20 Useful Tools For Hosting A Stress-Free Dinner Party

A relaxed host makes for a smooth dinner party, so if you are planning a culinary event soon, you want to ensure you have all the tools to make the evening go without a hitch.

From setting the table beautifully to ensuring you have the best cookware and glasses, being fully prepared for your evening ahead of time will make hosting your party a delight rather than a chore. Ensuring a relaxed environment for your guests comes down to knowing you have thought of every detail, from the classical playlist to the scented candle in the bathroom.

Your role as host is not to be stuck in the kitchen all night but to be a participant in the evening's events. By considering every detail beforehand, you will create a welcoming environment and allow yourself to enjoy the evening fully, transitioning effortlessly from chef to guest. That's why we're highlighting several tools and items to help you accomplish a stress-free dinner party. 

Suitably sized table and chairs

Before you start planning your dinner party, you will need to think about how many people will fit around the dining table you already own. Though it may be tempting to convince yourself that you will be able to squeeze in a few more guests than would typically eat at your table, it is essential to remember your guests will be seated at the table for the majority of the evening, and having a comfortable amount of elbow space around them is crucial.

If you have extra space but don't have a large enough table, there are companies you can hire tables from for one-off events.

As for chairs, it is important to consider number and comfort. Of course, first, ensure you have enough chairs for the number of guests and that they will fit comfortably around your dining table. Then, consider the comfort of each chair, especially if you have several different styles. Sit on each chair yourself to check if you would be comfortable sitting there for a few hours. Consider if there are table legs that may prevent someone from sitting comfortably, and discard any chairs that don't feel right, or provide cushions for added comfort.

Ultimately, getting the table and chairs right is the first step toward a successful dinner party, so be sure to take some time in advance to make sure you have exactly what you need.

Tablecloths or runners

When preparing your table for the dinner party, one of the first considerations will be whether or not to have a tablecloth. Choosing to use a tablecloth will have the dual effect of adding a touch of class to your table while protecting it at the same time.

If you are planning a formal evening, a white linen tablecloth is a timeless classic. It will provide a blank canvas that will allow you to accessorize the table with other elements. If your party is more casual, why not opt for a brightly colored or patterned cloth which will seem more festive?

Remember, the size of your tablecloth is essential. You're aiming for a tasteful drape, delicately cascading over the edges — you do not want it trailing on the floor.

If you have decided against a tablecloth or want to add a pop of color to a white cloth, consider incorporating a table runner. This narrow strip of fabric runs along the center of your table and adds a visual focal point. It is an excellent opportunity to add a splash of creativity while still keeping a traditional look.

No matter which table dressing you choose, a well-dressed table will set the stage for a memorable evening and allow you to provide an unforgettable experience for your guests.

Napkins and napkin rings

Once you have selected the perfect tablecloth for your party, it is time to start thinking about napkins. Though you may not consider them the showstoppers of your party, their absence would significantly impact your guests' dining experience.

If you are having a fairly formal evening, you should opt for cloth napkins, preferably ones that match or complement your tablecloth. There are many beautiful ways to fold linen napkins, from the classic pocket fold to accommodate the flatware to the quirky bunny ears fold. Which option you embrace will depend on the theme of your evening and how much time you are willing to dedicate to folding them.

If your dinner party is more casual, your guests will likely be happy enough with paper napkins, which promise a quick clean-up the day after the party. You can now get a variety of disposable napkins, including eco-friendly ones crafted from recycled materials. Although these can still be transformed into fun shapes, bear in mind that their smaller size could make the process tricky.

To keep cloth napkins organized and add an extra touch of refinement, napkin rings are a classy addition to your table setting. These stylish bands that hold napkins in place come in various materials, such as rustic wood or soft fabric. Choosing napkin rings that complement the rest of the decor will elevate your place settings and add a layer of refinement.

Candles and candle holders

As you continue to add layers to your dining table, the next component to consider is the appealing flicker of candlelight. Candles help to create a warm ambience and are a fantastic visual attraction in their own right.

When choosing candles and candleholders, there are a huge range of options. From sleek pillar candles at either end of the table to charming tealights scattered throughout, you will be able to find a combination to suit your table perfectly. If you want to avoid the prospect of an unexpected fire, LED candles can provide a very realistic alternative, and you won't have to worry about replacing them when they burn out.

