When the weather outside is rainy and chilly, nothing sounds better than a cozy gathering indoors (bonus points if there’s a fireplace). Whether it’s a romantic evening with your significant other, a Galentine’s Day party with your best girlfriends, or a family dinner party, thoughtful touches make these events special and memorable. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered.

Romantic dinner with your significant other

Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse for an intimate dinner with your significant other, but there’s really no wrong time to have a romantic evening date. How to make the night special really depends on you and your partner, and nobody knows your relationship better than you do — but if you’re struggling to come up with ideas, Lisa Dupar, owner of Lisa Dupar Catering, suggests thinking about your partner’s love language. For example, if your significant other’s love language is “kind words,” find a romantic poem that expresses how you feel about them and set it on the table. (If you’re feeling creative, you can always try writing your own poetry or letter.)

Being thoughtful about the menu is another way to make your significant other feel extra special. If you love to cook, have their favorite dish waiting for them. But don’t despair if cooking isn’t your forte — there are other ways to serve up the perfect meal. Dupar says one of her favorite examples comes from within her own family.

“My cousin’s wife doesn’t cook, but she wanted to do something special for him — a romantic dinner for two — and she knew fried chicken and biscuits were right up his alley.” She contacted a local chef who cooked the meal, and she prepared a beautiful table setting. When her husband asked if she made it herself, she responded, “I made it happen!” Needless to say, he thoroughly enjoyed the dinner and it didn’t matter that she hadn’t cooked it herself — it was the thoughtfulness behind the gesture that made it special.

Creating the perfect cozy vibe also depends on what you and your significant other enjoy. “If somebody is really into wine, having the perfect wine may be the most important thing,” says Dupar. Other people love old school movies, so snuggling up on the couch to watch a romantic classic is the perfect end to the evening.

If you or your significant other work long hours and never take time off, Dupar suggests showing your love by carving out time just for the two of you. “You could get an Airbnb on Vashon Island for a few days and eat at restaurants or cook together,” she says. For couples in this situation, the biggest gift is making the time to show your significant other how much you care about them, even if your job often prevents you from spending as much time together as you’d like.

Lisa Dupar
Lisa Dupar

Galentine’s Day / girls gathering

Celebrating the women in your life is so important that there’s an unofficial (but very important) holiday dedicated to doing just that: Galentine’s Day, which started as a plot device on a 2010 episode of “Parks and Recreation” and has increased in popularity over the past decade. In fact, Dupar hosts a Galentine’s Day class each year and it sells out almost immediately. Attendees learn how to make things like hand cream, salt scrub and lip balm — all with culinary ingredients like organic cocoa butter, vanilla and coffee.

Arts, crafts and other hands-on activities are the perfect addition to Galentine’s Day celebrations (or really any gathering with your closest girlfriends). For example, Dupar catered a Galentine’s Day brunch with a meal that consisted of miniature eggs Benedict with quail eggs, pastries and chocolate. It was a week before Valentine’s Day, so the group of girlfriends spent time making handmade cards together with supplies provided by the host. “She had all these cool papers and stamps and graphics, and she served bubbles while they made the cards,” Dupar recalls.

Galentine’s Day may technically fall on February 13, but a brunch followed by craft-making really works on any day of the year. There’s no shortage of fun DIY projects, like making simple jewelry, creating bath bombs (directions can be found online and it’s surprisingly easy), watercolor painting, or turning Mason jars into household decorations.

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Family gathering

For a gathering with relatives, it’s both sweet and fitting to create a menu that includes beloved family recipes. Dupar recommends dividing up the cooking and baking so the host doesn’t have to spend the entire party in the kitchen.

A fun way to make the gathering more intimate is by going around the table and having everyone answer a question that’s deeper than “what’s your favorite color?” For example, a question could be, “what was the one thing in your childhood that had the biggest influence on how you chose your profession?”

A family gathering can’t be cozy if you spend the majority of the party cooking rather than socializing, and Dupar emphasizes the importance of arranging the meal in a manner that won’t stress you out. In addition to having relatives bring food, she recommends thinking about what’s going to be easiest to put on the table so you can actually spend time with your family. For example, she recommends a cozy winter dish like chili. “Take the stress and pressure off so you can enjoy spending time with your guests,” says Dupar.

Lisa Dupar Catering is known for creating true culinary experiences. We are a chef-owned, woman-led company built on Lisa’s Southern roots, classic training and modern techniques. With 35 years of experience catering in Seattle, we bring your vision to life.