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Dinner party activities

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My SO wants to start having some of his friends over for dinner. Usually when we get together at their place we're watching sports or messing around on the deck. We don't have TV or a yard, but I feel strange just putting food on the table and no paying attention to the rest of the night. Any ideas are great.

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  1. When we have dinner parties at our house, my SO and I tend to serve lots of drinks and something to nosh on when people first arrive as we're finishing the food. We all sit in the kitchen together and drink, and then when we're ready, we have dinner. We have been known to do board games like Pictionary or Apples to Apples (which is actually really fun), and we show movies on our wall, but that is a full evening activity, and then the dinner party part gets cut short. Don't worry about not having activities as long as you have ample drinks and people who will enjoy them.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mudaba

      Apples to Apples is hilarious. Gets better as the drinks get refilled too. Also, catchphrase is a good one. We do the games post-dinner.

      1. re: stolenchange

        Everyone loves Apples to Apples. I can't recommend it enough!

    2. When I have company over, I usually have a game out. When people see it they usually want to play. Trivial Pursuit or Cranium are both fun.

      2 Replies
      1. re: cheesecake17

        Great ideas. I love Apples to Apples, and the drinks aren't a problem. I like the idea of just leaving the game out, and having it be the guest idea so I don't feel like a cruise director.

        1. re: corneygirl

          You didn't mention how many people you plan on having, but it it's only a few, you can put out the Monopoly board. Sometimes we play with actual coins instead of the fake money.

      2. I went to a dinner party recently where the meal was followed by a game of charades. Very entertaining.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cookie monster

          Host a Murder Mystery Dinner...or Scavenger Hunt Dinner, those are so much fun!

        2. Over Thanksgiving, we were introduced to a domino game called Chicken Foot that was a lot of fun for adults and kids alike. It takes a special domino set with double 12s on down in it.
          We also played the new 25th anniversary addition of Trivial Pursuit. Wow did the age differences show up.

          1. I'm in with Apples to Apples. In our family, it has become an after-dinner ritual when the whole crew is around. Lots of laughs and fun. Also Loaded Questions is another great time. Scene It is also a good one!

            1. I like Outburst and Taboo. Trivial pursuit is always a hard one, especially if there are age differences or people from other countries. One of my friends has these big Mah-jongg tournaments, but they require more setup than the other games.

              1. I don't remember what the name of this game is called, but you pin the name of a famous person (real or fictional) on the back of each guest. As they walk around and chat, they have to get clues and guess who they are.

                This can be fun if people don't know each other.

                1. I guess I'll buck the trend and say that drinks and dinner ARE an evening. If friends arrive at, say, 6, we'll have drinks and hors d'ouevres at the counter while we're finishing up the food. That can easily take an hour, what with people arriving at different times, coat taking, drink orders, etc. So we try to sit down to dinner by 730. With plenty of wine being poured, it's not unusual for us to sit right there at that table til 10 or 11. Most of our dinner parties are 6 to 8 people and it's rarely anything fancy. But all our friends like to talk (!!!) so passing hours at the dinner table eating, drinking and talking never seems a problem. There's no right or wrong way to have people over but this is how we mostly do it. Most importantly, have fun :)

                  34 Replies
                  1. re: c oliver

                    Yes, I don't think I've really been to parties where people played board games. Most dinner parties I've been to just involved some food, wine, music and good conversation.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      I don't think that works for everyone. In most of my groups of friends, there has to be some activity other than just talking. I find playing a game to be much better than watching TV, although sometimes we'll all just have dinner and then watch a movie.

                      1. re: queencru

                        I'm wondering if this is age-related. We're in our early 60s and for 20 years have never had any activities other than the four Miss Needle mentioned above. "Just talking"?!?!? The way I do it, there's nothing JUST about it :) Do you want additional activity because you're wanting to go on til 1:00 a.m. or something? This DOES make me curious.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          I think it also depends on who people bring. A lot of the parties I attend include SOs that don't really know the group well at all, and the games are a way to get them involved if they are shy or can't otherwise contribute to the conversation. I always feel really bad when the SOs are just sitting there silently because they can't relate to the rest of the conversation.

                          1. re: queencru

                            With our dinner parties, I never, ever "let" partners sit together. Although I only rarely use placecards (have some cute ones though), when people ask where to sit, I tell them. My husband and are at the ends of the table and we'll usually seat a new or especially quiet person by us.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              I like that idea. I have a round dining room table.. so even if couples sit near each other, everyone can be heard.

