Lessons I Learned From Cooking for Parties

People gathered at a dinner party – image from Pixabay

Cooking for parties happens a lot, like if the event is a barbeque, dinner party, or holiday party.

I have also cooked numerous times throughout my birthday parties in recent years due to a few guests having dietary restrictions, including a peanut allergy.

However, moving forward, I will keep these lessons I have learned in mind.

Formality might not be necessary 

I never felt the need to make fancy meals for my parties. However, when I was planning my 21st birthday party, my mom discouraged me from having it at a casual place, like a diner. She worried that it would displease the guests, especially with alcohol. So, she suggested that I pick a restaurant a little more upscale.

Unfortunately, that “party” ended up being a Dinner with another friend and me. And my mom didn’t (and still doesn’t) feel my pain.

Anyway, when my 23rd birthday approached, I picked a tavern-like place near my house. Unlike my 21st birthday, this was actually a party – the first one with friends since my sweet 16. 

While it turned out a little better than my 21st, most of the people I invited to my 23rd birthday were not true friends. They attended the same college I did, and it was my last year of it. I only stayed friends with a handful of the invites, including those that couldn’t come.

After college graduation, I made more friends that were more loyal and true to me. A lot of them had held their birthday parties at casual restaurants.

I prefer to host my parties at my house, though. I’ve cooked food such as:

  • Burgers
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Chicken fingers
  • Mashed potatoes 

Which brings me to my next point.

Less can be more with food, drinks, and dishes

For my birthday party in 2019, I spent the entire day cooking for the event. It included both dinner and dessert.

In fact, I cooked so much that I didn’t even get to eat lunch. So, for my future parties, (including fall 2021), I will cook less, if at all.

My menu for this year might involve:

  • Pasta 
  • Bread 
  • Salad 


  • Pizza
  • Salad 

I ordered a cake from a bakery and will bake cupcakes to accommodate those with dietary restrictions.

Speaking of which…

Don’t overthink dietary restrictions 

For my 23rd birthday, I not only baked the cake from scratch, but also the frosting and filling. I also made the ice cream and toppings from scratch. This practice continued until my birthday party in 2020, when the guests with the dietary restrictions could not come.

Just because a few of your guests have dietary restrictions, that doesn’t mean you have to cook everything they can eat. Feel free to serve food they can’t have as long as you tell them and their allergies are not airborne.

Allow guests to bring something if they want to

This is just polite etiquette. Feel free to let them bring more than one item if they wish.

Consider making it a potluck dinner, if easier

This might be asking your guests too much, although it depends on the people and their lifestyles. 

However, if you choose this option, remember to state that in your invite. Also, don’t require it, otherwise, you could turn your guests away.

If possible and necessary, avoid cooking altogether 

If you need to cook a few items from scratch, that’s fine. But it’s best to minimize it.

Otherwise, maybe you can avoid cooking. That way, you have time to set up (if the party is at your home) and get ready.


Planning parties can be fun, but also stressful at the same time. Hopefully, there is more excitement than stress.

How does cooking for parties go for you?

Published by Sunayna Prasad

I enjoy writing stories, creating artwork, watching movies and TV shows, cooking, and traveling. These are the topics of my posts. I also publish books, where you can learn about them on my website, www.sunaynaprasadbooks.com. Be sure to copy and paste the link and subscribe to my newsletter on the email list button on the homepage.

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