The choice of candle holder can transform the look of your candles and the effect they have on your room. A traditional silver candelabra, for instance, will be the perfect choice for classic elegance, whereas a hurricane vase may better suit a more intimate party.

Remember to match the style and color of your candle holders to the rest of your decor to create a pleasing layout, and consider the height and arrangement of the candles for the desired lighting effects. While scented candles may work well in the bathroom or hallway, think carefully before adding them to your table, as their scent could overpower your food, which should always be the star of the show.

Recipe or menu planner app

Let's move on to one of the most delightful parts of planning your dinner party — the food!

Your delicious meal will be the star attraction of the evening, so it is crucial to have your menu not only thoughtfully planned but also rehearsed well before the curtain rises. Whether you are whipping up a seven-course culinary masterpiece or providing a laid-back buffet, familiarizing yourself with your dishes in advance will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the fun of your party.

A high-stakes dinner party is not the optimal situation to try out a new recipe for the first time. Invest some time in considering what dishes you are accomplished in and how they will fit together to create an exquisite symphony of flavor.

In our digital age, there are many programs and apps that can take the stress out of menu creation and save you time to focus on other preparations. Kitchen Stories, which is available for desktop, Apple and Android, is a collection of thousands of diverse recipes with instructional videos and practical tips. With a feature allowing you to save your favorite meals, coming up with the perfect menu for your big night will be a breeze.

Remember to check your guest's dietary needs, including allergies and intolerances, and use this tool to create a menu that will suit everyone at your event.

By using technology to combine your culinary know-how with respect for the needs of your guests, you will be able to create a fantastic menu that will make your dinner party unforgettable.

Set of saucepans

While many of the essential tools for a successful dinner party get the chance to shine center-stage, let's look at one of the unsung heroes behind the scenes — the humble saucepan. If you envision hosting dinner parties regularly, investing in a good set of saucepans is worthwhile, as they play a crucial role in creating a smooth dining experience.

While catering for a dinner party, you need to multitask like a boss, and having only one saucepan to work with will slow you down considerably. Having a set of pans, from a small milk pan to a large stock pot, will enable you to reduce your sauce, blanch asparagus and create custard for dessert, all at the same time.

If you can, buy a quality set of heavy-based saucepans. The increased cost will pay off in the long run, as you will reduce the chance of burnt sauces and unevenly cooked dishes. In most cases, choose pans with plastic handles to avoid an unwelcome burn during your dinner party prep.

However, one versatile pan that does have a metal handle is the oven-safe pan. This culinary superstar allows you to start your dish on the hob and then continue cooking in the oven without transferring it to a different pan. This not only saves you precious time but also reduces the post-party cleanup — win-win!

Measuring spoons, cups, and jugs

To make your party go without a hitch, it is essential to know you are using the correct quantities for your recipes, especially if you are doing any baking. Rough estimates can get you so far, but a discrepancy in the amount of yeast in your bread or water in your shortcut pastry could spell disaster. To ensure you have no proportion mishaps, equip your kitchen with a set of measuring spoons, cups, and jugs to guarantee precise quantities of your ingredients.

Try and find a set of measuring utensils with both imperial and metric markings to save you from the mental math torture of converting. For a measuring jug, look for one that is heat-resistant and microwave safe, meaning you can add hot or cold ingredients and don't need to transfer to another dish for cooking.

These modest measuring tools may seem insignificant compared to other scene-stealers on this list, but they are the hidden champions of the kitchen cupboard, helping transform your meal from good to glorious.


The next items on our list may seem like an unnecessary expense, but any amateur cook should consider having a set of thermometers in their kitchen to keep their guests safe and cook their food effectively.

Unless you exclusively cook vegetarian food, you should invest in a meat thermometer to protect your guests from foodborne illnesses. A meat thermometer will allow you to accurately check the internal temperature of the meat, increasing the chance of it being both safe and perfectly cooked. Plenty of options are available, from simple probes inserted into the meat to infrared digital options and smart thermometers with an accompanying app.

An oven thermometer may seem over the top, but relying on your oven's thermostat could lead to uneven cooking, which might be a disaster on the night of your dinner party. An oven thermometer means you know precisely when your oven has preheated and can keep an eye on the temperature as your food is cooking.

A fridge thermometer is another crucial ally in the battle for food safety, especially if you plan to store ingredients for a few days before your party.

