How to Plan a Romantic Dinner at Home

Couple cooking in kitchen.

Getty Images/ katleho Seisa

When was the last time you had a romantic dinner at home with your partner? If you can't remember, perhaps now is the perfect opportunity to whip one up; no special occasion required.

Whether you're looking to treat yourself or do something thoughtful for your partner, let these tips below be your guide to at-home dinner bliss by making a romantic dinner. 

Clear Your Schedule

Set the stage for your romantic dinner by making sure the two of you will be alone. If you have children, arrange for babysitting at someone else's home. If you've got a roommate, call in a favor for some privacy. It's also a good idea to set some ground rules, like agreeing to a no-tech evening, which may include making sure cell phones are out of sight and the TV is turned off. "Scheduling might sound forced, but it's a great way to protect your relationship from the huge amount of 'life' constantly coming at you," writes Melissa Orlov, author of The ADHD Effect on Marriage , for Psychology Today .

Go a step further and send an invitation. Design one with user-friendly software like Canva, whip up your own hand-lettered invite, or go completely no-frills and digital by blocking out time on your shared Google Calendar.

One Week Before

Confirm the date of your special romantic evening and plan the menu. Be mindful of what's in season which can affect how easily you'll be able to source desired ingredients. Other things to consider include your dinner companion's dietary preferences and restrictions, like someone who prefers a plant-based diet or who has a nut allergy. But since it is a special evening, keep in mind your partner's favorite foods. It might be worth splitting a lobster or cooking a salmon dish. Go get a good bottle of red wine or the favorite chocolate he or she likes.

You are the chef so then it's list-making time. Consider how you'd like to present each dish, and consider any particular cooking tools, garnishes, and dishes you may need. Make a list of décor you need for the occasion, whether it's something you already own or something you'll pick up before the meal (like fresh flowers -get these the day before).

Regarding the table setting, we've got ideas, from the practical to the stylish .

The Menu

If the kitchen isn't your natural habitat, choose a recipe with ingredients and preparation techniques you are familiar with. It's not going to be a romantic night if you are stressed out! A few other suggestions might be our picks for one-pot meals for meat eaters and plant lovers alike Or, why not plan to cook the meal together? "To really make your romantic meal a night to remember, create a menu around your shared experiences," suggests relationship expert and life coach Orion Talmay

"Memory and the senses go hand-in-hand, and the taste, smell, or sound of a dish can evoke happy memories stronger than a photo ever could. For instance, the smell of fresh mojito might transport you back to your favorite bar when you were first dating, or the taste of linguine might remind you of a romantic Italian holiday you once had," Talmay adds.

Two Days Before

Shop for the ingredients needed to create the menu you planned the week before, and note any substitutions you could swap for in case you can't find exactly what you need.

Check your details to avoid any last-minute trips to the store: Ice for cocktails, a corkscrew for wine, a lighter for candles, for example. Place any frozen proteins in the fridge to defrost.

Create a playlist to stream and get ready to have fun! Romantic dinners don't need to be forced, the more relaxed you are, the more fun your dinner date will have. The most important item on your romantic dinner menu is the two of you, so keep your stress level low. Entertaining is fun when the hostess is relaxed. 

The Day Before

Prepare as much of the planned menu as possible, which includes chopping vegetables and measuring ingredients, to locating the sauces and garnishes you need to finish your dishes. Season or marinate your proteins, make the dessert.

Remember that you don't have to cook a perfect filet mignon or pork chop. One of the things that will make your partner feel special is that you are making the effort to cook his or her favorite recipe. It's about progress, not perfection.

If you are nervous about cooking the whole meal, make it easy! Go pick up cooked shrimp or scallops to cut down on prep time. Go and buy a dessert to save time. Remember that a good romantic dinner recipe helps you connect with your partner!

Take out serving dishes, cooking utensils, cutting boards, and everything you need, as well as any small bowls for seasonings and garnishes, and set up your cooking station. In culinary speak, this is called mise en place, a French term meaning "everything in its place."

The Day of

Set up the table, and any décor. All linens, table settings, glasses , candles should be laid out at this point. Then, all that's left to do is turn on the tunes, cook the meal and bask in each other's company. A romantic night at home beats a restaurant every time!

Related Stories