So, we had some people over for a dinner party. I’ve been trying to be responsible and cautious, but I have also barely left the house since March and the isolation is getting to me a little bit. We did our best to be responsible with our guests. I can Pinterest away a lot of time, but apparently not the rest of my life.

1. Tent / Table / Chair Rental

I’m a nervous person and there was no way I was going to take the chance that it might rain. I also wasn’t sure exactly what the temperature would be so if there was any lingering sun, I didn’t want it to be too hot.

We also didn’t have a good way to seat more than 2 additional people. I reached out to Big T Tent Rental (Kansas City area) and although they normally do larger events than this one, they were able to accommodate a 10’x10′ tent, 60″ round table (like what they have at weddings) and 8 chairs for my group. I had originally thought about buying a tent or canopy, but I didn’t think I’d be able to handle the set up and break down less than a month from the little guy’s due date. Included in the rental, Big T came out and set everything up, and afterwards broke it all down for me when they picked it up.

2. String Lights make it a Dinner Party

Another reason I wanted a tent or canopy of some kind was because I didn’t want it to be too dark. Our back yard doesn’t have a ton of lighting and eating in the dark sounds terrible. I picked up some string lights (for Josh) to hang around the edges of the tent. I mean is it really an outdoor dinner party without string lights? We don’t have any outdoor outlets and I didn’t want to worry about cords, so I went with battery-operated (and remote controlled) lights. I bought three strands, but two ended up being enough. The remotes were interchangeable.

3. Lanterns

Since I am a natural overthinker, I wanted a second type of outdoor lighting to get the effect I was picturing. Any lighting designer will advise layering different types of lighting instead of just going all-in on one type. I was looking for something decorative, and again battery-powered due to our lack of outdoor outlets. These adorable lanterns came in a pack of 9 – We hung one from each side of the tent and one from each corner.

4. LED Candles

The lanterns come with small tea light candles, but I had two concerns with using those: First, tea lights don’t generally last long enough for a dinner and I didn’t want to deal with replacing those halfway through the evening. Secondly, since they were hanging from the tent, I didn’t want to accidentally start any fires in case they got bumped, fell down, or caught a tent line. These LED candles ALSO COME IN A SET OF 9, with batteries, and are operated by remote. I didn’t plan that far ahead, but at the end of the night when we were ready for bed, it was really nice to just click two remotes at our lights to turn everything off. There is a steady setting and a flicker setting, and they are dimmable. I’m not the most careful person in the world, and I have an excitable pup AND a baby on the way, so I assume these will come in handy again in the near future.

5. Scented Candles

This sounds directly contradictory to what I just wrote about LED candles, but I also wanted to have scented candles for the tabletop, for ambiance I guess. The center of a large table is a reasonably safe place for lit candles. Also, while I don’t mind the look of LED candles off to the side, they don’t ever really look believable enough to have them directly in my field of vision. Since we were doing an evening event, I went with the lavender/tranquility scent. I had ordered these a few weeks ahead of time, and an added benefit to these candles was that they made my kitchen smell amazing (even unlit). The votive size of these is perfect, as is the fact that they are a really light pastel lavender color. I didn’t want any aggressive colors since basically everything else was off-white, glass, or silver, (with blue napkins and brown flowers) but I like that there is some color to indicate the scent. This company uses essential oils and manufactures in the United States.

6. Oui Yogurt Jars & Coffee Grounds

One reason I’m a fan of votive candles is that they go into a cup. If you knock them over, they’ll usually just go out, MAYBE spill some wax, but you’re not starting a fire. I am a big big fan of Oui vanilla yogurt… pot-set texture and super creamy. I never actually had anything like that when I lived in France – it seemed like regular yogurt was more prevalent, so I can’t attest to it being “french-style” – but accuracy aside, this is one of my favorite breakfast foods. We have a bunch of these jars because since they’re glass, I can’t bring myself to throw them away. I have a row of these jars that I use as candle holders by surrounding the votives with coffee grounds. This provides a small amount of coffee scent, the perfect color (matches the “Espresso” colored flowers I bought and all of the other items that are cream/off-white/natural linen/palm leaf), and is infinitely reusable as long as you weren’t planning to brew coffee with it later.

Oui Yogurt Jars with Coffee Beans and Candles for dinner party
From the Oui Yogurt website… I usually use grounds and not beans, but it has a similar effect.

7. Compostable Dishes

While I am fully aware that buying a bunch of things off of Amazon is not the MOST environmentally-friendly move, I do try to minimize my carbon footprint where possible. I don’t actually have enough plates for a dinner party of this size. Additionally, to be respectful of my guests, disposable plates seemed like they might be slightly safer from an epidemiology standpoint. These plates (and bowls, side plates, tiny bowls, etc.) are beautiful and also compostable. Although they are a single-use item, no additional resources are needed afterwards, they avoid the landfill, and they will feed my garden in the spring. I also like not stressing about exactly how many dishes I will need.

8. Composter: Wouldn’t buy this only for dinner party, but nice to have

I would not advocate for buying a composter JUST to have a dinner party, but it’s a nice thing to have. Most food waste (and compostable dishes) can be diverted from landfills. Compost can also help out your garden if your backyard soil is less than perfectly nutritious for your plants. This is the one I have (bought two years ago) and it’s very easy to spin it after you add anything to it just to ensure it’s getting mixed properly. Keep in mind it takes some time to get a good compost going. It isn’t super helpful to start one right when you’re planting your garden.

9. Drop-Cloth Tablecloth

I shamelessly stole this idea from Gardenista. The look and texture of a painting drop cloth was perfect for what I had in mind for the dinner. Generally when you are renting a table, you’ll want a tablecloth of some kind for aesthetic reasons (utilitarian-looking tables). A tablecloth also helps to lessen some of the usual “dinner” sounds that can block out conversation. I bought a massive dropcloth and trimmed it to be the approximate length I wanted. I left the edges raw (I know it will unravel just a little bit but I like that look). It turns out that painters aren’t super worried about creases in their drop cloths, so I did need to iron it. It looked ridiculous with all those creases as a tablecloth.

10. Linen Napkins: Not ONLY for dinner parties

I bought linen napkins about a year ago when I was hosting Thanksgiving for the first time. Besides looking nicer than paper napkins, I’ve been able to use them in place of disposables as well as paper towels since I bought them. I would not use them for anything gross. That said, I’d like to believe that any reduction in single-use items is worthwhile. They get softer and look nicer every time they are washed. I also think they add a nice amount of texture to your table. They help everything feel a little more “permanent” – extra important if you’re using disposable plates. And yes, washing napkins after a dinner party is easier and faster than washing dishes.

11. Napkin Rings

What, am I 100? Whatever. Napkin rings look nice. They’re like jewelry for your table. I have a set of monogrammed pewter napkin rings that I use for everything, and they look great with my linen napkins with very little effort. I bought my set during a Pottery Barn sale over a year ago, but I found this set on Amazon that has a similar vibe. Pewter napkin rings with a beaded trim are a classic style. They go with dipsoable palm plates or heirloom china, and you can just wipe them down. It’s not like you have more dishes to do afterwards. An added benefit is that if you’re setting the table for an outdoor dinner party and using pressed palm plates (very lightweight), your napkins and napkin rings can weigh down the plates in case of a breeze so they don’t blow away. I always thought napkin rings would be a cool thing to inherit, but nobody else in my family ever had or used them. I guess that tradition starts with me.

12. Hand Sanitizer: Safe Dinner Party

Since the pandemic is somehow still happening, I wanted to be as cautious as possible having guests over. I had hand sanitizer out in two places so we could make sure we weren’t transferring anything to each other. Babyganics makes a hand sanitizer free from parabens, sulfates, phthalates, artificial fragrances and dyes. Two of us are having babies soon, so it seemed reasonable to get a hand sanitizer that’s considered safe for use around babies.

13. Thermacell Lantern

I’m always the person that mosquitos chew on the most. They carry diseases and being itchy is the worst. Since it’s not very practical to be hosing myself down in DEET and bug spray for a dinner party (not to mention chemical exposure during pregnancy), I broke out the Thermacell lantern. I’ve had this one for years but it looks like they’re still selling this model. A butane cartridge lightly heats up a repellent-soaked tab, keeping the mosquitos away. The lantern version provides the added benefit of helping to light our patio stairs for visibility after sunset. It’s battery powered, portable, and most importantly doesn’t ruin the aesthetic I had in mind. I still got maybe two bites, which is NOTHING compared to my usual situation. Josh, of course, was not bitten at all.

14. Diamondboxx

As far as I am concerned, this is the only sound system ever needed. Bluetooth, battery-powered, high quality, LOUD (if you want), sleek-looking, they are just all around awesome. I bought this for Josh for his birthday last year (partially because he would appreciate it, partially because I wanted one). It’s an investment, but it’s either one of these, or 20 less-expensive ones that crap out on you or run out of battery power halfway through the evening. I bought the SOMA FM app when iPhones first came out, since I prefer to pick a category and NOT to DJ. Folk Forward is probably my favorite SOMA FM station (when I don’t want to weird people out with Secret Agent). The extent of our soundsystem setup was taking the Diamondboxx outside, turning on my phone’s Bluetooth, and picking a station. I actually wanted to talk to our guests, so we kept it low. That said, this thing can get VERY loud, which is awesome for cleaning days or home workouts.

Diamondboxx is the best dinner party DJ

15. Dinner Party Dress

So, it’s not really part of “dinner party planning,” but why not include it. I’m getting close enough to the finish line that I don’t want to buy any more maternity clothes. I also didn’t have anything remotely reasonable or comfortable to wear (too warm for my beloved wrap dresses). I “needed” to buy something. Dresses with elastic smocking are ADORABLE, (finally) trendy these days, and thankfully very flexible. In theory I could wear this plus or minus 30 lbs, right? This dress is super lightweight, soft, and flattering with a bump. Additionally, it’s long enough that I don’t have to look at my knees (super puffy this last month). When I have people over, I don’t like to be distracted by what I’m wearing or physical discomfort. This one is more comfortable than some of my pajamas. I also wasn’t sure what the weather was going to do, so I wanted something I could wear with or without a grey cardigan instead of planning a backup outfit for chillier weather.

So that’s my dinner party! I love hosting, and can’t wait for safer times when I can do this kind of thing a little more regularly. If there are any suggestions out there for better safety, environmentalism, or just additional enjoyment, I’d love to hear them!


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