How to Host a Dinner Party in Your Apartment

You don’t need a banquet hall or a mansion to throw a fantastic dinner party! No matter what your floorplan or square footage may be, with the proper planning and preparation you can make your home perfect for memorable fêtes and intimate gatherings. Here are some helpful tips to make the most of every inch at your disposal and create an affair to remember.  

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Ways to Optimize Your Space 

Woman preparing small dining table  with wine glasses and plates.

The type of party you plan will depend on several factors, the first of which is whether your guests will be seated for a full meal or simply milling about, sipping cocktails, and noshing on hors d’oeuvres. No matter the set-up you decide, you don’t want your guests feeling like the space is cluttered. You want to create a flow in your space. Don’t be afraid to rearrange some furniture, if necessary; any items that block the flow should be moved to another room and out of the way. 

You also want people to mingle, so create a flow that makes it easy to get to the food and drinks but also fosters a sense of community and encourages individuals to congregate.  

Make the most of what you have. If you can clear the books, bookshelves can be a useful space for a makeshift bar or to place some snacks. Don’t have much freezer space? Fill your kitchen sink with ice and turn it into a drink cooler.  

Arranging Seating 

Seating doesn’t have to be formal. While it’s good to have at least a few chairs, you can also create seating options with pillows and blankets, or by converting other flat surfaces (such as a piano bench) into additional options for guests to plant themselves. It all depends on the mood you’re going for, the level of formality, and the number of guests you’d like to invite.  

As a note, if you aren’t going to host a sit-down dinner then your guests are going to be on their feet for most of the event. This means it’s probably best to limit the length of your party, so guests don’t get too tired from standing.    

The Host with the Most 

Being a thoughtful host is crucial regardless of whether you are hosting in an apartment, studio, or backyard. It is important to maintain a good atmosphere, which you can do with creative themes using glassware, lighting, and music. Dress up glassware with little individual tags so guests can easily keep track of their drink.  

If space is limited, keep it tidy by staying on top of trash and using decorative lidded baskets or containers under tablecloths to store dishes. You can also avoid clutter by making use of double-duty items, such as everyday serving ware and utensils. 

Most importantly, though, engage your guests! It’s easy to get caught up in doing the cooking and serving, but your job is to also be the facilitator for a great evening. A good party heavily depends on people feeling comfortable, and nothing makes someone feel comfortable faster than a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Be aware of the mood of the room and the energy of the people around you. Does someone have that ‘deer in the headlights’ look? Strike up a conversation with them to put them at ease or introduce them to another few guests to break the ice.  

Recipes and Menu Ideas 

Pickle olive tray.

How much food and drink you serve will depend on the type of soiree as well as the number of people attending. What you choose to serve will depend on the following: 

  • Whether you are cooking or catering 
  • Food allergies or cultural constraints 
  • Counter space available 
  • Ice storage for drinks 

If you’re cooking, prepare as much of the food as you can ahead of time with some of these menu ideas. Buy yourself some time and start the meal with cold foods like salads. This gives your guests something to nibble on while you finish whipping up the hot dishes. 

Every surface matters. Clear any unnecessary items to optimize your counter space. Put away anything and everything you won’t need.  

As for type of food, crowd-pleasing finger foods like crostinis, quiches, mini pizzas, and skewers are great for offering variety with less need for big plates.  

Cost-Saving Ideas 

The cost of hosting a party can add up quickly. One way to limit your spending (and a monopoly of freezer space and square footage) is to avoid a full bar and instead only offer a signature drink or two. Another option is to limit drinks to only beer and wine. Or, if it’s appropriate for the level or formality (or lack thereof), make it BYOB (bring your own bottle). 

Another way is to make it a pot-luck affair, where each guest is tasked with their own item to bring. Again, this depends on the level of formality. If you have guests bring things like serving ware and plates, it saves you from having to find room to store those additional items in your home. 

Take It Outside 

One of the beauties of living in Florida is year-round warm weather and sunshine. If your apartment has a patio or balcony, utilize that outdoor area. Throw open the doors and voila! You’ve just increased the amount of space at your disposal.  

Also, something to keep in mind – if you don’t feel like worrying about how to configure your personal space to accommodate a party, each Garden Communities Florida complex offers a convenient clubhouse facility. You can always move the party there if it makes it easier and less stressful. After all, nobody wants a stressed-out host, least of all the host! 

In addition to the clubhouse, our Harvard Apartments in Melbourne offer a picnic/BBQ area, which is an ideal location for a chill afternoon gathering or an outdoor evening under the stars. But always remember to be respectful of your neighbors and community management. Keep the noise down, leave no trace, and ensure that your guests are conscious of these areas being shared spaces.