Remember that the fridge door has the least consistent temperature, so it should not be used for meat or other highly perishable foods.

Serving boards

If you want to add a modern touch to your dinner party, consider arranging some of your food on serving boards. They will add an artistic touch to your soiree and can be used to serve canapés, appetizers, or a selection of cheese.

Boards come in all shapes and sizes and can be made from various different materials. If you are using it to serve cured meats and cheeses, a rustic wooden board would make a good choice, whereas delicate canapes would look smart on a slate. See this as your opportunity to be creative and make a colorful display with your food. Pair cheese with colorful fruit and arrange various sizes and shapes for contrast.

So don't shy away from the opportunity to show off your creative side. A few carefully chosen serving boards will help you create a visual masterpiece that will look as good as it tastes.

A smart speaker

To keep yourself organized, a timer is crucial for tracking all the dishes you have on the go at once. While a simple egg timer will suffice, why not use a smart speaker which can help organize your preparation and sort out the party playlist at the same time?

Devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home can act as your trusty sidekick, keeping track of cooking times and even suggesting wine pairings. If you're looking for some after-dinner entertainment, they can even provide you with some fun party games.

Unlike a simple egg timer, a smart speaker can keep tabs on different timers for each dish and will tell you which one is ready to come out of the oven.

Don't forget one of the essential components of your dinner party — background music. With just one voice command, you can ask the smart speaker to play some ambient instrumental music or a playlist you have set up in advance. Perhaps some elegant classical music for during dinner and a cheesy pop playlist for afterward.

A sharp set of knives

An essential tool in any amateur chef's armor is a sharp set of knives, and they are even more important if you're cooking for a large group of people.

A sharp knife will not just make preparing your food quicker, it makes it safer too. Blunt knives are much more likely to slip off the vegetables you are chopping and onto unprotected fingers — so keeping your set of knives sharp is crucial.

Having a complete set of knives — from a large carving knife to a delicate paring knife — means you will have the right tool for every task, speeding up the process of preparing dinner. It also cuts down the chance of cross-contamination, which can happen when using the same knife for raw meat and fruit salad, even with a thorough washing in between.

While a quality set of knives may seem like a hefty initial investment, it will pay off quickly as you notice your kitchen preparation becoming so much easier. Just be sure to buy a sharpening steel as well so that you can keep them in prime condition.

Fancy soap and towels in the powder room

When planning your big day, your primary focus will be on making the room where your guests will be eating look as perfect as possible. But it is essential not to forget another important area — the bathroom or powder room. Every one of your guests is likely to go in there at some point, so it pays to spend a bit of time making it look presentable. In addition to ensuring it is clean and tidy, you may wish to buy some fancy soap and wash one of your best towels to have on display.

You may also wish to employ the aforementioned scented candle, which will have a more pleasant effect in the bathroom than near the food. If you want to go the extra mile, consider a basket containing toiletries such as hand lotion, some packs of tissues, or even some breath mints. Devoting attention to these finer details will elevate your dinner party and leave a lasting, positive impression.

Complete set of flatware

If you usually only cook for a small number of people, you may have to think carefully about what flatware your dinner party guests will use. Having a coordinated and good-quality set of knives, forks, and spoons is another essential ingredient to ensure your party runs smoothly.

The flatware you use needs to be functional and look pristine at the same time. Before any food is served, flatware will take pride of place on the table, and tarnished knives and forks will not make a good impression. Once your guests begin their meal, you don't want them eating with mismatched cutlery that may feel uncomfortable.

If you are planning to make hosting a regular occurrence, consider investing in a comprehensive and durable flatware set that includes fish knives, dessert forks, and every other piece of silverware you could possibly need, to ensure your guests have a seamless dining experience.

Appropriate glassware

If you want your guests to have the perfect drinking experience at your party, you will need to give some thought to your glassware. Having a diverse collection of glassware is important if you are planning to serve a variety of drinks depending on your guests' preferences.

Assuming that you are planning to serve wine with the meal, you will need to have both red and white wine glasses for each guest. Red wine requires a large, round glass that allows the wine to aerate, whereas white wine is normally served in a narrower glass to hold the perfume (via Wineware).

Tall flutes are perfect for showcasing bubbles if you are serving sparkling wine such as prosecco or champagne.

Having cocktail glasses, high balls, and beer mugs will ensure that every type of drinker at your party will feel spoiled by the attention to detail. Be sure to include some stylish water glasses to keep non-drinkers happy too.

