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The First Things Guests Notice When You Host a Dinner Party, Experts Say

Keep these tips in mind the next time you're planning a get-together at your home.

Even if you're the kind of person who puts a lot of effort into making their home inviting, nothing will put your skills to the test quite like hosting a dinner party. Besides having all the right rooms looking their best, you also have the added work of planning and preparing an entire meal. But if you want to really stand out, there are a few tips that can help make your next get-together a truly memorable one. Read on for the first things experts say guests notice when you host a dinner party.

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Added outdoor decorations


Naturally, the first thing anyone headed to an event at your place will see is the exterior of your house itself. But even if you already put plenty of work into keeping your front yard looking fantastic, you can also make that walk from the car part of the experience.

"I love to set the tone in advance of when your guests walk in the door," Abigail Stone, CEO and co-founder of Otherland candles, tells Best Life. "Perhaps it's a vibrant bunch of balloons tied to a mailbox for a birthday, elegant rice paper lanterns lining your driveway for a white party, or a mini Swiss flag sticker on your buzzer button for a fondue night."

"It adds a little dash of excitement and magic to the party experience and helps bring energy into your event," she says. "Get creative here!"

The smells

baby pink candle

Depending on what you're making for dinner, your home might already smell delicious when guests start arriving for your party. But like a perfectly curated playlist, experts point out that scents can be another powerful non-visual tool in setting the mood.

"A welcoming scent will greet your guests faster than you can!" says Stone. "As the host, your sense of smell is a key ingredient to creating a distinct and memorable experience for your guests. An entryway candle will do the trick—but make sure to choose your scent wisely!"

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How you've set the table

smiling girlfriends at a dinner party with wine

Guests will likely take an interest in how your home looks any time they stop by. But if the point of their visit is a dinner party, there's no underselling the importance of a well-set table. Since this is where everyone will spend most of their time, putting a little extra focus into how it looks can have a serious payoff.

"Making an impact on your guests will also be greatly influenced by the table setting and decor," says Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight. "Unique placemats, chic glassware, and tasteful centerpieces are just a few of the thoughtful touches that can enhance the dining experience and make the evening unforgettable."

Pre-dinner refreshments

man enjoying while drinking wine at home and looking away.

The moments between when guests start arriving and dinner is ready to be served can be one of the trickier parts of the evening to navigate. That's why experts say making sure they get a beverage in their hand quickly can make them feel welcomed and ready to mingle.

"As soon as your guests arrive, they're going to naturally gravitate towards the bar. Be ready for them!" says Stone. "A beautifully stocked bar with a pre-batched cocktail, wine, spirits, mixers, and citrus will help your guests shift into party mode."

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Where they'll hang their coats

wall-hanging coat rack

If you're throwing a winter get-together, there's a good chance your guests will arrive bundled up to keep warm. That's why experts say it can be best to plan ahead and find a large enough place to stash them while you eat.

"Immediately upon entering, guests are going to look around for where to put their jackets. Avoid potential awkwardness and prepare in advance," Stone suggests.

"You can either clear out some space in your front hall closet or get a coat rack," she says. "My preference is the latter: It's self-service so you don't get stuck on door duty!"

The overall ambiance

people playing a party game at a dinner party
Shutterstock / AnnaStills

Just like a well-designed home, a memorable dinner party comes together as the sum of many moving parts that go well beyond how great the food tastes. That means even if you love the design and layout of your entertaining space, consider optimizing it for hosting a larger group and paying attention to how everything flows throughout the evening.

"Guests will take note of the mood, lighting, music, and comfort—especially the temperature of the room," says Tahwii Spicer, curator and owner of home decor and house accessories shop The Porter House Co. "The host should carefully consider furniture positioning to create a cozy and inviting space for natural conversation."

This means picking the right playlist can be extra important—as well as setting the appropriate volume level. "Music is a beautiful element to add to parties of any kind, but for intimate occasions, allowing guests to speak without raising their voices is also a subtle touch for a perfect evening with friends," Spicer adds.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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