How to: Plan a Dinner for Friends

brooklyn bridge

Growing up, I loved helping my family get ready for dinner parties. I probably took the role of "Mom's Helper" a little too seriously; but then again, she may have a different version of that narrative, ha! Regardless, these memories (and the emotions attached) fuel my desire to create spaces for life to be shared in a meaningful way, here in New York and beyond. 

While I'm currently confined to the resources of a New York apartment (and the costs involved with that), I still try to plan at least one social gathering each year in my home. I'm thankful that my roommates are cool with it, too.

Two years ago, it was a Christmas gift-swap party; and last year, it was a chili and football night. This year, I'm hoping to focus more on sit down dinners, which I was spontaneously able to put this into practice just a few weeks ago.

I feel like I've heard others express interest in and challenges with this type of "function," so I decided to list out a few high-level things, which help me with the pre-party planning. And while I mentioned that my most recent "dance" with this was pretty spontaneous, I still did do a quick run-through of what's below. 

After you read, feel free to comment with your own experiences, for I'd love to hear what works for you!

START WITH THE POINT //

This should be your first "to-do" item: What is your goal for hosting?

Thought Starters

  • Is it to say "thank you" to the couple who watched your dog?
  • Is it to say "thank you" to the seven friends who helped you move apartments?
  • Is it to get to know the new person(s) in town and welcome them to the neighborhood?
  • Is it to gather everyone, who's not doing something for the holidays, the Super Bowl, or that rainy Saturday evening?

The details of whether to have a chill game night with music and "party-food" or an intimate four-course dinner are better informed by answering "what's the goal?" of this.

KNOW YOUR SPACE //

Next, it's important to know where you'll be hosting this event. I imagine 9/10 times it'll be your apartment, so you have a pretty good idea of what you're working with. If you have a dining table, then you actually could host that four-course meal mentioned above. If, instead, you have an open floor plan but no dining set, then maybe the "dinner and games" is a good fit. But, again, keep "the point of things" at the forefront. 

Thought Starters

  • Do you have a dining table?
  • Are you able to move furniture around to create the space you envision for this event?
  • What "barriers" must I get around?
  • What makes guests feel at home when they're in your home?

MAKE A GUEST LIST //

Sometimes, these "dinners with friends" are more spontaneous than planned, as my most recent "dinner party" was. However, if you're wanting to step up your hosting game, then I suggest planning a bit more in advance and understanding who you'd like to have over. It could be anyone, and planning (and inviting in advance) shows that extra bit of intentionality and commitment.

Thought Starters

  • Initially, I'd say make this list a month prior to the dinner (if it's a more formalized event). If it's not, then you're free (yes, I just gave permission, ha!) to fly by the seat of your pants and just invite the folks you know are in town.
  • Then, 2-3 weeks out, send the invite. Keep in mind the design aesthetic of this should help further communicate the flow/feel of the event.
  • I'm always a fan of sending a reminder 3-6 days in advance, especially if there's an update to share.
  • Also, guest lists have this feeling of "exclusivity," which I certainly understand. However, I'm of the mindset that, when done thoughtfully, it provides that extra bit of warmth.

Lastly, if you're not wanting to host this event at your apartment, then I'd suggest making your guest list before choosing the space because the total headcount will be the key indicator of what's needed. 

WHAT'S THE DEAL //

So, you might be asking "What's the deal with this, Drew?" Well, I won't lie: I love a good dinner party, and I hope to host more of them as the months and years continue.

I hope you find these thoughts helpful and will let me know how they pan out. I realize most of them don't sound particularly revolutionary (which they probably aren't), but I do feel like we (as urban Millennials, especially) need a little extra push—let this blog be that push.

Seamless is great, but every once in awhile, take that extra time to plan something that's not all about "low effort and instant gratification." Instead, find ways to commune with those whom you interact. Cheers, y'all!