Last night I attended a dinner party for the first time in forever. Around 20 of us who are involved in a meals ministry at our church gathered to share dinner, dessert and coffee. The smell of home-cooked food coupled with a homey atmosphere and lively conversation was a great way to start the week.
This event reminded me of a tradition I had when I was single. Once a week, a group of my friends and I would get together for dinner and games. Initially, each guest brought one part of the meal (main course, side dish, dessert, etc.), but over time, our tradition morphed into friends taking turns hosting (the host was responsible for the meal). Each week, I looked forward to the food and fellowship, and left with both heart and belly full.
With as much as the Bible has to say about the table, we should recognize that finding fulfillment and connection in eating together must be part of God’s design for us. Many cultures celebrate this very thing, meeting together regularly as an extended family for meals. However, unless that’s your family and you live close to them, the dinner party can be largely neglected — especially among single adults.
Dining in style
If you find yourself starving for this kind of connection (see what I did there?), why not bring back the dinner party in your own sphere?
Fall is the perfect season to host a dinner party. A simple online search of “simple dinner party ideas” will produce ample guidance for even a newbie host. Here are some steps to get the ball rolling:
Who you invite to a dinner party can be as targeted or eclectic as you like. You can invite neighbors, friends, coworkers or family members. Decide on the right number of guests for your dinner and invite a few extra (to account for no-shows). Don’t know who to invite? Enlist the help of your friends to invite their contacts as well.
Pick a format.
Do you want a classic dinner party? A potluck? A theme party? Fondue night? Again, the internet can be helpful if you need ideas. One singles group I was a part of organized “Sixer Mixers” — placing dinners of six individuals in various host homes. One of my friends hosted “Tuesday Night Dinner” for a series of months, letting her network know anyone was welcome to come any Tuesday night. Another friend teamed up with a few friends and had a “Share Your Friends” night where each invited three to four of their friends, thus expanding the circle for everyone.
Figure out food.
Dinner parties have always been a challenge for me because I’m not a gifted cook. I had a breakthrough when I realized I could specialize in one meal (taco soup with all the extras) and put together a dinner party in short order. If it’s a more casual affair, have people bring an item potluck-style. At the start of my dinners with friends, we took turns sending out quirky emails early in the week assigning each person something to bring. Some of the emails are as memorable as the dinners themselves.
Set the atmosphere.
For me, this meant tidying my house, providing adequate and comfortable seating, and playing some soft music. As guests arrive, make them feel welcome and included by introducing them to those they don’t know, offering them a drink or appetizers, or giving them a task (“Would you help me fill the water glasses?”).
This article from “Real Simple” suggests having a purpose for your party, even if it’s just to “brighten up a Tuesday night.”
Having a clear intention for a party from the get-go will make your gathering less one-size-fits-all or bland. Before you begin planning an event, ask yourself two questions: “Why are we gathering?” and “Why is it important?” Every time you reach a deeper reason, ask “why” again.
A purpose, even if you’re the only one who knows it, will give your party direction and energy. Once your dinner party is in motion, focus on keeping the environment comfortable and relational.
Preparing the table
Last night as I enjoyed my first slice of pumpkin pie of the season, my heart bubbled up with gratitude. Our hostess gave us a chance to introduce ourselves and talk about what the church’s meals ministry had meant to each of us. Encouragement and laughter flowed.
I’d started the evening knowing only a few of the guests, but by the end of the night we were exchanging childhood stories and recipes. I was reminded again of the power of sharing a meal — how nourishing it is for both body and soul. If you’re longing for a better connection with friends and acquaintances, bring back the dinner party. It’s a simple and effective way to get filled up.
Copyright 2019 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.