                          2. re: c oliver

                            I'm in my twenties.. my friends and I are always busy with school and work and whatever so we don't get together too often. When someone (usually me) has company, everyone wants to just hang out and be silly. Once or twice a year I have about twenty to thirty friends over, make a huge buffet for dinner, set up the bar, turn on the Rangers game, and set up the board games. I guess it's just a way to be informal and have fun. But if I'm only having one or two other couples over, we just sit around the table for dinner and drinks.

                            1. re: cheesecake17

                              My SO has had this group of friends for 15 + years, and they are a bit older in a different place in life than I am. I love the games suggested, becuase they get everybody talking, and should bridge the age divide.

                            2. re: c oliver

                              I don't think it's age-related as we're a bit younger than you. I suppose it may have something to do with the crowd you hang out with. I do go to functions where there are a lot of people who don't know each other. But it seems that there are always quite a few talkers in our groups which facilitates mingling.

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                Reply Part II to c oliver: After posting at 6:40 I told my husband about this thread. He said if the young people don't know how to talk to each other at dinner parties, give them all cell phones so they can call each other up.

                                1. re: Querencia

                                  LOL. SOOO true.

                              2. re: c oliver

                                To c oliver---I agree with you that this is an interesting revelation. We are even older than you, have been to hundreds of dinner parties, and have never been asked to play games. It must be a generational thing. All we have EVER done at a dinner party was eat dinner, with drinks before and coffee/liqueurs after, and talk. I like the post that speaks of dinner party guests being asked to act out an emotion. I would act out an elaborate pantomime of sadness at bidding the host farewell, walk out the door, get in my car, and go home.

                                1. re: Querencia

                                  When I originally posted this I was nervous about hosting a bunch of people that I don't know very well. There is usually a lot of talk about home renovation projects and kids/pregnancy. I don't relate to these topics, and didn't know how conversation would flow at my house compared to others. Everything worked out fine and no games were needed, but it was a comfort to have one on the book shelf in case everything went south. I love good conversation, and with good friends and family I never worry about this, but I'm a bit shy with people I don't know. I certainly wouldn't want to be a cruise director making everybody play charades. But, I am fairly new to entertaining at home and usually when we're invited to other peoples homes there is a sporting event on TV, or ball games in the yard.

                                  1. re: corneygirl

                                    Good girl! Glad you checked back in.. Maybe there's a difference between coming over to watch a game and having something to eat versus coming over for dinner. You're probably going to be the house where people gather for good food and talk. YAY.

                                    1. re: corneygirl

                                      Having been negative about games, I can say that the only party I have been to as an adult where a game was played was a big one to which a lot of people from very different social circles were invited - the game was "who am I", names of famous people were written on pieces of paper and taped on people's backs and one had to ask questions of one's fellow guests to determine who one was supposed to be. I hated playing it but I did talk to a hell of a lot more people than I would have left to my own devices...

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        We did that at a bridal shower where there was a real mix of ages and groups of people whoseionly connection was that they all knew the bride. It was done before the bride arrived, during cocktails, so it served a good purpose. There is a time and a place, as my mother would say......

                                  2. re: c oliver

                                    I'm in my twenties and Wednesday night my friends in their late twenties-early thirties and I spent the evening talking and enjoying food and wine.

                              3. re: c oliver

                                Sounds like yours is a dinner occasion that I would really enjoy. Who needs games when you have good company and conversation .... and plenty of wine

                                1. re: Willg989

                                  Amen to you and C Oliver and Miss Needle, etc. For me, the folks we typically invite to our dinner parties are those that we don't get too see frequently so the evening is spent catching up, joking, listening to good music, eating and drinking wine - oops, and relaxing! No games needed. But to each their own.

                                2. re: c oliver

                                  Same here. Also, I sincerely do not enjoy board or other games and would not be thrilled to have playing them be an expected activity at someone else's dinner party.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I'm in your camp. I'd hate to be forced to take part in an "activity", unless it is a talented friend playing a musical instrument or singing.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      To me, food, drinks and conversation are what the party is about. I've been to parties where games were played, and had a miserable time. I would rather mingle with people than be tied to a table waiting for my turn to roll the dice. I've been to even worse parties where the games turned into 'truth or dare' type nonsense (and these were adults).

                                      I accept invitations because I want to interact with the host and the other guests. I don't like the distraction of games. And please, turn the t.v. OFF during the party, and play some decent music.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I was at a dinner party where the host announced at the table that each guest would take a turn acting out an emotion. I declined. That is about the thing I want to do while sitting at a dinner table with 12 other people.

                                        1. re: sdnativa

                                          Oh God, what a nightmare. And I suppose you were subject to mild derision for not being willing to join in.

                                          1. re: sdnativa

                                            That's the worst! Did the other 11 do that stupid thing? I'm hoping these were not good friends (past tense deliberate).

