How to Have a Dinner Party for One — And Why You Should!

published Aug 9, 2023
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woman sitting at a table eating seared fish on lentil salad with glass of white wine
Credit: Andrew Cebulka/Andrew Cebulka/Stocksy United

Level up your next chill day at home with our guide to having your best low-key home sesh ever. This content is presented in partnership with La-Z-Boy; it was created independently by our editorial team.

Dinner parties are one of those things I love attending, but dread hosting. Once everyone arrives at my house, it’s great. But the planning, shopping, prepping, and cleaning can be overwhelming — especially when I’m taking into account my guests’ preferences or special diets. A dinner party for just me, though? All by myself? Now that sounds amazing.

What Is a Dinner Party for One?

A solo meal at home is more than eating dinner by myself. It’s a special evening that I put in a little extra time and effort for — a chance to sit down and enjoy without rushing. It’s true “me time” where I’m physically and virtually disconnected from others — and there are a lot of benefits. According to mental health nonprofit The Jed Foundation, spending time alone gives you space to reboot and let your imagination run free. 

At my solo dinner party, I also get to make all the decisions: I love cheese, so maybe I have cheese as an appetizer and part of my main course. I can have a tiny nibble of something sweet after dinner or skip dessert altogether, as I don’t have a big sweet tooth. My choices don’t have to make sense or be luxurious; they just have to be foods I enjoy.

Credit: Lumina/Stocksy

How to Have a Dinner Party for One

Because you’re the only one on the guest list, you might not know where to start. Here are six steps to help you put together the very best dinner party for yourself. Remember: You get to decide everything, so embrace your creativity and enjoy yourself!

1. Pick a theme.

A chosen theme for your dinner party makes it more special, and it doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Maybe it’s cooking a cuisine you love but rarely get to eat (dim sum could be fun!), or you could base it on a meal you saw in a movie or a dish you enjoyed on vacation.

2. Do a mix-and-match of cooking and store-bought.

Unless you’re a person who truly loves making everything from scratch, keep your dinner party for one simple. You’ll stress less if you do some of the cooking, but also pick up ready-made foods to supplement the meal. Plus, when you deal with fewer dishes and less mess, you don’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen.

Browse the deli section of the grocery store or a specialty store in your neighborhood for ready-to-eat dishes that pique your interest. Here are a few ideas of what you can mix and match for a semi-homemade dinner.

3. Don’t forget a beverage.

A special drink is just as important as the food at a dinner party. Maybe it’s a half-bottle of sparkling wine, your favorite cocktail, or a new drink you’ve been eyeing. You can pick a beverage meant to pair with the food, or you can drink what sounds interesting to you (remember, you get to decide!). Whatever you choose, make sure it’s chilled (if it should be served cold), and pour it into a nice glass.

4. Make a playlist.

You can opt for complete silence if that’s what makes you truly happy, but music can really set the mood. Put on your favorite album, or take a few minutes to make a playlist or choose a pre-made mix on Spotify or Apple Music. Go with classical or jazz for relaxing vibes, or play something more upbeat to add a little energy to the room. Pro tip: Make your playlist long enough to last throughout the entire meal (and cleanup!).

5. Set the table.

Taking a few minutes to set the table reinforces the fact that you plan to sit down and enjoy a luxurious meal. Clear clutter from the space where you’ll be dining, and set it with a cloth napkin (if you have one) for true dinner-party aesthetics. Spruce it up with little touches: While flowers are an obvious choice, you can also put out with candles or little knickknacks you have lying around that bring you joy.

6. Dress up (even just a little).

If you were going out to a dinner party, you’d put some thought into your ensemble. Do the same thing for your solo dinner party to get yourself into the right mood. How much you want to dress up is entirely up to you. Put on that killer outfit you’ve been saving for a special occasion, or make the night special with small touches like wearing your favorite lipstick or a new piece of jewelry. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Helen Quinn

My Ideal Dinner Party for One

My perfect meal would have a French theme, as Paris is one of my favorite places I’ve lived. I’d start with a chilled glass of Chablis and a snack bowl of salty chips or cheese crackers to nibble on as I prepare dinner. My main course would be a piece of seared fish finished with a lemon-butter sauce, with good crusty bread and sautéed spinach on the side. To finish the meal, I’d enjoy a small piece of cheese or a sweet treat from a local beloved bakery. 

I’d set the table with a peony or a tulip in a bud vase and play Edith Piaf and Madeleine Peyroux quietly in the background. I’d wear pajamas paired with a bright green crystal ring I bought in Paris that I’ve always loved. Even cleanup would be fun, as I’d keep the music going while doing the dishes and reward myself with a splash of wine.

As a mom who rarely gets solo dinner time, planning (and having!) a dinner party for one is just as exciting as nabbing a reservation at the hottest new restaurant in town.