Relax and enjoy hosting your friends with these casual dinner party menu ideas. With a little planning, you can create a relaxed and easy dinner party for you and your friends.
- Why have a casual dinner party?
- Hosting tips
- Just before your guests arrive
- When guests arrive
- Easy dinner recipes you can make ahead
- Quick and easy menu ideas
- Crockpot party food
- Instant Pot entertaining ideas
- Air fryer entertaining ideas
- Simple make ahead desserts
- Dinner party drinks
- More party ideas to try
Why have a casual dinner party?
In our fast-paced world, we all need to intentionally take time to sit down with friends and family to enjoy a slow-paced meal filled with conversation and encouragement. The importance is on spending time with others, so I share a few basic steps and menu ideas to throw a casual dinner party easily to take the stress out of hosting.
First things first, decide on a date and ask your friends to join you for a casual dinner. Be upfront and tell them this is a laid-back casual dinner focusing on enjoying each other's company.
You can purchase invitations to match your party theme or send them general all-purpose party invitations like this one. If you would like a free copy of this invitation, join my Member's Printable Hospitality Library. You can find it there to print for free!
The goal is to keep your menu simple. Choose a menu that doesn't require a lot of late prep work or last-minute cooking. It's a good idea to try and choose recipes that can be made ahead of time and heated up just before guests arrive.
Join my member's free printable library and download your own copy of my party planner. There is a menu planner and countdown task sheet that will help you easily organize your dinner. There is also a printable shopping list you can fill out and take to the grocery with you.
Tips for preparing your dinner party ahead
Keep yourself out of the kitchen when guests arrive with these few simple tips.
- Cook as many items ahead of time as you can.
- Wash and chop and slice veggies and fruits the day before. Keep them in an air-tight container with a damp paper towel. This will free up your time just before dinner.
- Shred any cheese you might need and store in a zip-lock type bad in the fridge.
- If you are serving baked goods, you can make them a week in advance and freeze them. Just allow them to thaw and slightly warm them before serving.
- Prepare any sauces or dressings ahead of time. Store in a glass jar with a lid in the refrigerator.
- Set the table the day before, and get out any serving dishes and utensils you might need.
- Arrange a drink station or coffee bar the day before.
- Splurge and prepare your food in disposable pans if possible. This will allow for quick clean-up after the meal so you can spend more time with your guest.
Dinner party decor ideas
Remember this is a casual dinner, so no fuss decorations are expected. Use a disposable table cloth or a simple runner down the center of your table. I have found some beautiful paper place settings that are beautiful but, more importantly, disposable. This will make clean-up a breeze and gives you more time to enjoy with your guest.
Table centerpiece ideas
For your centerpiece, you could pick up a fresh bouquet of flowers from your local grocery store or use clippings from your yard. Combine some green plants with herbs to delight both the sense of seeing and smell. If it's winter, then purchase some whole lemons. Place them in a bowl and mix in between the lemons some fresh kale leaves.
Just before your guests arrive
- If it's dark, remember to turn on your porch and walkway lights.
- Have a designated area for your guest to hang their coats.
- Plugin your diffuser or light some scented candles.
- Turn lights on in all the rooms you will be entertaining in.
- Turn on some mood music. Try creating a playlist that your guest will enjoy.
- Do one last check on your food.
When guests arrive
Once your dinner guests arrive, relax and enjoy yourself! This helps everyone else relax and feel welcomed. I like to ask my guest to help bring out the food or prepare their own drinks. This makes them feel at home and relaxed. Most importantly, don't worry if things don't go as you planned. Your focus is on a casual dinner with friends, enjoying good conversation, and making memories.
Easy dinner recipes you can make ahead
Remember, the goal is to have a no-fuss casual dinner party focused on good food and great conversations.
Easy Mexican dinner menu
Have a Mexican-themed dinner. Appetizers can be simple chips and Green Tomato Salsa Verde, which you can make the day before. If it's soup weather, then make a batch of Mexican Vegan Tomato Soup. Heat just before dinner and serve with cheese or crushed tortilla chips and avocado slices. You can make this Nacho Casserole the day before and cook it just before guests arrive.
Easy soup night
It's always fun to have a soup night. Make in advance several soup choices such as White Bean Chili, Vegetable Chowder, or Copycat Wendy's Chili Recipe. Serve with warm Vegan Beer Bread or a variety of crackers.
Simple Italian menu
A simple meal to prepare ahead is a spaghetti dinner. Some of our family favorites are Spaghetti Sauce With Fresh Tomatoes. You can make ahead and then bake just before dinner some Italian Cheesy Pull-Apart Bread. Buy a simple Ceasar salad kit, and you have a whole meal in no time.
Quick and easy menu ideas
Be sure and browse through these Easy Oven Roasted Vegetables for more great side dish ideas.
Crockpot party food
Instant Pot entertaining ideas
Instant Pot Roast Beef and Lots of Gravy is a quick and easy main dish to cook in your instant pot. Wrap some large potatoes in foil and pop them in the oven an hour before your guest arrives. Serve the roast beef and gravy over the baked potatoes, or if mashed potatoes are more your style, try these Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes. Add roasted veggies or a side salad, and you have a hearty homecooked meal to serve.
Air fryer entertaining ideas
Simple make ahead desserts
Everyone loves cookies, and they are the perfect make-ahead dessert for a casual dinner party. Serve with coffee or a scoop of ice cream.
Dinner party drinks
40 Spring Mocktails are the perfect fun party drink everyone will enjoy being served at a relaxing dinner party. Choose one of these 40 mocktails for an easy recipe that will delight your guests.