Dinner party ideas


I’m going to be hosting a dinner party in a few weeks for couples from my Catholic infertility group. These are the only real-life friends I’ve made thus far in my new locale unless one counts the mailperson or the dry cleaning lady, and I’m eager to make a good impression.

I was thinking about either having a Derby Party (some of the couples live in Kentucky and the party is on Derby Day) or a Cinco de Mayo party. Does anyone have good ideas as to what to serve to make my party a success? I’ve looked on the usual websites like foodnetwork and bettycrocker and haven’t had a lot of success. I’m expecting about 12 guests and we could either eat outside or in.


Dinner parties, if you mean a sit-down dinner party, are a lot of fun but a lot of work. Have you considered an appetizer party? Then you don’t need to worry about place settings, just sturdy plates and chairs and a few tray tables to set down plates and drinks. Makes it easier to mingle than the dinner table.

I’m not a racing fan so I can’t help with the Derby theme, but if you opt for the Cinco de Mayo, here’s some ideas (for an appetizer party):

Fresh fruit kabobs made with tropical fruits (like mangoes, papayas, kiwi, pineapple, etc.) For really authentic Mexican flavor, squeeze lime juice over them and sprinkle with red chile powder!

salsa, guacamole and refried beans for dips with tortilla chips

mini tostadas made with round tortilla chips, topped with shredded cheese (melted in oven) and garnish with salsa or sour cream, or nachos

set up a taco bar–fill taco shells (you can make your own for softer ones) with shredded chicken or beef or ground beef, and set up an array of toppings: shredded lettuce, cheese, chopped tomatoes, green onions, salsa, jalapenos, guacamole, sour cream. Let everyone fix their own.

Here’s a recipe for Mock Margarita punch (if you’d rather not serve alcohol):

12 oz can frozen lemonade concentrate (thawed)
12 oz can frozen limeade concentrate (thawed)
1 cup powdered sugar
6 cups crushed ice
1 qt club soda (chilled)
lime slices and coarse salt

In a 4-qt non-metal container, combine lemonade and limeade, powdered sugar and crushed ice. Mix well. Cover and freeze, stirring occasionally. Remove from freezer 30 minutes before serving. Place two cups slush mix into blender with 1 cup club soda. Blend until frothy. Rub rim of glass (you can find plastic margarita glasses at Wal*Mart or just use 9 oz Solo cups) with lime slice and dip in coarse salt. Fill glass and garnish with lime slice. Makes 24 1/2 cup servings.

For fun, find some CDs of mariachi music and use bright colors for the table linens and napkins. Check Oriental Trading Company for inexpensive decorations (like miniature pinatas).

If you need recipes for anything else, just PM or e-mail me. I also have recipes for traditional Mexican sit-down dinners (like enchiladas, mole, and chilies rellenos) and desserts (flan and tres leche cake).

Have fun!


Serve buffet style. If you don’t have chafing dishes to keep things warm, I suggest you invest in some or get the disposable ones from Sam’s Club.

I’d go casual, with cocktails and a themed dinner/appetizers. I wouldn’t decorate too much or be to matchy with everything. I’d maybe get some napkins in colors of Cinco De Mayo or the Derby.

If there is a signature drink for the derby, make those. For Cinco do mojitos and/or margaritas plus sodas. If it’s a non-alcoholic crowd do iced tea and some sort of punch plus some soda choices.

For food, can’t help you much with the Derby-- except maybe look at Sandra Lee and Paula Deen for some good down home appetizers and entrees.

For Cinco, I’d do fajitas on a buffet, dips/chips, beans/rice, and all the fixings for that.


A silly hat spaghetti party!
Every wears a silly hat and you eat spaghetti til you bust! Always a favorite. Especially if there’s sangria!

My parents did a fun party that has a mystery menu. Once I get the items from my mom, I will post it.


If you go with the Derby Day theme, you could do mint juleps. I at one time had a recipe. If you’d like, I could see if I could find it.

