When it’s too cold outside, that means it’s time to come together and crowd into someone’s home for a night of food, drink and fun. But where to start? We’ve got just what you need to pull off a fabulous – and cozy – dinner party. 

The signature cocktail (or mocktail!) 

Sure, grabbing some bottles of wine or a couple six packs to pass around for the night is always a quick option when planning a dinner party. But one way to have some fun and tap into your creative side is by creating a signature cocktail. (If you’re in your no-drinking era, a mocktail will be just as fun!) No, you don’t have to come up with a whole new drink. There are other ways. Pick an ingredient that starts with the same letter as your first name and choose a cocktail with that. Or if you have a color scheme, choose a drink that is the same color. 

Mood lighting 

Say it with us – we never use the big light. We live by this rule, especially when it comes to setting the mood for a dinner party. If you don’t have lamps that can create some subtle lighting, grab some candles or twinkle lights at the store to place around the table and the surrounding spaces. You can even work them into your centerpiece for a truly intimate vibe. 

Minimalist – but gorgeous – centerpieces 

Speaking of centerpieces, many people are tempted to go all out when planning the decor for a dinner party. But remember, this is a cozy night with friends. It doesn’t need to look like you walked into The Plaza Hotel. Simple can still wow. Start by looking around outside your home for evergreen branches, pine cones, acorns and other natural accents that can bring a bit of nature to the table. And check your local produce store to get some flowers that will fill out the rest of the space. If you’re not in the mood to go green, tie some velvet ribbon around the bases of a bunch of long candles to create an elegant look.  

An icebreaker (that you didn’t learn at college)  

Sometimes, dinner parties are full of close friends who can chat for hours without even realizing it. But other times, these gatherings are a chance to bring new friends together. To help get the conversation flowing, write out some fun questions to ask at the table. But skip “where did you grow up” and “where do you work” – those are so 20th century.

Here are some fun queries to get you started…

If your life was a movie, what genre would it be? 

If you could have any celebrity as your adopted parent, who would you choose? 

What would your last meal be? 

If AIM had a resurgence tomorrow, and you were required to have a cringe screenname to use it, what would you make yours?  

A cozy dip to kick things off 

Think of a big bowl of something warm that you’d love to dive into, curl up and fall asleep in. There’s nothing like a spinach and artichoke dip or buffalo chicken dip to have your guests feeling cozy and warm inside and out. Just make sure to check on any dietary restrictions your guests have and make sure you provide options for those who may be vegetarian, gluten free or anything else. 

An aesthetically pleasing – and delicious – dessert 

Consider your dessert the finale of a great night. You want to end on a high note, so it should both look good and taste good. We’re a big fan of this cake recipe from South Jersey’s own Shereen Pavlides. Plus, you can decorate it however you’d like – bows, hearts, smiley faces, even Taylor Swift lyrics if that’s your vibe. Our only piece of advice: have some fun, make it your own. 

February 2024
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