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              Almost everybody went along with it if you can believe that. The host and hostess were good friends at the time. Were.

                                              1. re: sdnativa

                                                Somehow I'm betting that was just the tip of the iceberg :) Yuck.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  Yep, that iceberg was large enough to sink the whole US Navy. I did myself a favor and dropped off the face of the earth shortly thereafter.

                                            2. re: sdnativa

                                              That's kind of funny. I tend to have more problems with some friends without the games, because they tend to get far too nosy/pushy with sharing personal information during conversation. I have taken to going to the restroom when people go around the table asking certain questions I don't care to answer, or if people just ask me questions I don't care to answer.

                                              1. re: sdnativa

                                                My emotion would have been 'complete disdain' directed at the host, except I would not have been acting.

                                                1. re: Reston

                                                  "Anger" would have been too obvious.

                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                    Yes, looking down one's nose is much more subtle :)

                                                2. re: sdnativa

                                                  But there are so many emotions suitable: chagrin, remorse, horror, disdain (as already mentioned). :)

                                                  1. re: Cinnamon

                                                    Ding, ding, ding ---------------- disdain!

                                              2. My favorite dinner party activity is truly conversation, but sometimes that needs a little boost. One of our great successes has been a doctored-up Jenga game. On either side of each wooden block we wrote a question, designed to provoke discussion. Whenever a participant pulls out a block from the Jenga stack he or she chooses which question to answer, and a whole new topic makes the rounds.

                                                The point is never the playing of the Jenga game per se, but the fresh conversation after people run out of ways to talk about why they're busy, what kids are doing, how the 401(k) is faring, etc. It works great. Some of our friends have even borrowed out set to duplicate the questions for their parties! I'm thinking of making another version to entertain the little kids we have in our lives.

                                                Cay

                                                1. Apples to Apples is a great game and can be adapted for food or other interests.

                                                  http://www.otb-games.com/apples/apple...

                                                  I love board games but most of my friends are great talkers so we don't play board games. I have some good friends who like to wait until one guest gets up to use the restroom and then they have the rest of the guests and themselves hide so when the guest returns from the restroom no one is there. I always loved that game but I have a weird sense of humor and had a weirder up bringing.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                                    When my sister lived in Minnesota, Game Nights were a very popular social activity. Sometimes they would even set up multiple games in various parts of the house & the "teams" of guests would rotate from one to the other after a set period of time.

                                                    Someone mentioned a game on another board called "Table Topics". You draw a random card & that provides an interesting, provocative, or off-the-wall topic for conversation.

                                                    Then there is the old trick where you pick a catagory (movie stars, famous people, foods) and prepare cards with names from that catagory on them. As guests arrive, a card gets taped to their back. The guest then needs to ask other guests yes/no questions to identify their secret identity.

                                                    1. re: PattiCakes

                                                      We host Game Nights as well. Perhaps my friends are nerds, but the thirty people I had over last time were really, really into it and competitive, even. It was a ton of fun and everyone played.

                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                        I love game nights as well. It's a good way for people who don't necessarily know each other well to mingle without being forced to small talk for a long time. Maybe that is more of a "nerd" type of activity, but what can I say? Not everyone is great at small talk and for me, extended periods of small talk parties really wear me out. Game nights wear me out too, but that's usually because I'm involved in some competitive game until the wee hours, not because I'm worn out by trying to talk about topics of no interest.

                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                          This may be a regional thing. It was very popular in Minnesota when my sister lived there a number of years ago. The evenings were "advertised" as game nights, so everyone knew what to expect. I think it's quite another story when you arrive for what you think will be a nice evening of conversation & it turns into combat Trivial Pursuit.

                                                          We often break out some outrageous games after large family dinners, and after everyone has had sufficient adult beverages. Outrageous = Balderdash, for example. We have also been known to set up a beer pong table or play Flip Cup as well. I may be 63, but I can beat my thinks-he-knows-everything 30 year old son at Flip Cup. And I'm damned proud of it.

                                                    2. orgy?

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: thew

                                                        Hmm, maybe I COULD be interested in *certain* after dinner *games.* Thanks for that stroke (oops) of brilliance!

                                                        1. re: thew

                                                          this.

                                                          1. re: thew

                                                            Too close to "watching sports" or "messing around on the deck" :)

                                                          2. We went to a Middle Eastern place last weekend & had a great time sitting around after dinner smoking a hookah. No, NOT the kind of hookah we had in college. Well, actually it WAS the same kind of hookah, but with much more politically correct stuff in it. Quite nice, actually -- jasmine, mint and plum? And the bellydancer just added to the ambiance.

