6 great dinner party ideas to throw with friends

There are very few things that are better for bonding over with friends than food. Here are a few ideas to make the meals more creative.

5 young adults sitting around a dinner table while wearing replica 18th-century clothes Photo: cottonbro studio

I might be late to the trend but as of the start of 2024, my friends and I have decided to have dinner once a month to ensure we’re all in the same space at least every 30 days. Eventually dinner by itself gets a little boring, though. I think themed parties are a great way to explore ourselves and our interests, and to loosen up after a long week of hard work. And sharing meals allows us to open ourselves up to stronger conversations and bonding. Here are some of the dinner party themes I’ve thrown—or would like to throw—and I implore you to use these ideas and shape them to fit your needs!


Fairy Tea Party

The best part about this theme is that you get to decorate your space in a very natural, earthy way. You can never go wrong with some cute pastel candles, sprigs of fresh flowers, and mismatched pieces of chinaware. You and your friends could hit up a Value Village for some vintage decor and maximize the time you’re spending together by turning this into two events: shopping together and dining together. I also think holding this dinner outside in a picnic fashion with fairy wings on would be really cathartic—like embracing your inner child!

Foodwise, I think finger foods would be excellent in this situation: lots of berries, small sandwiches, pastries, and, of course, as much tea as your hearts’ desire! Remember, it’s whatever the fae would eat. It might even be interesting to add traditional Celtic foods, like soul cakes, into your event to draw more meaning. Traditionally, they’re made for All Souls Day, but I don’t think the fae would mind: here’s a recipe from Lavender & Lovage!


Charcuterie Board Night

I love this idea so much because it adds variety to a meal that may not normally be present. If everyone is bringing a different charcuterie board, then the range of food present is so much wider than usual. Furthermore, if you’re looking for a more low-key theme where you don’t need to decorate or dress a certain way, this is perfect for you! You could also draw from the other themes to find inspiration and craft your board.

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, here are some fun themes for your charcuterie board: a breakfast board, a s’mores board, a holiday board (Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, etc.), a french fry board, a chicken wing board, or a movie night board. Really, there’s no limit to what you choose to put on yours and the more eccentric and specific you make it, the more fun you’ll have!


Tropical Beach Party

I love the idea of a tropical-themed party in the summer, but even more so in the winter when the cold is affecting us. What better way to bring some warmth into your lives and your friendships by throwing a beachy banquet? In terms of decor, I recommend coconut cups, drink umbrellas, and flower leis—anything you would see at your dream resort! If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you could even fashion your own beach bar with some dried grass, cardboard, and paint.

For food, I suggest you lean towards barbecuing! Burgers are a great option, or chicken if that’s not your thing, especially if you’re adding pineapple to either. Crab rangoons, blackened shrimp, and tropical fruit kebabs might also be fun, beachy items to bring to dinner. For dessert, I cannot stress the deliciousness of homemade “Dole Whip” enough. For a recipe, try this one from The Epicurious Test Kitchen!


DIY Pizza Party

Similar to the charcuterie board theme, this one requires little decoration! However, if you feel like decorating, might I suggest turning your space into a NYC-style pizza shop? You could find some checkered tablecloths, Coca-Cola glasses, and even print your own menu of possible ingredients for your pizzas. It would also be super cool to find some pizza boxes to decorate for any leftovers you need to bring home!

In terms of setting up the pizza making, you simply need to lay out ingredients and everyone can pick and choose what to put on their own personal pizzas. Include the basics, like pepperoni, veggies, and the usuals, but also throw in some interesting options as well and different sauces. It might be beneficial to have lists of different pizzas and their ingredients for those who are indecisive. If you’re having trouble deciding what to add to your pizza—or your list—check out this excellent article by Delish!


Barbie Pajama Party

Look, on the topic of being late to the party, I’m also not over Barbie yet—that movie changed my life. Moreover, one of my favourite scenes was the quick glimpse we got into a glorious Barbie slumber party. Personally, I believe it would translate into an amazing dinner party theme! Obviously, the only thing you really need decor wise is the color pink: pink plates, pink tablecloths, pink everything. This is one of those cases where more is best. It’s the perfect time to bring in balloons, streamers, and all those fun, gimmicky party favourites. On top of the decor, pj’s are a must—no exceptions!

Moving away from the 2023 Barbie movie and into the animated classics, one main theme when it comes to the food on screen is the immense love of desserts! In Barbie Swan Lake, Odette bakes beautiful looking cinnamon buns and chocolate chip cookies. In Princess Charm School, we see a strawberry swirl cake. All in all, if ever there was a time to eat dessert for a meal, it would be during a Barbie slumber party. However, if sweets aren’t your thing, you could always use beet juice to dye some of your fave foods pink!


Medieval Feast

As a historian, this theme is especially close to my heart; it would be fun to host an evening set in the era of extravagant feasts! Although it may be particularly hard to find inspiration in terms of medieval decor. For a more interactive idea, you could try a ‘decorate your own chalice’ competition! Gluing colorful gems all over golden cups feels like the perfect way to kick off a night of luxury. You might also want to find some elaborate candlesticks, ornate dishes, and overflowing bowls of fruit for your table. Anything over the top will be your best friend in this setting!

When thinking about your menu, there’s a lot of opportunity for fun. Think giant turkey legs, braided loaf masterpieces, and obscene amounts of pastries. Stews, roasted meat, and fish dishes, often accompanied with a plethora of jams and jellies, were very commonplace at medieval feasts too! Interestingly, plums were a popular dessert during this era, so consider providing some for your guests. If you’re looking for full authenticity, check out this article by The British Museum of recipes from the Middle Ages!


Before leaving you all to your festivities, I want to add one more thing: your dinner party is yours to explore how you like and should be free of anyone else's opinions. There is no mark of a good party beyond being able to bring together the people we love in a collective space that’s warm and peaceful.

I know the cost of everything is on the rise right now, but I don’t want you to shy away from throwing a dinner party because you fear it won’t measure up to a Vogue-esque event. We’re all in university navigating busy schedules and low budgets. Your party will be awesome regardless of the time or money you can put into it. Please don’t let the expectations stop you from creating memories and strengthening friendships. Enjoy!