honor with an all-veggie feast. Vegetarian food is more than just sides and fake ‘tofurkey’ if you know how to do it right. Use mushrooms and nuts to create meaty sustenance. Get your friends to bring their favorite vegetarian dish, so you don’t have to try as hard.

Vegetarian Dinner Party Ideas

Wine Picks
Green or roasted veggies tend to pair better with dry white wines and lighter red wines. An Oregon Pinot Noir or a Spanish Garnacha are perfect with a vegetarian feast.
Buffet Style
A great way to make people comfortable branching out with ‘weird foods’ is to make a buffet. This way, your guests won’t be forced to try something they are afraid to try.
Ingredient Cards
If you have sensitive diners, list each dish’s ingredients on a little card. It’s a great way to alleviate allergy issues.
Main Dishes
Need some main dish inspiration? Roasted cashew-shitake log, stuffed ancho chiles, risotto cakes, black lentils with sherry vinegar and dry-sauteed mushrooms, farro and pinto bean steaks, grits with feta and sun-dried tomato and lemon.


Sources
Front page image is by John Joh, an amazing foodie photographer.

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About Madeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly