Easy but elegant dinner party ideas for a crowd holiday cottages

Party Houses

Easy but elegant dinner party ideas for a crowd

Kate A 22 July 2020

There's nothing more enjoyable in life than bringing all your loved ones together for a fun-filled night of food, drink, great conversation and lots of laughter. The key to a successful dinner party is being a relaxed host and, while we all want to impress when it comes to creating delicious dinner party menu ideas, it’s important that you’re not chained to the kitchen once your guests have arrived.

Whether you’re having a summer party or a winter get-together, a relaxed gathering for friends or a more formal meal for a special occasion, we have come up with some easy but elegant dinner party ideas for a crowd. These will ensure that you’ll spend less time in the kitchen and more time partying with your guests!

If you haven’t already found a venue for your dinner party, check out our gorgeous collection of party houses in the UK for some inspiration.

Our top tips for fuss-free entertaining:

Elegant dinner parties

  • Pick dinner party recipes that can be prepared ahead of time and don’t require a lot of last-minute cooking.
  • Choose dishes that can be served family-style rather than individually plated or go for a buffet and arrange food on beautiful large boards and platters for guests to pick at.
  • Create a drinks station where everyone can help themselves to wine, beer and cocktails – make sure there’s glasses, bottle openers, ice and garnishes.
  • Set your table before your guests arrive – fresh flowers and a tablecloth/runner will create a stylish look.
  • There is nothing wrong with mixing shop-bought food with homemade – just transfer into serving bowls before guests arrive.
  • Make sure your dishwasher and rubbish bin are empty before the party starts, making the clean-up a lot easier.
  • Include after-dinner entertainment and play a couple of rounds of games over coffee and dessert.
  • Create a playlist of music to create atmosphere and make your guests feel welcome.
  • Most of all, keep it simple, fun, delicious, and relaxed!

A summer garden party

Summer garden party

When it comes to summer dinner party ideas, nothing beats a sophisticated soiree outdoors. Take advantage of the warmer weather and enjoy an al fresco dinner party as the sun begins to set. Enhance the ambience with jam jars filled with fresh flowers, string paper lanterns, fairy lights and bunting across fences, hedges and trees, and dress your table with brightly coloured dinnerware. Why not choose one of our party houses with a hot tub for extra indulgence?


Signature cocktail

Make a big jug of refreshing mojitos – all you need is white rum, soda water, a fresh lime, sugar, and a handful of mint leaves.

Stress-free appetisers

A classic appetiser idea, yet elegant and simple to serve, a crudité platter offers something for everyone. Featuring a variety of raw vegetables thinly sliced or cut into sticks and served with a selection of seasonal dips, this light and healthy dish not only looks beautiful, but can be prepared and arranged ahead of time and covered in damp paper towels to keep everything fresh until your guests arrive.

Salmon tacos

Easy dinner party main course

Forget traditional burgers and sausages; create an elegant summer garden party with the likes of watermelon, feta and mint salad, Mediterranean couscous salad, veggies with grilled pita bread, Greek grilled chicken skewers, marinated prawns and delicious salmon tacos.

Garden party desserts

Effortless dessert

Refreshing fruity sorbets, indulgent ice creams and an assortment of toppings can be laid out for guests to create their own sundaes. Plus, a selection of gateaux, cakes laden with fresh fruit, and big bowls of juicy strawberries with lashings of fresh cream will complement the theme perfectly.


Highland Hall | Scotland | Sleeps 14 

With 6 acres of gardens and woodland to enjoy, this old Scottish country home is the perfect place for a garden party with all your favourite people! The interior offers olde-worlde elegance and glamour while the gardens provide stunning sea views; it’s a beautiful setting in Scotland’s impressive Highlands. There’s a host of Dornoch's exquisite beaches nearby to uncover, although you may not want to leave as there’s the opportunity for spa treatments, yoga, pilates and a chef all available on-site.

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An Italian-themed dinner party

Italian themed dinner party

The perfect dinner party should involve minimal hands-on cooking and impressive results, which won't keep you away from your hungry guests for too long at any one time. An Italian affair is a great theme, not only because the food is mouth-wateringly delicious, but it is also great for big gatherings as much of it can be pre-prepared and laid out for guests to pick and choose. And when it comes to Italian dinner parties, there is no such thing as rushing, so it’s a great way to spend precious time with your loved ones. Let the rolling hills, vineyards and chic Italian cafes be your inspiration for décor, with candles, natural coloured linens, outdoor greenery and upbeat background music.


