The Dinner Party, redefined

Under the Arch

The Dinner Party, redefined

Four people toast over dinner.

As college students, the luxury and glamour of dinner parties might feel a bit out of reach. We’re accustomed to small dorm room kitchens with even smaller dining tables, which serve us well, but make it a challenge to plan a five-course meal for 10 people.

But dinner parties can be much more than a multi-hour food marathon; they bring people together in an intimate and personal way that can be hard to find as busy students of the 21st century. When we say we want to redefine the dinner party, we don’t mean to suggest making lavish food or hosting in a decadent dining room. 

Our goal was to take the dinner party — a social function that brings to mind rigid rules and wealthy hosts — and turn it into an accessible opportunity for young people to learn, share, connect and be present with each other.

While finding the time and resources to organize a dinner party might seem tricky, it can be much simpler than you think. Gone are the days of spending upwards of $100 just to host your friends. All you really need is a group of people who are open to a few hours of quality, present conversation.

Beyond more practical barriers to organizing a dinner party — the size of your dorm, the mountain of homework you need to catch up on or the two hours of sleep you’re currently running on — there is a much greater, societal shift that has made these kinds of gatherings less and less common.

American social gatherings, particularly around food, have become less formal over the last few decades. As our lives have become much busier, it is increasingly difficult to make time for lengthy social events that often take even lengthier preparation.

Why go and sit at a restaurant when you can just get take out? Why eat dinner together as a family when it is more practical for everyone to just eat on their own when they have time? Or why organize a long dinner when it is easier to just see a movie or get coffee with your friends?

The quick and unrelenting rhythm of our lives can make it feel impossible to plan a complex event. How can you find the right recipes, buy groceries, prepare and cook everything, clean your apartment and create the perfect curation of people to invite when there are 30 new emails in your inbox, you’re two weeks behind on an important paper and you just remembered it’s been way too long since you last called your mom?

This is an experience that’s just not realistic for most of us. We’re already barely keeping up, or exhausted by just the bare minimum of what we have to do. Where are we going to find the energy to orchestrate a large-scale social gathering?

But, at the same time, by choosing the more convenient option, we are also cheating ourselves out of valuable and enriching experiences. We never get to stop, have time to consider what is most important to us or open ourselves to new ideas and discussions. We are robbed of the experience of being with others we care about in a way that deepens our connections and creates a pause in our otherwise hectic and messy lives.

Obviously, we’re not trying to replicate the dinner parties of bygone days. There is a way to restructure the dinner party to be a free and open gathering, while also making it a realistic fit for our cramped schedules.

Maybe you don’t have time to cook for your friends — that’s more than fine, just make a huge bowl of pasta and order some pizza, and you’re good to go. Even better, encourage each guest to bring something to eat that they want to share, splitting the burden of hosting and creating an opportunity for building connections all at once.

If you don’t have a dining table, and let’s say this is most of us, put some pillows on the floor of your apartment to create a seating area that is intimate but not rigid — a space where your guests will feel free to be themselves. 

At a time when everyone is always so busy, and when it feels incredibly hard to find the right time and space to connect with the people you care about, dinner parties — but built for the era we’re all living through — might just be the solution you’ve been looking for.

Words by Carmo Moniz | Photos by Krish Dev, Manasa Gudavalli and Samson Tu

Contact Carmo Moniz, Krish Dev, Manasa Gudavalli and Samson Tu at [email protected]