Co-Parenting During the HolidaysDecember 2022
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Planning a holiday dining event? Home entertaining is hot again, especially among younger adults who are discovering the lost art of the dinner party. But what’s emerging is not your grandmother›s formal affair, with perfect place settings, hand-lettered place cards, and an elegant meal that took all day to prepare. Today’s hosts are doing dinner their own way – smaller spaces, a focus on fun and laughter, budget-friendly décor, and easy-to-prepare fare.
Entertaining expert Jane Birdwell says several factors have come together to shape this emerging trend. “People are longing for connection. They see that social media has created a landscape of shallow, superficial relationships and they’ve decided it isn’t enough anymore. They want real relationships, and it just doesn’t get more real than having family and friends over to your house.”
Also, the modern dinner parties Birdwell sees reflect the lives of today’s young people. They’re opting to live in cities so they don’t have tons of space. They’re super busy and don’t have the time or bandwidth to overdo it with decorating. And they may not have a lot of disposable income. “Sometimes people aren’t willing to entertain at home because Pinterest and other social platforms have raised expectations to such a high level,” she adds. “But anyone can pull off a lovely dinner party when they have a few basic foundational pieces and keep things really simple.”
- A beautiful table (or a few small ones). A beautiful table is not only the social centerpiece of any gathering—our physical cue to eat, drink, and be merry—it’s the visual focal point for the room. Get the table right and everything else is easy. It’s fine if you don’t have a big fancy house or even a dining room. Many people are ditching the formal dining room in favor of a home office—and plenty of others simply choose to live in smaller spaces. “Just bring in a folding table, or a few small ones, dress them in a beautiful cloth and set out some festive dinnerware or maybe some cool mismatched china from the thrift store,” Birdwell says. “Add some greenery or a few candles, and you’re done. You can make yourself crazy trying to make your home look perfect when all you need to do is get the table right. It pulls the whole room together.”
- Some yummy food (homemade or store-bought!). You don’t need to spend hours preparing a home-cooked meal to have a great party and create a memorable experience for your guests (unless you want to!) You can get away with store-bought food. Birdwell says it’s the “stage” that makes the food seem special. “Your friends aren’t coming for a gourmet meal, anyway. They’re coming to have a great time with you. As long as they don’t leave hungry, all is fine.”
- A group of good friends. Don’t give in to the pressure to invite everyone you know to your gathering. Invite only the people you truly want to attend (no inviting people out of guilt or obligation). Whether that means you end up with four guests or fourteen, you’re guaranteed to have a great time when you can genuinely enjoy all your guests.
- A great playlist. You can create a fun and festive party atmosphere with some great background music. Feature a playlist of varied musical styles, like jazz, rock, reggae, and folk. If the group is roughly the same age, add some “nostalgia” selections.
- A relaxed atmosphere. It’s normal for guests to be nervous when they arrive at your house—especially if they’re the first on the scene. Set them at ease by giving them a task—maybe ask them to chop up veggies or even run to the store for an extra bag of ice. You might even ask them to help you do a quick clean-up when dinner is over. “Laid back and casual is the key,” Birdwell says.
- Above all, enjoy yourself. If it makes you feel stressed and overwhelmed, skip it. When you are relaxed and at ease, your guests will be also. “The point of any gathering is to spend time with people you love,” concludes Birdwell. “Don’t get so caught up in the idea of perfection that you miss out on the gifts of being with those you care about most.”
Jane Birdwell is the founder of Tablevogue, a collection of fitted table covers.