Signature cocktail

Originating from Venice, a Bellini sets a sparkling tone for your Italian themed dinner party and is made with white peach puree and prosecco.

Stress-free appetisers

Easy to set up, a bruschetta bar is one of the best fun dinner party food ideas that will certainly wow your guests as they get creative with a variety of toppings (which you’ve already prepared the day before). Simply grill some bread before the guests arrive and lay out a selection of tasty accompaniments. Think fresh mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, prosciutto, salami, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers and avocado for the toppings, and pesto, tapenade, red onion jam and honey for the spreads.


Easy dinner party main course

When it comes to easy dinner party ideas for a crowd, Italian works a treat; you could serve lots of different pasta dishes, a variety of meats, and crisp Italian salads. Or as a group, you could all make your own pizzas with oodles of toppings to choose from – the dough and sauce can be made ahead of time. Just make sure there’s plenty of wine while your guests wait for their pizzas to cook!


Effortless dessert

Tiramisu is a classic Italian dessert that can easily be prepared in advance and left in the fridge until needed. Cannoli is another favourite: an Italian pastry with a crisp shell and a creamy, sweet ricotta filling. It can either be made before your guests arrive, or you could create a cannoli station, and all have fun scooping the ricotta into pre-made shells after dipping them in melted chocolate and chopped pistachios.


The Hop Pickers Oast And Barn – Appledore | Kent | Sleeps 25

The Hop Pickers Oast And Barn - Appledore

This luxurious Grade II-listed Oast House in Kent is full of rustic charm and period features. There is a wealth of entertainment on offer, including a games room with pool table, dartboard and table football, a bubbling hot tub, and a boating lake. And when it comes to dining, you can either seat your guests at the large dining table for 26 inside, or move the party outside where a charcoal BBQ and pizza oven await – perfect for getting those homemade pizzas authentically baked!

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A murder mystery dinner party

Murder mystery dinner party

If you’re looking for dinner party ideas for adults, then a murder mystery night should be top of your list. With a host of drama, mystery and suspense, you needn’t worry about additional dinner party entertainment ideas as it’s all included in the theme. Make sure you prepare the food in advance, leaving you free to light the candles and set the scene. 

Read our guide, ‘How to host your own murder mystery party’ for more inspiration.

Charcuterie board

Signature cocktail

Blood orange sangria made with fresh blood oranges, sliced strawberries, raspberries and apple, combined with white wine, soda water, and brandy.

Stress-free appetisers

Lay out a selection of charcuterie boards filled with meats, cheeses, veggies, fruit and marinated olives for guests to pick at. Not only are these antipasti platters easy to assemble, but they instantly create colour and decoration on your tables. Simply scatter the boards with a little of each ingredient and let everyone dig in.

Chicken Chasseur

Easy dinner party main course

As you’ll want to spend as much time with your guests trying to work out who the murderer of the party is, you’ll want a main course that can be prepared beforehand, with minimal effort on the night. Perhaps a slow-cooked venison stew, a beef wellington, or a one-pot chicken chasseur could feature on your dinner party menu. You could even remove the hassle of cooking altogether and choose one of our large party houses that offers a private chef or external catering.

Death by chocolate cake

Effortless dessert

It’s got to be a death by chocolate cake - layer upon layer of rich chocolate and icing. Sheer luxury and a complete indulgence!


Old Coach Manor | Gloucestershire | Sleeps 26

Old Coach Manor

A perfect setting for a magical celebration, this grand Gloucestershire stately home boasts an array of decadent rooms where guests can mingle and you can hide the ‘evidence’. The dinner party can take place in the formal dining room, and you can even make use of the 3 acres of grounds if you want to expand your searches to the beautiful outdoor space. Best of all, guests can enjoy table football and snooker in the games room and, after the main event, unwind with drinks by the bar.

Old Coach Manor

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Now you’ve got some inspiration for quick dinner party ideas, you’ll need to find the perfect venue to host your special evening. Our collection of party houses in the UK feature everything you need for a night to remember, including large and fully equipped kitchens, decadent dining rooms, beautiful gardens and sumptuous bedrooms. For added entertainment, some of these party venues even boast hot tubs, swimming pools, games rooms and cinema rooms.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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