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How to Plan a Party Menu in 7 Steps

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

For some hosts, planning the menu is the best part of entertaining. For others (like me!), this is not where we excel. Whether you love to KICK IT in the kitchen, or you prefer to hand the reigns over to someone else, here are seven tips to make your event successful and hopefully, less stressful!

1. Decide if your menu will be formal or casual. The theme of your event will decide this for you. It is unlikely at an Independence Day swim party you will serve pan-seared beef sirloin. If you want a simple menu, a cocktail party is an excellent choice. It can be fun and casual or dressy and elegant. Either way, it is easy to execute and can be one of the least expensive ways to entertain. Offer five to seven different hors d’oeuvres and several drink choices, and you are set.

2. Are you having a sit-down dinner or a buffet? Ask yourself, “What is easiest for me?” Go with the option that causes you the least amount of stress. I personally love a good casserole. This works well with any type of party. Just remember, your focus should be on extending hospitality to your guests, not working in the kitchen all night.

3. Find out from your guests if there are any food allergies. You do not need to plan your menu around one person (and I say this as a family with food intolerances), but if your goal is to shower your guests with love, having a couple of items your allergy plagued friends can enjoy is a nice gesture.

4. Unless you are having the meal catered, stick with what you are comfortable making. A party is not the time to try out a new dish unless you have previously tested it a couple of times. A very easy one-pot dish is a hearty soup, salad, and bread. This is easy to make and hits the spot with almost every guest.

5. I always do a walk-through of my party. The same is true of my menu. Prepare the food you plan to serve and give it a trial run. Do this a week or two before your event. You will quickly recognize what works well, and it will also reveal any hiccups in your plans.

6. Once you know your guest count, you need to determine how much food to serve. Here is an easy guide for quantity preparations.

7. Anything that can be prepared ahead of time, do it! You will be so glad you did. I prepare everything a few days before my event unless there is something that must be made the day of the party. And if something must be prepared the day off, I strongly consider cutting it from my menu. It is usually not worth the hassle. Other than warming up food before my guests arrive, I want to enjoy the process of getting ready for my event so I can be in the right state of mind to extend hospitality to my guests. Always remember this is the real reason we entertain.

Together with you,

Lisa Lou


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