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10 Cozy Winter Dinner Party Ideas

The dinner party is the quintessential winter gathering. But planning a night of fine dining for your family and friends involves more than just putting dinner on the table. There’s a lot more to consider, like entertainment, decorations, drinks, appetizers, and the ambiance. This guide will help you plan! So warm up the fireplace and invite some friends over for a cozy evening of good food and good times with these winter dinner party ideas.

1. Raise a toast and stay toasty

Coffee isn’t the only drink that comes in seasonal flavors. Get in the holiday spirit with festive spirits. Think sangria, hot cider, and mulled wine; ditch regular old eggnog for eggnog coladas. For an extensive list of decadent drink recipes, check out this slideshow on Delish. Add a little flair with festive drink charms (for identifying everyone’s drink and preventing mixups) and coasters. 

2. Host a White Elephant gift exchange

A classic holiday party game and an easy answer to the question: What can I bring to the dinner party? This winter dinner party idea can add a touch of humor to the night, especially if guests choose gag gifts based on what they know about the other guests who are attending.

To refresh your memory in case you haven’t played in a while, White Elephant requires that everyone bring a wrapped gift. The players then draw numbers to determine the order in which everyone will get to unwrap a gift. On each person’s turn, they can either choose to unwrap a new gift or steal an already opened gift from someone else. Once all of the gifts have been unwrapped, set a timer and let the gift stealing commence. Once the timer runs out, everyone must keep the last gift they were holding.

3. Curate the perfect playlist

Set the tone for the party with some dinner music. Think jazz, holiday songs, secular winter songs, piano music, and coffeehouse acoustic songs. To get you started, Spotify already as a 100 Greatest Dinner Party Songs playlist. Don’t let it be a silent night (pun intended). No matter what you are planning for your meal, don’t skip this winter dinner party idea.

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4. Don’t forget the appetizers

Pre-game for the main meal with light bites. Use limited edition snowflake Ritz crackers for festive bruschetta, serve a warm brie dish, offer plenty of cheese and crackers, and get creative with puff pastry to create bite-sized snacks. A veggie tray and fruit salad are also perfect complements for any assortment of appetizers.

5. Let the games begin

Keep the party alive with games and conversation starters! Headbandz and Cards Against Humanity are always crowd favorites. If you have access to a projector or TV that hooks up to the internet, Quiplash is a hilarious online party game that allows you to show off your comedy chops. To keep conversations flowing, toss some conversation starters on the table. Ice-breaking questions can be printed onto napkins, coasters, or table cards, or you can use Table Topics cards. If you’re feeling extra-creative, try typing up and printing your own. 

6. Design a festive tablescape

The dining table will be the focus of your dinner party, so the most important dinner party ideas on this list are for table decorations. At each place setting, set up place cards with your guests’ names on them, and consider including a small gift or chocolate. Use a cloth tablecloth or placemats, and consider adding a table runner (it could even be a strip of fake snow made of cotton).

You can top the table with snowy trees to create a winter wonderland look or pine cones and holly from a craft store. Pier 1 Imports is a treasure trove of tabletop decor. Don’t forget candles! You can use real or battery-operated votives to set the mood. Go for pine or cinnamon scents, or use unscented. Whatever you choose, just make sure the scent isn’t so overpowering that your guests lose their appetites. For visual examples of elegant winter table settings, check out this design blog.

7. Munch on mini desserts

Forget about cutting up cakes or pies. Set up a self-serve dessert bar featuring mini pies, sugar cookies, whoopie pies, cake pops, snowy brownies (brownies dusted with powdered sugar), mini bundt cakes, red velvet everything, cupcakes, peppermint bark, peanut brittle, and toffee. Buy a stack of festive paper plates and use cake stands, colorful platters, and trays to display everything.

A chocolate fondue fountain with fruit and angel-food cake bites or a s’mores bar could be another perfect winter dessert station option as well. You can find inexpensive fondue or indoor s’mores maker online or at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. For fancy s’mores, buy an assortment of different graham cracker flavors (including cinnamon and chocolate covered crackers), colorful marshmallows, and different kinds of chocolate bars. 

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8. Set up a hot cocoa or coffee bar

When the weather outside is frightful, hot cocoa or coffee is a delightful treat to serve to your dinner guests along with their desserts. Don’t forget the whipped cream (which comes in different flavors now!) mini marshmallows, snowflake marshmallow cutouts, sprinkles, cinnamon sticks, cookie straws, and festive syrups like peppermint, gingerbread, and caramel. To make a large batch of hot cocoa, just use a crock pot! 

Once you have gathered all the right toppings, remember that display is everything. You want your cocoa bar to be festive and aesthetically-pleasing as well as delicious. For a more in-depth guide to setting up the perfect hot chocolate station, check out this blog.

9. Host an ugly sweater contest

Make it a casual dinner party by hosting an ugly sweater contest so no one has to stress over what to wear. While department stores have no shortage of ready-made sweater options, you can also encourage guests to get crafty and decorate their own sweaters from thrift stores.

10.  Dine in style

Elevate your dinner party by hosting it in a mansion, loft, historic home, or outdoor garden space. The best part? You don’t have to clean up at your place or worry about having enough chairs or table space. Peerspace can help you live vicariously by renting out a unique space. You can even search specifically by “dinner venues.”

The holidays are a perfect time to host a party for the ones you love. Treat your friends and family to a special night of dining with one or more of these winter dinner party ideas.

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