Dinner Parties: What Matters Most & 5 Simple Tips

dinner parties tips bottles

Gathering people around the dinner table is one of my favorite things to do. It’s there, at the table, where I feel people are invited to be their truest selves. With warm food, delicious drink, and good conversation, a single dinner can create memories that last a lifetime. In the Martinez home, I love to cook, and I’ve learned that when people are fed, they feel cared for. That is the power of sitting around a table…a physical need is being met, but an inward one is too. Some of my favorite moments with my family and friends who feel like family, have happened over dinner. I watch the weariness of the day melt off, and as bellies become full, hearts follow.

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”
Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine

For many, the pace of life does not seem to give much room for planning dinner parties. We get overwhelmed by the idea of it, put too much pressure on ourselves, and often resolve to just go out to a restaurant. Now, don’t get me wrong…I love a good dinner out. However over the years, I’ve learned there really is no substitute for opening up your space for others, and inviting them in. Serving your family, community, or friends, with a simple and delicious meal connects you in a way no restaurant can. I think it is important to insert these grounded practices into our busy lives, so that we can experience the joy they bring. I can’t begin to tell you of all the special moments lived and relationships built when I decided to just pause, take a breath, and make our home a safe haven for others.

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The reality is, hosting is not about perfection – it’s about presence. Having people over for dinner isn’t about impressing or proving…it’s just about being together! I’ve learned to not put too much pressure on the details, and to just have fun. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s the best meal they have ever eaten or the prettiest table setting they’ve ever seen. Own what you bring, and be proud of the home you’ve created. Cook something you love, put out what you have, and invite them in! Authentic care and intentional hosting is really what leaves a lasting impression.

This summer, Adrian and I have loved whipping together some fresh, local fish, a simple salad, and drinks to share. This meal is comforting, seasonal, and good for you! Steal this menu, get those plates out, and invite some people over! If your home is filled with love and those plates are pipin’ hot – you just can’t go wrong!

dinner parties tips seasoning fish

Here are some of my go-to tips when it comes to gathering people I love around a table…plus, a simple vinaigrette recipe you’ll go back to again and again! Happy hosting!

5 Tips for a Simple Dinner Party

1. Keep things local, seasonal, and simple. You all know how much I love San Leandro, and all the hidden treasures tucked away in these streets. As a resident for many years, I’ve discovered and frequented some of the best places to pick up local fare! For this dinner party, I visited Galvan’s Meat Market for my fish, Estudillo Produce for my salad ingredients, and Cordial Bottle Shop for our drinks. Go seasonal and support your local businesses as you shop for your dinner party! Believe me, the integrity of those ingredients will make even the simplest of meals memorable.

dinner parties tips galvan's meat market
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2. If presentation matters, do as much as you can the day before. Depending on the size and formality level, do most of the work ahead, so that on the day of, you only have to worry about final touches and keeping the food hot. I like to set all dishes and linens out the day before and put post-its on serving platters so I know what goes where.

3. When short on time: use napkin rings. If presentation only matters a little and time is short…napkin rings hide the wrinkles in your linens!

dinner parties tips table

4. Always bacon. Always cheese. When it comes to appetizers, anything with bacon and/or cheese always wins a crowd.

5. Create an ambiance. When candles are lit, music is playing, and the house smells like food…people will overlook the pile of shoes in your entryway. Trust me.

dinner parties tips washing salad
dinner parties tips picking cilantro

My Everyday Vinaigrette Recipe

  • 1 part white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 parts olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add fresh herbs to brighten it if you want!
  • Toss straight into a simple greens salad or shake up in a mason jar to save

Well, there you have it! When it comes to dinner parties…keep your priorities straight, and don’t miss out on the sincere pleasure hosting brings. Next time you invite friends to sit around your table, remember these tips…and smile.

What tip will you remember most when hosting? What is your favorite thing about having friends and family in your home? Share in the comments!

Until next time…

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  • You are definitely a wonderful hostess, Terry, it was fun reading your blog- you are an inspiration. And you have the cutest most organized house to do that entertaining in. It’s amazing how blessed you are with organizational skills and energy!! And you just keep taking on more and more projects and undertakings … what’s next, my friend??

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