Throwing a dinner party has been all the rage these past few months as we head into the summer season. If you are on social media, you have likely seen videos of people showing off their decor, recipes, and fun activities they are doing with their friends right now. But knowing how to throw together a dinner party is a learned skill. So we put together this summer dinner party guide to help you through the process, no matter what your aesthetic is.

Below, we devised an outline of four different kinds of summer dinner parties you could throw including a cottage core dinner party, a backyard BBQ dinner party, an order-in dinner party, and of course, a themed dinner party. Each includes simple ideas for the food, drink, decor, and activities. While these can be great outlines to follow, the most important thing is that you have fun and do and eat whatever makes you happy. That is the true success behind any good dinner party. 

Cottagecore Dinner Party

Cottagecore is the summer on Nantucket vibe with linen outfits, wine drinking, and a large emphasis on sustainable living. Think farmers markets, beachside cottages, and simple dishes.

Photo by Lee Myungseong- from Unsplash

Food: For the most authentic cottagecore dinner party, we suggest charcuterie. It allows everyone to have something available they like to eat, while being able to source ingredients from small, and when available, local farms. Then, for the main course, we suggest pasta like this delicious penne vodka recipe or this New York Times corn pasta recipe. For dessert, go for chocolate-covered strawberries because they are easy and in season.

Drink: To pair perfectly with cheese and pasta, it makes the most sense to enjoy your favorite white or red wine or even a sweet bottle of rosé with your food.

Decor: To truly set the mood, we suggest hanging fairy lights, hand-making unique place settings for each guest, having loads of candles and floral centerpieces, and eating in an outdoor setting if possible.

Activity: One activity that is becoming popular right now is candle painting. You can go on Amazon and buy a pack of tall white candles and paint designs of flowers, fruits, clouds, and anything else your artistic abilities make you capable of. You can either do this with the wax of other candles or with acrylic paint.

Backyard BBQ Dinner Party

Summer and barbecue go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you are looking for a more low-key, super casual dinner party, a backyard BBQ is exactly what you need. You can take it in any direction by decorating as much or as little as you want and making whatever food is desirable for you.

Photo by Stephanie McCabe from Unsplash

Food: Speaking of food, the obvious choice would be delicious hamburgers and hotdogs. However, there are more unique dishes you can experiment with that aren’t much more work, such as kabobs, grilled corn, cauliflower steaks, and even grilled pineapple or peaches.

Drink: Go for cheap and easy drinks such as beer or seltzers. These make for easy clean up and give options that everyone can enjoy.

Decor: With this quick and easy vibe, paper plates and utensils would be easiest. Additionally, we suggest a plaid picnic blanket, cozy seating, and lots of good lighting.

Activity: Some fun activities could include board games, drinking games, cornhole, and Spikeball.

Takeout Dinner Party

If you are looking to spend time with friends, but wouldn’t consider yourself a great cook or perhaps are too busy to set up a fancy and extravagant meal, a takeout dinner party is perfect.

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Food: Of course, a great option for a takeout dinner party is takeout. We suggest easy things like pizza or Chinese food, but this kind of dinner party is the ultimate comfort, so we truly suggest just choosing whatever food makes you the happiest.

Drink: Your drink choice can truly be anything that pairs best with your choice of food. This may be a sweeter cocktail, a heaping class of red wine, or a Heineken from the fridge.

Decor: The best decor would be some sort of pillow and blanket fort. If you want this dinner party to feel like more than just a Friday night, pick out some fun blankets and bean bag chairs and add some warm lighting for a cozy, yet unique feel.

Additionally, it only makes the most sense to dress in your coziest and comfiest outfit. You can even serve the food straight out of the takeout container with some dishware you already have on hand.

Activity: The best activity for this kind of dinner party would be watching your favorite rom com. As we said, this dinner party is reserved for your closest friends and screams comfort, so a movie that will make you laugh and cry will surely hit the spot. Our suggestions are Freaky Friday, The Princess Diaries 2, or a classic DCOM like Jump In!

Themed Dinner Party

Themed dinner parties can be such a fun time and are often an activity most people have never participated in before. Themes can range from a costume party, a Taylor Swift eras themed party, a 1920s murder mystery, a summer picnic party, or even something as simple as everyone must wear pink. To most accurately give our readers a vision of a themed dinner party, we will use the example of the Taylor Swift eras themed party.

Photo by Inga Seliverstova on Pexels

Food / Drink: One fun idea could have everyone bring a Taylor Swift era themed food or drink. This may mean Red wine and pizza for her album Red or champagne and chocolate cake for her album Reputation. Whatever your theme, really lean into the vibe and create a menu that reflects the theme in a fun way.

Decor: Again, this can be up to the decorator, but we imagine a room filled with bright and colorful lights, and of course lots of disco balls. Another fun touch could be bright colored balloons and lots of glitter, sparkles, and confetti.

Activity: Taylor is all about love and friendship, so a fun activity could be making friendship bracelets or playing guess that song with all of Taylor’s albums.