Quick Recipes and Easy

Distinctive Dinner Parties 101 – Choose a Theme

Learn the secrets to giving distinctive, memorable dinner parties in five simple steps. This article, the first in a series of five, shows you how.

5 Steps to the Perfect Dinner Party

Choose a themeOrganize, Organize, OrganizePut some thought into your guestsPay attention to the detailsServe fabulous food effortlessly

The first step when plotting a memorable dinner party is to choose a theme or organizing principle around which to plot your evening. The theme will be the glue that holds your dinner party together. It will make it simpler to plot the other details, because your theme will suggest possibilities as well as providing a jumping-off point for your creativity.

Sometimes the thought of a “theme party” gets a bit of a terrible rap. People envision having to show up in togas or some such thing. But a theme can be much more subtle and sophisticated than that – although if you like the thought of dressing in togas, I say go for it.

Keep your eyes pealed for thoughts – a theme could be anything. There are the more obvious choices, such as Christmas or someone’s birthday. But why not plot a dinner around one of the less widely-celebrated holidays, like St. Patrick’s Day or the Summer Solstice?

If you choose an international menu, see if you can get a small more specific than just, say, French or Italian. Reckon about a Moulin Rouge theme, or Art Nouveau, or Italian Renaissance. Don’t just give an Austrian dinner party, send out invitations for an “Evening in Vienna”. The meal itself may not be substantially different this way, but I can assure you it will be significantly more memorable.

You can take your inspiration from other thoughts as well. The possibilities are endless. What about:
an object as inspiration (sea shells, a retro lava lamp)a color (yellow, red)a favorite novel or movie (Like Water for Chocolate, Grease)a shape (square, round)a personality type (quirky, sensual)a food item (chocolate, corn)a place (Versailles, the beach) a historical period, person or event (the 60’s, Shakespeare)an artist (Salvador Dalí)

The Seasons are Key

Although your theme can be anything, it should always be seasonal. Seasonal food and ambiance go beyond the simple, but very vital, fact that foods in season taste better and are usually less expensive. Seasonality is what invests your dinner with a sense of being at the right place at the right time. Who can resist the glorious smell and lush, sweet taste of ripe watermelon on a hot summer day? What about a creamy cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows after a day of skiing in Aspen. Would either be as wonderful if they were switched? Of course not.

Your theme could even be as subtle or as general as “fall dinner”. But you do need an organizing principle that will influence your choice of everything from food to music to the table setting, one that will tie all the elements of your party together and give it that sense of well-thought-out cohesion and flow.

Charlotte Rose is a passionate cook and creative party-giver. To find distinctive menus and plans for making your own memorable dinner parties, visit her website at
CharlotteRoseCooks.com CharlotteRoseCooks.com

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