Entertaining, Home, How To

Hosting a Summer Dinner Party

In my own small way I enjoy entertaining. I love bringing a group of friends together and coming up with an excuse to celebrate, even if it’s just an excuse to get dressed up!

One of the most memorable dinners I hosted was the one pictured here, a celebration of the first day of summer. I’d been housesitting for my aunt in D.C., where I’d lived for a time, and she suggested I have friends over for a party. I had just finished a research appointment at a cultural institution in Georgetown, so it was the perfect way to gather old friends and new in honor of a new season.

I’ve always wanted to recreate that summer dinner party. It was such a beautiful evening! Here are five ways I made it a success.

Pick a simple but delicious menu
My best friends and I did all of the cooking, so organizing a cohesive but easy-to-prepare meal was crucial. In the week before the party, we taste-tested recipes, made lists of ingredients, and ordered food from the butcher and fishmonger. The night before, we prepared as much as we could, and cooked everything else fresh that evening. It was such a wonderful meal!

Plan the guest list
My golden rule when hosting a party is to make sure each guest knows at least one other person (besides the host) at the party. Finding a familiar face in the crowd is a wonderful way to set an atmosphere of ease that will carry the party through the awkward arrivals period. Don’t forget to send your invitations—I love Dempsey & Carroll’s fill-in invitations and HiNote or Paperless Post for a more formal way to digitally invite guests.

Have friends arrive in advance
For me, there is nothing worse than waiting for guests to arrive—especially if only one arrives on time! Invite a few special friends in advance and pour drinks to set the mood—it will take your mind off of the last-minute stresses of hosting and ensure you are also happy and relaxed!

Set up your party space
I love to set the table and decorate! Choosing a theme helps me to organize myself and create a beautiful space. As obvious from the photos, this particular party welcomed summer. I used fresh flowers from my aunt’s garden, Portmeirion Botanic Garden china, and set the table in her backyard. We used silver champagne buckets for arranging flowers and left the antique wooden table bare to emphasize the en plein air setting of the party. It was a beautiful combination of elegance and nature and I hope that one day I can recreate this success.

Have fun and relax!
Something will go wrong—it always does. Relax, fix what you can, and go back to your party—your guests will probably not notice! Enjoy the evening you’ve worked so hard to create.

Here are some of my favorite sources for throwing a dinner party:

The Well-Appointed House


Julia Amory

The Pink House Design

Dempsey & Carroll

Scully & Scully


You can find additional dinner party tips here in this post!

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