Planning an Elegant Fine Dining Dinner Party
How To Plan A Dinner Party, Tips, Party Menu Planning Ideas
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Planning a Dinner Party

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This information addresses dinner party menus and planning ideas for tips and suggestions I have experienced from doing many gourmet dinner parties involving numerous recipes of multiple Courses to prepare for a single dinner party menu.

I hope this information will be a big help to you planning your special dinner party menu and gourmet recipes you may chose from my website. 

I have always been a big fan of keeping things simple and easy to follow especially when I have a busy day ahead. I never will forget my first big dinner party. I had no idea where to start or how important planning ahead for a dinner party would be, I just waded in and did it. Unfortunately I waited until the day of the big event to put most everything together.  By 2 pm that same day I was exhausted and had no energy left to enjoy my guests or the wonderful food I had prepared. I learned the hard way.

Planning ahead for a successful dinner party and all that needs to be done for dinner party menus with many recipes is the way to go... in fact, now I can truthfully say by getting myself organized it's become so very easy for me, what a difference a little planning ahead can do!

Planning - What Food Course Do I Serve First for my dinner party?

Should it be a Salad course, Pasta course, Soup course, cheese course?

1)  Once guests are seated, an Amuse-Bouche (a French term pronounced "uh-MYUZ-boosh"), if used, should always be served first, followed by an appetizer course.
What is an Amuse Bouche? (click on my amuse bouche webpage for recipes). It is a little flavorful bite of most any type of food to amuse your palate, the idea is to make your guests want more. If you have ever dined at a 5 Star restaurant or invited to an elegant gourmet dinner party with several courses, an amuse bouche will usually be served.

2)  Alternate courses of your menus serving a heavy then a light course, e.g. cream soup (heavy), followed by a green salad (light), then a pasta course (heavy), etc, this gives the palate a chance to rest.  Make sure to only serve approximately 1/2 cup per serving of each course so that your guests will have room for more courses to follow.

3)  Always serve a citrus sorbet before the main entrée as a palate cleanser, this should only be 1 to 3 melonballs per person. Do not serve sweet sorbet in the middle of an elegant dinner party, save this for a Dessert course.

4)  Once you determine the order of your menu, write it down; refer to it in the kitchen so you will know what course to serve next.

My Unique tips - How To Serve Guests

1) Do not ‘pass the dish’. Plate up (arrange each food item on the plate before serving) ‘restaurant style’. This allows you to be creative decorating the plated food you have so carefully planned, it delights your guests to see their food arranged and presented so beautifully.

2) Determine ahead any additional plates, etc. will be needed. Use the "layering" (stacking) system for each course if possible; use several plates of different colors and shapes to present a course. Put a note on each stack of dishes in the kitchen so you will know what course goes on what plates.

3) Make a list of all the foods to be on each plate. Many times I have omitted some foods, now I make a list. Don’t forget the garnish!

4) Serve no more than one-half cup servings per person for soup, salad or pasta courses. If portions are too large your guests will not have room for the beautiful dessert you have prepared.

5) When plating up, keep the rim of the plate clear of all food and garnishes. Think of the plate as a painting; an artist never paints the frame. Wipe smudges or spills with a damp cloth before serving.

6) Do not keep your guests waiting too long between courses. By planning your menu well, you will not have this problem.

7) Announce to your guests as you serve each course what the recipe contains, name a few of the ingredients; tell them a little about the wine you have chosen to accompany this course. This adds to the elegance of your dinner party; they will appreciate the information.

8) Serve women first, from the eldest to the youngest, then serve the men, eldest to the youngest.

9) Serve food from the left; pick up empty plates from the right. Leave charger plates on the table if possible.

10) Ask a helper to pour the wine while you are serving the different courses on your menus.


1) Extend invitations one month in advance; include what, when and where.

2) Request an RSVP with a specific reply date.

3) Give directions, if needed.

4) Inquire of your guests if there are any food allergies and food preferences i.e. likes and dislikes.

