Party Menu Ideas

Cheryl Cirelli
Tasty party food

When planning a menu for your party, take into consideration who will be at the party, if there are any special dietary restrictions and whether you want to offer your guests a casual or formal setting. Make sure you offer a variety of items so that even the pickiest guests will be guaranteed a delicious treat.

Menu Sample Ideas

The type of menu you select for your party is dependent on a variety of factors. If you are limited on space, you may prefer to offer a more casual atmosphere where guests can sit where they please and enjoy a more relaxed menu. A formal affair can offer a sit down menu complete with various courses. Some sample menu ideas to check out include:

Formal Cocktail Party Menu

A great way to gather a group of friends or business associates is to host a formal cocktail party. This type of party works well for any occasion. Drink choices can be the focus of this type of party. Serve guests a selection of drinks such as:

  • Champagne
  • Red and white wine
  • Martinis
  • Sparkling water

Food should be elegant and easy to eat while mingling with friends. Gourmet finger foods can make for a stunning presentation as well as a filling treat. Some elegant food options include:

  • Assorted cheeses served with crackers and fresh fruit
  • Shrimp cocktail served with lemon wedges and cocktail sauce
  • Bruschetta with fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese
  • Quiche filled with spinach, mushrooms and goat cheese
  • Crabmeat stuffed mushrooms
  • Scallops wrapped in bacon
  • Melon wrapped in Prosciutto

Presentation is everything! Have food items placed on silver serving trays and presented in an attractive manner.

Casual Cocktail Party Menu

A casual cocktail party can be held at any time. Whether it is something thrown together on a Friday night or planned in advance, this type of party is about enjoying the company of your guests and relaxing.

Offer guests an assortment of beverages such as wine, beer, mixed drinks and soda. Food can be kept simple and include selection such as:

  • Veggies and dip
  • Wings
  • Swedish meatballs
  • Finger sandwiches

Formal Dinner Party Menu

A great way to impress your guests is with a formal sit-down dinner. A sit-down dinner should include a variety of courses such as an appetizer, soup or salad, main course and dessert. Each course should be brought out individually to each guest. Wine can be served with each course and paired accordingly.

A sample sit-down menu is as follows:

  • Appetizers can be served when guests arrive and can consist of assorted artisan cheeses, cubes of bread, crackers and fresh fruit.
  • Soup/Salad: Caesar salad, lobster bisque
  • Entrées: Oven roasted pork tenderloin or grilled sea bass
  • Sides: Dinner rolls, fresh green beans and oven roasted potatoes
  • Dessert: Chocolate torte

Casual Dinner Party Menu

A casual dinner can be a fun way to gather together family and friends. Items can be served on platters where guests serve themselves. Some casual dinner party options include:

  • Soup/Salad: Garden salad, vegetable soup
  • Entrées: Roasted chicken, meatloaf
  • Sides: Carrots, potatoes, peas
  • Desserts: Seasonal pies

Allow guests to choose among a variety of drink choices. Offer both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options.

Themed Party Menu Ideas

A themed party menu is not only fun but easy to create. Once you pick a theme, the possibilities are endless. Some creative party themes and menus include:

  • Totally 80s: In addition to cool music and clothes, create a menu that reflects the time period. Personal pizzas, wine coolers and fruit roll-ups were all made popular in the 80s.
  • Iron Chef: Pick an ingredient and make it the star of your menu. For example, if you choose avocado, feature an avocado soup, serve guacamole, chicken in an avocado sauce as an entrée and for dessert serve avocado mousse.
  • Destination: This theme can be almost anything imaginable. Do you have a favorite vacation spot? Did you go somewhere spectacular on your honeymoon? Focus on a destination and feature food items that are from that region. For example, a Hawaiian theme could be a luau complete with pig roast and plenty of pineapples and fresh fruit.

Outdoor Menu Ideas

Another factor to consider when you think of menu ideas is the location. A party located outside requires a little more food planning and prep than a party inside.

Include dishes that avoid mayonnaise or cream as a major ingredient. Look for food ideas that can safely kept in a warmer temperature or keep the food on ice so it doesn't spoil. The idea here is try to keep from running into the kitchen to replenish the food.

For an outdoors sit down dinner the most natural party menu ideas focus on the barbecue. Courses might include:

  • Main Dish: Grilling up a slab of ribs or a pile of burgers can be a fun and tasty idea. For a slightly more upscale grilling party you may want to look into using a homemade spice rub for some quails or filet mignon.
  • Sides: Pick out a few traditional sides, like coleslaw and potato salad. Gelatin salads are great, as is a big bowl of fruit.
  • Dessert: Look for finger food desserts, such as cookies, bars and cupcakes. These are easy to grab between games and other activities.

Although a barbecue is normally considered an outdoor event, dinner party guests that linger will eventually end up indoors. You may want to prepare some small snacks before hand for them when they do migrate inside.

Finishing Touches

A party menu's success depends on the amount of thought you put into it. Have fun, use your creativity and taste buds to come up with a delicious spread your guests will not forget. Remember to add special touches such as a beautiful centerpiece, festive decorations or party favors as a compliment to your party and menu.

Party Menu Ideas