                                                            Now my daughter (29) is pushing her hubby to get one. Bet that would spark some conversation as a dinner party activity.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: PattiCakes

                                                              Did you inhale????

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                Who me?

                                                              2. re: PattiCakes

                                                                "No, NOT the kind of hookah we had in college. Well, actually it WAS the same kind of hookah, but with much more politically correct stuff in it. "

                                                                what a waste of a good hookah. and air. and fire. and lungs.

                                                                1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                  your daughter wants her hubby to get a belly dancer? how progressive. . . :)

                                                                  1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                    you might want to first encourage your daughter to do a bit more research on the health effects of the stuff they smoke in hookahs nowadays. More dangerous (probably much more so) than the stuff we used to smoke in hookahs back in college (in other words, it is much more akin to smoking cigarettes than you might imagine, even if the tobacoo has plum or whatever in it to make it sound like herbs and vegetables...)

                                                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                                                      wow. who knew? Thanks.

                                                                  2. Charades is always a hit, and “Compatability” is good for an intimate crowd.

                                                                    But here’s one thing we to get everyone talking...

                                                                    We do a James Lipton-style questionaire – “What’s you favorite this or that, cuss word, best film of all time, best album, etc. with a few spiritual or thoughtful questions thrown in for good measure. Everyone seems to love this. In fact, this past Sunday we sat on the patio until late in the evening going down the list and it was a lot of fun.

                                                                    1. i think dinner party games are only a good idea if the folks attending are seriously *boring* office cubicle/corporate types who have nothing to talk about besides work and their material acquisitions. that's not to say that everybody who likes playing a game once in a while is a boring person (please nobody take any offense, as none is intended), but if people have interesting lives and jobs and hobbies, they can generally find something interesting to talk about with each other for a few hours. hopefully. okay maybe at a large family reunion type thing where there are rifts, generation gaps, etc. a game could be a nice focus, but i don't know too much about that.

                                                                      a card party (poker, spades, etc) is a different subject entirely, these parties are about the game first, the noshing second. i quite like poker and spades parties on the very few occasions i can attend them.

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                        I think this may be true when most of the party is familiar with each other, but when guests are bringing spouses/SOs, I think games are a good way to break the ice and encourage the shy SOs to come out of their shell a bit. Some people just aren't as forthcoming about their personal lives at first either, so certain games are a good way to avoid that awkwardness.

                                                                        1. re: queencru

                                                                          Why on earth would anyone with a modicum of social skills not be able to talk to a few people about a few benign things? Games that are supposed to serve that purpose seem ridiculous. Awkwardness? Does anyone actually encounter that? Or are people making false assumptions?

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            I wouldn't have mentioned it if it weren't a real issue. Many of my friends are fairly introverted and so are their spouses/SOs. Not everyone is a brilliant conversationalist with people he/she doesn't know, and there's nothing wrong with that. Most of the population is extroverted, so I think people tend to look down on introverts at times. I tend to avoid larger parties since I am allergic to alcohol and most of the so-called brilliant conversation goes downhill pretty quickly when you're the only one in the room stone-cold sober, believe me.

                                                                            1. re: queencru

                                                                              This thread is about dinner parties which tend, in my experience, to be neither large nor filled with drunks. Six is our favorite number, sometimes eight. I seat people quite deliberately with quiet ones near my husband and/or me so we can draw them out. Our guests are the types who will also make a point of paying attention to the shyer people. That's the experience I have when attending dinner parties at others homes. I guess we all run in different crowds --- better than running with scissors :)

                                                                      2. Great food, eating with enjoyment and happiness, laughing, jokes, wine, engaging the wide variety of professionals in relatively intellegent converstion, wild & brilliant conversation, poking fun at one another, music, drinking too much, later dancing (to Latin music) ... where is there time for anything else?

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                          See??? That's why I'm intimidated. You always do the best job of explaining, bud. Amen.

                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                            Our family has been known to strip the tablecloth off the Thanksgiving dinner table and go for a few rounds of flip cup. But that's just family -- and any assorted strays who happen by. The rest of the time, we're just into the wild & brilliant repartee.

                                                                          2. Personally, I have always hated organized party games. If it's a group of people who don't know each other well, a short intro and something interesting about yourself might be appropriate, but I'm a real drag at baby and bridal showers because someone always insists on playing games.

                                                                            My parents have always entertained alot, large and small groups. They have a large deck for entertaining, and would never consider having the TV on or playing games.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: tracylee

                                                                              Playing darts and drinking too much at a party of Brits can be a real blast.

                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                You're on a roll this morning, aren't you?