Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Help! I need to reboot my dinner parties.

Dear Bashionista,

I want to throw parties! Specifically, themed dinner parties. My fiancĂ© and I throw regular dinner parties - cozy, homemade, casual yet classy, with great conversation. They are sustenance for the body, mind, and spirit.

I'd like to take these dinner parties a step (or five) further, by adding in a special guest star element. I'm hoping that by adding a little structure we can create a community of people who are excited about the same things. We can get together for a delicious meal, and at the same time, learn and flourish as a group.

Do you have any suggestions for how to go about doing this?

Katie S.

Dear Katie,

As someone who's thrown a weekly potluck dinner party for the past seven years, I completely understand what you're saying. Supper club is often the highlight of my week! Getting creative in the kitchen, sharing a meal with friends and getting the chance to really talk is so important. I also love how people can really connect at my dinner parties, and then when they show up at a house party of mine for the first time, they already know a bunch of people there - and not just superficially.

Taking things an intellectual step further is a really ambitious idea. I love it! I've come up with the following suggestions for a dinner party series - I hope you can use this list to spark some ideas of your own. The idea that sticks will depend on who your friends are and what they're most interested in.

Nerd Nights

Cities across the country have Nerd Nights - where experts will give brief slideshow talks on the things they know best. From how to be a professional gambler to examples of zombification in nature, from sex ed to bizarre sleep disorders, these talks are riveting - and the people giving the talks may be just like you and your friends. If you've got the right pool of talent - and really, everyone can be an expert on something unusual - you could invite one person to be that night's special guest, and have them give a five minute talk. Slide show optional. This could also work well if you know any writers; the next time a friend of yours publishes an article, short story, poem, or novel, invite the group to read it and then have a discussion with the author at your next dinner party.

Group Shares

Interested in short fiction? Invite each guest to bring a short story to read aloud around the table. You may want to have a page limit, depending on the size of your group, or you could just let the chips fall where they may. You could also have themes within this theme - stories and food from Ireland; semi-erotic stories paired with a decadent dessert buffet - your options are limitless.

Want to get turned onto poetry? You can easily set up your own informal poetry seminar. Invite each member of the group to contribute a few poems (written by others) with enough copies for the whole group. This packet of poems will be your text for the series. After dinner, invite everyone to go around the table and read one or two poems aloud - not for analysis, just for enjoyment. People can talk about what they connect with in the poems, or what might pair two poems together in their minds. It's a great way to create a love of poetry without the typical analysis anxiety people develop in school.


Are your friends into theatre? Consider forming a play-reading group. This involves more pre-planning than the other themes, but can be a great way to connect with friends and keep your acting skills sharp. Getting ahold of scripts and choosing plays with the right amount of characters for your group can be tricky, but if people take turns carefully selecting plays, it can be managed.

Arts & Crafts

More interested in visual arts? Consider throwing a monthly Salon. Invite people to bring work to share in any medium - knowing you have an audience waiting for your next creation can be a great impetus for getting work finished. Then have a special guest each night who will lead everyone in a fun art project, game or activity.


Interested in a theme dinner party that's more about the food itself? Get your friends to compete and feed you at the same time! Try our Iron Chef Party or our Mac & Cheese Bake-off.