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Formulating the Perfect Summer Dinner Party

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Irvine chapter.

As I wrap up my first year as a college student, there’s a lot occupying my mind: jobs and internships, scheduling for next year, and the looming realization that I’m seriously heading into “adulthood” territory soon… but nevermind any of that! Summer’s approaching, and I am incredibly excited to celebrate the season and enjoy life in between worrying about my aforementioned mental clutter.

As a child, I used to wish for the summers I spent at home to pass quickly. I wasn’t visiting any relatives, I wasn’t attending school (I somehow enjoyed school back then), and I thought the weather in Southern California was almost annoyingly sunny. It’s funny to think that summer is probably one of my favorite seasons now (the break from school is definitely a contributing factor)!

I love the summer’s breeziness, both literally and metaphorically. I’m incredibly lucky to be based in Southern California, where the summers are warm but not humid, and the summer ocean breeze is delightful. The autonomy I have over my life in the summer, crafting my schedule and commitments free from establishment academics, helps me embody the motto of “going with the flow,” which is something I struggle with during other seasons. 

I love making food, eating it, and hanging out with friends. So naturally, one of my favorite summertime activities is hosting dinner parties. When it comes to organizing a fun, chill, and ~breezy~ night in with your friends, here are the things I consider.


It’s possible to spontaneously arrange a dinner party, especially if you’re a resourceful cook or baker, however, I’d typically recommend giving yourself at least two days in advance before hosting a gathering. At least if you want to be relaxed about the night. Two days gives you one day to sort out the details about your menu (what to make, what to buy, from where, and how much) and then another day to buy the supplies. You can also easily spend the day before prepping your food and making desserts, or you could save this step for the day of.


Some people like to take advantage of the weather and long days to set up meals outdoors.  Depending on the number of people you’re hosting and the vibe of your event, a porch or backyard dinner could be a perfect way to appreciate summer nights. Personally, I find it too much of a hassle to set up, eat, and clean up a space outdoors; considering wind, bugs, lighting, and the movement between the kitchen and an outdoor space. So I typically opt for an indoor space.

I believe that the most essential component of a lovely dinner party is the ambiance. Our dining room is mundane when I sit in there on a regular Tuesday night, but when I can feel the breeze blowing through my hair as the long summer dusk shines through the room, it becomes a peaceful, serene space, singing of SUMMER. We don’t always notice how much of an impact it has on the atmosphere, but background noise is especially important. I adore how the sounds of summer invoke nostalgia and life, whether that be through the sound of crickets chirping, windchimes lightly ringing, or the whirring of a fan. Incorporating these elements, whether naturally or even through playing soundscapes, will enhance your evening by 1000%!

Find little things to add to the night that make you happy! Make a small floral centerpiece, use a nice table cloth, put on a cute outfit, or use the pretty dishware that you’ve been saving. The effort you put into small details like these that are the key to making the occasion feel more special.  


Now, onto the main act: what are you going to eat? 

I prefer to keep drinks simple, light, and refreshing, like ice water, lemonades, and tea. Sometimes, a blend of seasonal fruit juices and lemonade will make the best punch.

As an appetizer, I always have a fresh loaf of bread, either store bought or homemade to share and eat with some butter, jam, or cheese. If you’re a charcuterie-board kind of person, this is the perfect event to go all-out. Just make sure your guests can save room for the main course! And of course, you can never go wrong with a salad full of seasonal produce.

For the main course, I tend to lean towards pastas, roasted vegetables, and some kind of fish, chicken, or shellfish for some protein. I personally find that red meats can feel heavier, and you want to avoid feeling full from one dish when you have an array of foods to eat over the course of the night.

Finally, my favorite: dessert! As an avid baker, this is the one menu item I will always insist on making myself. Fruit tarts, baked Alaskas, and strawberries shortcakes are my favorite classic summer treats. Some other options would be having shaved ice and ice cream, or even some macarons if you want to get extra fancy! Again, you want to consider desserts that don’t weigh you down. Those that balance sweetness with tart, use fresh fruit, and/or whipped custard and creams are what I consider the perfect summer dessert.

If it hasn’t been made clear enough, I cannot wait to host a dinner party this summer. I don’t think there’s a more perfect night spent with friends than enjoying each others’ company while eating delicious food and basking in the beautiful world that summer brings. I hope many of you will find some inspiration to throw your own gathering this season!

Ashley Lopresto

UC Irvine '25

Ashley is a second-year student at UCI. Whenever she is not agonizing over declaring a major, she loves to rewatch comfort shows and movies, baking, talking to her friends, and daydreaming about moving abroad.