Wine cooler/warmer

There are many details to the art of serving wine, and your guests will appreciate it being done well. Even if you are not inviting any wine connoisseurs to your evening, most people expect their wine to be served at the correct temperature.

White and rosé wine should be served chilled, so a wine cooler can be a really useful option if you are needing to free up space in your fridge for food. If you don't have a wine cooler, keep the wine in the fridge for as long as possible, then transfer it to an ice bucket once the bottle has been opened.

Red wine should be served just below room temperature, at around 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the variety (via Decanter). A wine warmer is a handy option to have available to keep your Merlot or Bordeaux at the right temperature — but if you don't have one available, just make sure to bring the bottles into a warm room a few hours before the party starts, to let them warm up. Unless someone requests it, never serve red wine chilled.

Wine opener

There is one small but mighty tool that you must not forget about in advance of your party — the handy wine opener! For such a small item, it has such a crucial role to play in your evening. It is also important to ensure you know how to use it properly. If you are not an experienced wine drinker, don't underestimate the skill it takes to open a bottle of wine elegantly. Corkscrews, particularly the compact, folding type known as a Waiter's Friend, can be tricky to master and must be practiced in advance of your big night.

Additionally, make sure you are adept at uncorking a champagne bottle to avoid the cork flying across the room — the last thing you want is for that thing to hit someone's face.

Your corkscrew or Waiter's Friend should double up as a bottle opener for those drinking beer or non-alcoholic beverages.

Cocktail shaker

As your evening progresses, you may wish to up the stakes with some after-dinner cocktails. Having a cocktail shaker will increase the element of fun and flair, whether you are crafting a classic Cosmopolitan or creating a recipe of your own.

A cocktail shaker allows you to mix, chill and strain your drinks in one vessel, and makes you look like a bartender extraordinaire. You can buy shakers that have a strainer and measuring cap built-in, simplifying the process even further.

Why not add some entertainment to the evening by inviting your guests to create their own cocktails? They will enjoy the fun of experimenting, and it will take the pressure off you as a host. You can set up a table with various spirits, garnishes, and the cocktail shaker and (with some guidance) let your guests express their creativity. Just remember to drink responsibly and encourage your guests to do the same.

Set of dinnerware

While the food you serve is going to be the highlight of your party, you still want to put some thought into your dinnerware and invest in some new crockery if necessary. If possible, you should use plates that complement the rest of your decor — whether that is elegant white porcelain or something more colorful and modern.

If you are hosting regular dinner parties, you may want to invest in a high-quality set of dinnerware so that your plates, bowls, and cups all match.

When choosing a dinnerware set, think carefully about the cleaning up process. Some materials and designs may not be dishwasher safe, for instance, leaving you with the unenviable task of hand washing dozens of plates the day after.

While beautiful matching dinnerware can bring an elegance to your evening, remember that it is the delightful company and engaging conversation that will make the evening unforgettable.

A centerpiece for the table

One of the areas where you can express your artistic streak and creativity is in designing the perfect centerpiece for the middle of your table. Whether you choose to be traditional with a small floral arrangement or opt for floating candles, the centerpiece is the opportunity to express your personality and add a touch of flair. It is the heart of the table and will likely be the first thing guests notice when they take their seats.

Popular choices for centerpieces include fresh or dried flowers, candles, and fruit, but you can use anything you wish as long as it is practical and doesn't prevent people from talking to each other across the table. A good centerpiece can be a wonderful conversation starter, sparking interest and getting the dialogue flowing during dinner — a reflection of your personality and taste.

Coffee machine

As your meal draws to a close, serving coffee to your guests is a perfect way to allow them to begin to wind down and prepare to leave the dining table. Having a coffee machine makes the process of serving coffee much easier, especially if you are wanting to serve specialty options.

Modern coffee machines can create a wide variety of options, from espresso to latte, cappuccino to hot chocolate, all at the press of a button. They can also brew a delicious cup of tea, admittedly at a much higher price than simply dunking a teabag!

An additional benefit of a modern coffee machine is the reduced clean-up time. Most models have an automatic cleaning function, meaning you can spend more time enjoying a cuppa with your guests rather than working in the kitchen.

The balance between functionality, quality, and convenience makes the coffee machine a worthy addition to your dinner party arsenal.