If you do Cinqo de Mayo, stick to easy like fajitas and chips and salsa – I have an easy recipe for homemade salsa that’s better than anything you get out of a jar.

I like the idea of just appetizers. But if you go with full meal definitely do buffet style – that way you’re enjoying the party, too.


I think this would work better for those who know each other well. Not everyone is comfortable wearing a silly hat and such when they are just becoming acquainted with others or going to/inviting guests for the first time.


if you want to go with a Derby party, here’s a definite food called Hot Browns. They are cheap (turkey). You can make up a bunch of them in the oven at one time. Aside from Bobby Flay’s recipe, there are a bunch more if you scroll down the page. Here is Alton Brown’s mint julep, because he’s a Southern boy, and in any event probably researched it to get it just so. And here is the recipe for Derby Pie, also known as chocolate pecan pie.


For recipe help, I would recommend www.epicurious.com for general purpose as well as www.SouthernLiving.com or www.myrecipes.com if you pursue the Derby idea. Also to check out Martha Stewart–either website or the library for her books. She does do a good job with themed parties if you’re intent on having one.

I would agree with the earlier poster who advised you to stick to heavy appetizers and make it more of a casual cocktail mixer~especially if this is your first attempt to socialize with these people. It’s far less work and stress and makes the coming and going feel more natural because you’re not holding people hostage until after the desert course is served. A gold star for taking the lead on the hospitality~that IS the most important thing to offer your guests!! Good luck and have fun.


I’m with Island Oak, epicurious is my all time favorite on-line recipe source. If you are doing Derby Day, here is the best recipe for greens I have ever made, and of course, it comes from epicurious. DH and I just made a double batch of these greens for a Southern-food pot-luck at his work. OH they are delicious – and my husband usually won’t touch a cooked veggie. He’ll eat plate after plate of these!!

Collard Greens with Red Onions and Bacon


Try this site for some derby party ideas and recipes.


Thanks for all of the great tips! I’ve decided on the Cinco De Mayo theme and will be checking out the recommended websites. I’ve got a nice new buffet server from Christmas and 4 crock-pots if there’s anything else that needs to stay warm.

If anyone has any other recipes they’d like to share, I’d love to hear them.

Thanks again for your help!


KY Derby party is one of the highlight memories of our early married life, given by fellow teachers. we had a lot of great parties with that group.

5 Mayo is also a good idea
build your own tacos with all the toppings, refried beans from a can, margaritas in a pitcher, flan or bunelos (the fried tortillas in cinammon sugar). if you can do it, a big item down here for 5M is deep fried or marinated/slow grilled turkey legs.


To serve hot tortilla chips just like in the restaurant, put them to warm in the crock pot and serve from it. One of those oblong pots works best :slight_smile:

Make your own salsa - it is so much better than anything you can buy and is sooooo easy.

In the food processor, toss in 1/4 red onion and 1/4 yellow onion, 1 - 4 FRESH jalapenios (depending on how HOT you want the salsa to be) and a clove or two of fresh garlic. Mince that up.

Add the minced veg a large bowl or plastic pitcher. Pour in one large can of crushed tomatoes. Then, begin to add a bit of this and a bit of that. I always add some ground cumin, some white and some black pepper, just a pinch of sugar, and fresh cilantro. I’ll add in a bit more minced jalapenios or garlic, just depends on the taste.

Chill over night is best. A bit of fresh lime right before serving will add a nice zip.

This is so easy and inexpensive and GOOD.


This may not be what you are looking for but here goes:

Good recipies are nice…but not what is most important. Do what you can to get ready ahead of time so you can relax and make your guests feel comfortable. Make sure you take a few minutes before they arrive to say a few prayers that the Holy Spirit will help your party.

Get some Holy Water or some salt that has been blessed. Sprinkle some around your home and ask for God’s guidance to make people feel welcome.

Most people I know would rather have hot dogs at a home where they felt peace…rather then a gourmet meal at a home where things were tense…really. Do what you can to make people feel at home…relaxing music, lots of candles, laid-back atmosphere. Hope this helps a little, God bless.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.