What Shall They Bring

If you want your guests to bring something, include that in your invitation such as wine for a certain course or if you want them to bring a certain course. Be specific.

Dress Code

If you want a dress code, specify this in the invitation. When you spend time planning and preparing gourmet dinner party menus, you do not want someone wearing jeans or shorts unless otherwise specified. With everyone dressed for the occasion, it sets the mood even more for an elegant party especially when the lights are dimmed and only candles set the stage with soft music in the background.

Suggested guidelines:

Formal Wear:
Cocktail dresses or long gowns
Dinner jackets and dark suits

Informal Wear:
A nice dress or pants outfit for women
Jacket, shirt and tie (optional) for men

Casual Wear:
Sporty outfit for women or casual dresses
Sport shirts, sweaters, slacks, Dockers for men

Planning The Menus

1) Planning your entire dinner menus with several courses. (Menus - ideas)with photographs.

2) Make sure planning menus are compatible with each course, keeping in mind different textures, food compatibility and colors, i.e. try not to serve beets and tomatoes, as an example, on the same plate the colors are not compatible.

3) Choose recipes you have already tried and tested, don't serve something that will not be a 'hit', planning ahead is a great idea.

4) If your menus require using an oven, choose recipes with similar temperatures making it easier and quicker if having to bake several things between courses; don't keep your guests waiting too long for the next entree.

5) Make a list of all the grocery items you need to purchase for your recipes.

6) Make a detailed list for yourself of all food preparations that need to be done, (e.g. chop 1/4 cup celery finely; defrost 1 cup shrimp; pick 8 sprigs parsley from garden;), no matter how small you may think it is, write it down! It always gives me great pleasure to "cross out" an item on my to-do list. Plan ahead and be well organized; do as much ahead as possible. Do not leave many things to be done the day of the dinner party, you will be too exhausted; very important Label every ingredient you have prepared ahead and what it will be used for, (e.g. 2 tablespoons chives for soup), so that you can grab it and use it immediately when you need it.

7) Planning a garnish (see all my easy ideas with photographs) for each course; this adds elegance to a dinner and makes a beautiful presentation, they can be made ahead.

8) Determine the wine to accompany each course planning ahead for how much you will need. If you are not sure, ask a wine steward or sommelier. I like to ask my guests to bring wine or even their favorite beverage (not everyone likes wine), this makes it very easy for me and my guests are usually happy to bring something, it's a win-win situation.

Setting The Table

1) Use your best China, glass stemware, tableware, table linens and napkins, no paper please! This sets the mood for an elegant evening as your guests file by your beautifully arranged table setting before your dinner begins. Many a time when I was invited to a special dinner party, I viewed the table setting before the dinner began and was very impressed with what I saw.

2) Use charger plates if you have them. I like to use them but if I have a large number of guests, I do not have room for them on my dining table. Use your own judgment.

3) Choose a centerpiece low enough everyone can see over so that it does not interfere with conversation.

4) Consider using candles as the main light. This sets the mood for an elegant dining experience. I put my candles in the freezer then set them in my holders and light them just before everyone is seated.

5) For something different, type menus in the format of fine dining menus listing all the courses, translate them into French or Spanish, or Italian, or whatever theme your dinner might be. Print them out small enough to put them by each place setting. While you are preparing the food in the kitchen, it is fun to hear guests trying to determine the menus i.e. what will be served next. Sometimes I have a language expert that can figure out the foreign language.

6) You may want to make take-home favors.

Seating Arrangements

1) Seat yourself and your helper closest to the kitchen.

2) Use random seating or specify seating by placards.

3) Consider placing shy people next to talkative people to keep the conversation going so that everyone will have a good time.

Set The Mood

1) Choose soft mellow background music not to interfere with conversations.

2) Don’t forget to light the candles, make sure they are un-scented candles, that would ruin your beautifully planned dinner party!

                       Have fun and Bon Appetit!


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established 2001