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How to Throw a Laid-Back Dinner Party

Created January 6, 2020
You want to throw a dinner party, but you don’t necessarily have matching cutlery or even enough seats at your dining table. The solution? Take a laid-back approach.

Who to Invite

Not your mom. She would probably not approve of this event. Instead, invite your flexible friends—you know, the ones who can make plans on the fly, who enjoy being creative, who are always up for something new and who don’t mind using their laps to hold their plates.

What You’ll Need

First, you’ll need a table. Not for eating at per se, but more so for holding food, drinks and desserts. This is a laid-back dinner party after all, which means everyone doesn’t necessarily have to sit together at the table. Rather than focusing on the seating and décor, focus on the food as the main event of this get-together. If the food’s good, no one is going to remember that they had to use a paper towel as a napkin.

The Drinks

Sparkling Pear Punch

When it comes to easy-breezy drinks, a few bottles of wine will do. Get red, get white, but most importantly, get what’s on sale. Even better if you can persuade a few friends to bring bottles of their own. If you do end up making mixed drinks, you’ll want to pick big-batch cocktails as opposed to one-off recipes.

The Sides

When it comes to picking sides, choose recipes that can either A., be kept cold, B., be kept at room temperature, or C., can be kept warm if you have space for that. Don’t choose fussy sides that need to be put together right before they’re to be served. Go for hearty salads that can stay chilled in the refrigerator. Make side dishes in your slow-cooker to keep your oven free for the main course. Or go for fresh fruit or roasted veggies that don’t mind sitting out for a while.

The Main Dish

Slow-Cooker Chicken and Wild Rice

Keep that laid-back attitude going with these dinner party mains that are easier than they look. Opt for meat-free mains if you want to keep costs down, or use affordable proteins like chicken or shrimp. Fun fact: if your side dishes are bangin’ enough, you don’t even need a main dish.

The Desserts

What’s the most laid-back dessert you can think of? If you answered sheet cake or dump cake, you are 100% right. Finishing a meal off with something sweet is always a treat, but you don’t need to sacrifice a lot of time for this simple joy. Sheet cakes are impressively easy to make ahead, but not nearly as hands-off as the clever dump cake. Pair your post-dinner sweet snack with coffee all around for a satisfying end to a memorable event.

The Setting

The best way you can prep your space for a laid-back dinner party is to clean it. Nothing says “uninviting” like a home that wasn’t cleaned before guests came over. Give your place a good scrub down, light a few candles to get rid of the smell of household cleaners, open a window and let some light in. If your home is houseplant-free, get a bouquet of fresh flowers to bring some living energy to the space. Then stop there! A laid-back dinner party doesn’t require name cards, place settings or charger plates. A casual dinner party is all about the food—all you have to do to let your home allow for that food to shine is to make it a welcoming space.