Essence of Entertaining: What Defines “Dinner Party?”

I realize that the term “dinner party” may be old-fashioned to some, but for me, I like old-fashioned. I like to think back to some of the best memories in our home, when we’ve had families over for dinner, or just adults.

When we want to have a dinner party, it’s usually because we want to catch up with people that we feel connected to.

Here’s what I think are the basic concepts surrounding an impromtu- dinner-party, and why I’m so passionate about them.

– Invite people into your home instead of going out to a restaurant (where the food can sometimes be very disappointing).

– You can sit as long as you want and visit and not worry about getting kicked out.

– You can eat good food, and you know exactly where it came from.

– You don’t have to get dressed up.

– If you have time to plan ahead, you can share the cost by delegating a portion of the meal.

Impromptu dinners can sometimes result in the most fun times together. You don’t have time to stress about the details. You learn to go with the flow and to “enjoy the moment.” I’ve had times where my house was a mess, everyone did the dishes together, the kids were all over the place. To me those times reflected the essence of true entertaining.

I know it’s still the first of the year and people are tightening their budgets after Christmas, cutting back on eating out, spending less.

But it’s still important to share day to day life with the people that we care about. (Delegate, Delegate!)

How do you define “dinner party” in your home?

17 comments on “Essence of Entertaining: What Defines “Dinner Party?””

  1. Pingback: Back to the basics: Easter dinner tabletop | Simple Mom

  2. Our dinner parties take all shapes and forms. Usually it means having another family or two over for dinner and maybe a game afterward.

    For our last dinner party I sent out an email in the morning to several friends to come over after a prayer meeting at church and we ended up having 30 people for dinner. I made 2 pots of soup, salad, veggie tray and salsa. Friends brought over drinks, bread, chips and disposable dinnerware.

    We had a great time talking and laughing the kids played cards and climbed trees in the dark. It was a great time =)

  3. We do dinner parties, cocktail parties and casual get togethers. Really they are all kinda the same thing in our house (all parties begin with a cocktail party!) Call it what you want, but just getting together and having fun is all that matters.
    We have a standing date with friends on Friday nights…everyone comes over and brings something (homemade guacamole, salsa, homemade sweet potato fries…simple stuff that fills everyone up). No formalities, just good friends and the kids running around till they wear themselves out. :)

  4. The words “dinner party” require more work…more formal I guess. Having people over/potluck…is more of what we do …more casual…more comfortable. Although…I have started a dinner club….we’re going to meet every 2 months…and I would call that a dinner party!

  5. I love at home dinners…..the hardest thing is setting a time to do it and then do it. Seems like everyone I know is always so busy.. =)
    I would like to be better about getting people together this year. Thanks for the encouragement.
    and ideas

  6. Dinner Party = candles, and china, and cloth napkins and forethought!
    Having people over = phone calls on Saturday morning and BBQ on Saturday night

    With young children, we far more often enjoy the latter, but at least twice a year we do the former – usually a wine dinner where we invite each couple to bring a course and a wine pairing. We keep everyone’s dishes a secret, so no one can try to coordinate and the end result is always a delicious and beatifully paired surprise! Our last one features homemade fish pate, roasted pumpkin and ginger soup, Adobo chili pork tenderloin with a maple glaze and flourless chocolate cake. It couldn’t have been better had we planned it down to the last detail!

    It works so well for us because we only prepare the place and one course. Everyone gets to share a bit and the end result is a pleasant, low-stress, low-cost evening.

  7. This is absolutely my favorite way to have friends over. It’s the “whatcha doing tonight?” followed by a “well, why don’t you come over and eat dinner with us.” It’s so fun. Around here, hubby has me keep stuff stocked up because he’s infamous for impromptu inviting! We’ll be at church and he says “I invited so and so over after church for lunch” – thankfully it’s not fancy and I rarely have to even stop at the store. It always turns out wonderfully! I adore your wonderful outlook on this!

    Becky B.
    Organizing Made Fun

  8. The closest we’ve come to a “dinner party” in the past few years is a fish fry. :) Potluck, lots of great fish, kids and teens everywhere– it was wonderful.

  9. Impromptu dinner parties are my favorite. There’s far less stress involved, but the end result is the same – good friends, good food, and a night to remember.

  10. My husband an I are determined to be better about this in 2011. We are at a season of life where we have that freedom and want to spent quality time with friends without the hassle of “going out”. Love this post and great comments after.

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  12. Oh, I still say both “dinner party” and “cocktail party”! Both are very much in fashion in my neck of the woods!

  13. I realize I don’t use the term “dinner party” any more. Used to use it back when the other choice was “cocktail party”. When is the last time you heard THAT?

    We enjoy having people share dinner with us at our house and for the most part it is a spontanious invitation. A lot of the time it is just family members who are grown with their own homes, some of the time it is friends. Frequently it is spur of the moment, someone drops by to visit and it is getting close to dinner time. We usually only have about 6 really planned “dinner parties” a year.


  14. For me, “dinner party” = formal and “having people over” = less formal.

    Really, it’s just a technicality.

    I can’t wait to start having people over when we move to our new (old) house. This rental house that we’re currently in is just so awkward. There’s really no place for sitting and hanging out. yes, we have a big dining room table, but it is shoved into the corner because its size is not proportionate to this house.

    AGH!! I can’t wait to move.

  15. I think the best thing about having people over for dinner is not having to shout to carry on a conversation! It seems like the music in restaurants is always so loud.

    Looking forward to seeing you at Blisdom! Hugs to you!

  16. Formal comes to mind when I hear “dinner party,” so I suppose we haven’t incorporated that term so much in our everyday. We just “have company” and that looks different based on a myriad of factors! We had company this morning- a dear and long time missionary friend was over for tea and then shared grilled cheese, tomato soup and goldfish crackers with the children and I while we watched snow flurries out the window- it was wonderful!

  17. Having dinner with just our family is “dinner.” Having dinner with other people joining us is a dinner party! It doesn’t have to be a fancy deal with advance invitations and engraved place cards in order to qualify for that old-fashioned term, which by the way I think is a very nice, festive term!

    I absolutely second your idea of delegating some of the meal. Even this doesn’t have to require a great deal of thought or advance planning. Practically every time I ask someone over for dinner, they ask, “What can I bring?” I’ve finally learned to let them bring something. It’s very easy for a guest to bring a salad, a dessert, some bread, or a bottle of wine–and whatever they bring, I don’t have to provide. It’s a great way to help a guest feel like a participant rather than just an onlooker.

    Maybe you should host a link party for suggestions for low-cost dinner party menu options, including recipes and breakdown of the cost!

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