A dinner party in 2019 serves a different function than it did 20 or 30 years ago. Americans tend to be more isolated these days, including at mealtimes. On average, we eat about 20 percent of meals in our cars.
When we eat together, we’re often doing it with our phones positioned right beside our dinner plates. The right dinner party can offer you a chance to reconnect with friends and loved ones. It should let you be present enough to enjoy both your friends’ company and some delicious food. Here are three ways to host a spectacular dinner party.
Limit phone usage
It may feel weird to restrict your guests’ phone usage. They’re adults, after all, not children with limited screen time. But if you don’t put some limits on phone time, then the conversation will lag as everyone decides it’s easier to check their Instagram than to genuinely engage with the person sitting across from them. Etiquette expert Lizzie Post suggests asking people to put away their phones once a cocktail hour is over.
For one thing, you’re a better company when you’re not staring at your Facebook feed. The food also tastes better when you’re not preoccupied with something else. As long as you let people know ahead of time that you don’t want people to be on their phones all night, you should be good. But avoid confiscating people’s phones when they walk in the door. It’s a dinner party, not a top-secret celebrity wedding. Saying, “You can put your phone in the other room” is fine, but treating people like spies is not cool.
Emphasize the theme
For a super-casual party, you may not need a theme. But a theme becomes critical as the party gets more formal. As a host, you want to provide people with a memorable experience they’ll be talking about for a while. An 80s-themed party is much more likely to leave a lasting impression than a party where the only theme seems to be let’s stuff ourselves and drink alcohol.
A theme also lends itself well to decorations and party favors. For instance, say you’re throwing a party in March. A “Welcome to Spring” party is a way to congratulate people for surviving the cold, harsh winter. Adding spring decor like flowers cheers people up and makes them feel more connected to the dinner party. For an extra boost, look at customized party favors from a company like Premier Glow. A mug or shot glass with something like “Spring Has Sprung 2019” engraved on the side works as a souvenir of the celebration. A theme can really make the party feel like a celebration rather than just a random gathering of people at your house.
Set a realistic budget
Think about the most important aspects of the party while you’re budgeting. Obviously, food is going to be the most critical factor of a dinner party. If you’re not a confident cook, you’ll want to look into catering services. But be warned that catering services are often more expensive than you might think. Many catering companies will have a minimum amount you must spend. In some cases, that amount could be over $1,000.
If you can’t afford that much, that’s more than understandable. But you have to start pricing catering services early so you don’t get left in the lurch at the last minute. If you can’t afford a full catering service with wait staff, maybe you can get to-go platters from a local restaurant. You can pick up the platters, then take them back to your house and re-plate them so that you aren’t serving your guest’s lasagna in styrofoam containers. Taste is key, but don’t skimp on presentation, either.