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What Time Should Your Dinner Party Start? How To Decide

What Time Should Your Dinner Party Start? How To Decide

Planning a dinner party is an exciting way to get together with friends and catch up on current events in their lives. To ensure your dinner party is a success and as many of your guests as possible can make it, you've got to be strategic on the time you plan for it to begin. So, what time should your dinner party start?

Start your dinner party at 7 pm to ensure most of your guests can attend. Planning your dinner for 7 pm gives your guests time to finish their work day with enough time to get ready for your event. It also gives you time to clean and prepare for your guests' arrival.

In this article, I will discuss the best time your dinner party should start and the many factors to consider when planning when that time should be. 

What Is the Best Time To Host Your Dinner Party?

Whether for a special occasion or to catch up with old friends, a dinner party is the perfect way to gather your guests for an enjoyable evening. 

You should always plan your dinner party to start after 5 pm. This goes for both weekends and weeknights. Having it after 5 pm increases your chances that everyone will be able to attend. 

7 pm is the best time to start a dinner party, as it gives your guests plenty of time to finish their prior engagements of the day, get ready, and drive to your location.

With dinner parties typically lasting three hours, you can push the start time back as late as 8 pm, if preferred. However, 7 pm is still ideal, depending on when you plan to serve dinner. By 8 pm, your guests will likely be hungry and ready to eat immediately.

What To Consider When Deciding When Your Dinner Party Should Start

There are many things to take into consideration when planning a dinner party. Trying to decide on what time can be stressful in and of itself. Here is a list of what to consider to determine the best time to start your dinner party.

1. The Order of the Events of the Evening

When choosing a time for your dinner party, it's essential to consider the events you've planned for the evening and in what order. 

For instance, 7 pm would be a perfect start time for following the sequence of events to flow nicely and not feel rushed: 

  • Serve appetizers 30 mins after guests arrive
  • Wait an hour to serve the main course
  • Take a short break once the main course is finished
  • Serve the dessert
  • Enjoy after-dinner drinks 

If you plan on providing some form of entertainment, you may need to start your dinner party sooner. This way, you won't feel overwhelmed trying to fit everything into an allotted amount of time.

2. Are You Hosting Dinner on a Weekend?

When considering a time for your dinner party to begin, one thing to consider is the night of the week you are choosing to throw it. Most often, dinner parties are thrown on Friday or Saturday nights. 

While it's optional to have your event specifically on one of those days, Friday and Saturday are typically chosen due to most people not having to work the following morning. 

Knowing they don't need to wake up early to head to work the next day will allow your guests to relax and enjoy themselves during the dinner party. 

Having your dinner party on the weekend will allow you to enjoy everyone's company until later in the evening. This gives you more wiggle room on when you can start the event. 

3. Are You Hosting Dinner on a Weeknight? 

If you choose to have your dinner party on a weeknight, consider that your guests will most likely be working all day and need time to go home, shower, and get ready before heading over. 

Not to mention the time you’ll need to prepare and get ready. Will you be off that day, leaving you plenty of time to finish everything? Or, will you also be working, scrambling to get things ready at the last minute?

4. How Long Your Party Will Last

Another question to consider when throwing a dinner party is how long you plan it to last. Dinner parties typically last three hours; however, they can last only two hours if you'd prefer. 

There are also times when guests decide to linger and stay much later than initially planned. If you’re throwing your dinner party on a work night, this is something to keep in mind when deciding when to have it start.

If it’s getting late and guests are still lingering, start talking about the dinner party like it’s over. Statements such as, “It was so great catching up,” or “What a great night,” should have them gathering their things and thanking you for a fun evening.

5. Where the Dinner Party Is Being Thrown

Hosting this dinner party in your home, a venue, or a restaurant can all play a factor in choosing the time for the party to start. 

If you choose to have your dinner party out on the town somewhere, consider how busy it will be or what the parking situation will look like once they arrive.

6. Are You Hiring a Cater or Cooking Dinner Yourself?

Whether you are hiring a caterer or cooking dinner yourself can also determine what time the dinner party should start.

Hiring a caterer to take care of the courses provides you more time to visit with your guests and entertain them. This can take a lot of the pressure off of the host. 

Making dinner yourself is a bit more work and planning. However, who doesn't love a home-cooked meal? Cooking an unforgettable feast for your guests adds a more personal touch to the evening.

If you are trying to decide what to cook for your party, check out this cookbook full of delicious dinner party recipes from around the world. These recipes are sure to wow your guests. 

7. How Far Your Guests Have To Commute

How far your guests commute to get to your dinner party should also be considered when choosing the time. 

Make sure to think about how far they have to travel and if they could get stuck in rush hour traffic depending on the time you choose. You could use the typical time of everyday traffic in your area to help you decide when a good time to start your dinner will be.

Likewise, if you host the dinner party too late, some of your guests might have to leave early because they’d need to make a long commute back home. As such, if you’ve invited people you live a long distance away, it’s best to make plans early.

8. Leave Yourself Ample Time To Clean and Prepare

When choosing a time, consider how much cleaning and preparing you will need to do before your guests arrive. 

It's important to allow yourself plenty of time to complete your tasks.This way, you won't be frantically trying to finish all the last-minute things by the time your dinner party starts. You want to feel calm and relaxed when your guests arrive to set the tone for the evening.

Final Thoughts

Planning your party to start mid-evening is always best. More friends will be able to attend, and you won’t be as rushed to complete the prep work. 

With all the running around trying to ensure your dinner party goes off without a hitch, remember to relax and enjoy yourself with your guests. After all, that's why you wanted to throw one in the first place!