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Are dinner parties passé?

I feel like I'm the only person who has dinner parties anymore as I rarely get invited to one and when I do, it's hosted by people significantly older than me. I mostly get invited to wine/cheese things, potlucks, barbeques, cocktail parties, wine tastings and other casual gatherings. Are dinner parties passé?

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        1. re: Beachowolfe

          Yuckers! I'm turning 67 in June :)

          1. re: c oliver

            I really thought this was an age thing... I'm surprised that at 51 you don't go to dinner parties.

            1. re: Beachowolfe

              Since you raised the age issue, how old are you?

              1. re: amoule

                30 (ugh)

                And I've never been to a dinner party that was more than another couple having a few people over to eat before we went to the bar, if that makes sense. Nothing of the sort that my parents had when I was growing up where I would be relegated to a "kids only" area.

            2. re: c oliver

              you all are bonkers! my poppa is 75 and is not even close to "old" no one is close to "old" until 94

              1. re: girloftheworld

                Thank you GOTW! Let us cook together sometime, And you can be my foster/adopted grandniece.

                  1. re: girloftheworld

                    I have a couple of friends who are 75, and 78 respectively and who are not "old" except in years. But some people are old at 35. Hell, some are old at 25...

          2. And how do you define "dinner party"?

            9 Replies
            1. re: c oliver

              I'm not sure about a definition, but here's what I typically do:

              - I usually have 6-12 people
              - I set the table nicely, choose pleasant music
              - I plan a menu of great dishes (usually previously tested)
              - I prepare all the food myself
              - We typically have hors d'oeuvres in the living room with wine, then move to the dining room
              - I usually have 3 courses

              It's pretty much the same format my parents used. Should I update something here?

              1. re: amoule

                Well, I'm 66 so it's not an age factor :) I have a CH friend who is a great cook whose friends generally don't reciprocate and it seems it's because she cooks so much better than the average person that they're intimidated. Which is so ridiculous since much of us love eating and visiting with others at their homes or ours.

                1. re: c oliver

                  We see this phenomenon. If the dinner party is too well done, it is intimidating.

                2. re: amoule

                  No, don't change a thing! Just let me know how close you live to Orange County CA.

                  And I will be happy to reciprocate.

                    1. re: amoule

                      I love Seattle.....hopefully you'd enjoy Monarch Beach (just south of Laguna).

                      I learned my entertaining from a grandmother who used silver for every meal and some kind of fresh centerpiece as well- even if it was a few blooms in a little vase at breakfast:)

                  1. re: amoule

                    I'm 35, and apart from the 6-12 people, this is how we usually entertain. Usually we have one couple over for dinner, sometimes with kids. Occasionally we have two couples over for dinner, or family members. (We have a small house, and our dining table only seats six comfortably). Food can be more or less casual, and I don't always have 3 courses, but usually hors d'oeuvres, main with sides, and dessert.

                    Last night we had some friends over and I served cheese and crackers before dinner, then braised short ribs with polenta and roasted brussels sprouts, then blackberries with meringues and orange flower flavored whipped cream (a variation on Eton mess) for dessert. This isn't uncommon among our friends, though I like to cook more than most people, and our youngest goes to bed early, so we host more often than not.

                    1. re: amoule

                      If people come and enjoy themselves, why update anything? There's no right or wrong here, other people just have different preferences as to how they want to entertain friends.

                  2. They are only passé because people are lazy. Its a lot of work but I love getting out the dishes etc. I'm 36.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: daislander

                      Lazy because they prefer to throw a different kind of party than you do?

                      1. re: LeoLioness

                        No because they rather go out to a restaurant.

                        We do moslty potluck or grab a plate at the stove and watch a hockey game dinners. Never formal. Why do formal when you can go out for a fancy dinner if you want one I think is the thinking.

                        1. re: daislander

                          I'm not sure I'd classify that preference as "lazy". Most of the time, a trained chef at a good restaurant will provide a better meal than a home cook if you're in the mood for a fine dining experience.

                          1. re: LeoLioness

                            I would take a meal cooked with love at someones home that might not taste as good then go out to a restaurant with a 'trained chef' any day.

                            If you don't have the space or dishes then its not lazy. If you just don't want to pull everything out and get your house ready and cook then its lazy.

                          2. re: daislander

                            Since we don't have a TV in the living room, that's not going to happen at our house :)

                            1. re: c oliver

                              I grew up with out a tv. Now I very much enjoy sitting around watch a game or movie with a bunch of friends eating a home cooked meal or pizza.

                            2. re: daislander

                              But what you are describing is not the dinner party the OP was describing. OP does get invited to casual get togethers like you describe (though I don't think we know about the hockey part of it).

                              But apparently you are too lazy to throw the kind of dinner party OP described. ;)

                              1. re: debbiel

                                And where did she 'describe' what kind of dinner party you think she is talking about? or were you to lazy go back and read she didn't give one?

                                The way this thread has gone I said below that she obviously meant formal. I can't believe people are still arguing about this when dinner party can mean anything unless stated formal or casual.

                                1. re: daislander

                                  Well, I was mostly reacting to your suggesting folks were lazy as the reason for not having dinner parties. But yes, OP described what he/she meant by dinner party a few hours after starting the thread. And then cut and paste that description at least one other time in the thread.

                            3. re: LeoLioness

                              Some people don't live in a space that allows for dinner parties. And while I happen to enjoy entertaining friends at home, I can certainly understand why it may not appeal to others. Or be practical. Calling them "lazy" is pretty harsh and judgmental.

                              1. re: globocity

                                luckily my friends are not uptight and would admit it. As I admit I am to lazy to have as many dinner partys as I would like. I am all for cooking a main and bringing it to anyones else's house. But I cannot work,get my whole house clean and suitable, and shop and cook the meal and clean. My other half would not help. Harsh or judgemental = truth hurts I guess. I wasn't aiming it at you. Just the general attitude I see towards have a formal dinner party. Nobody wants extra stress, maybe thats why smaller casual is the way it is now.

                          3. Yes, they are rare nowadays. Everybody's too busy. A dinner party takes a lot of time. Most of my friends meet @ someone's house for drinks then we go to a restaurant. Much easier but I wouldn't turn down any invitation to a dinner party because they are more intimate than a restaurant meal.

                            42 Replies
                            1. re: zackly

                              I get the feeling that you and OP may be a lot younger than some of us. We NEVER do what you describe. Dinner parties (and I define that as four to eight usually) are our fave way to entertain. And over the years as I've aged and hopefully gotten wiser, I don't make it as much work as I used to. An app, a main, a starch, a vegetable, a dessert. Easy peasy if one chooses it to be. And I do.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I'm 64 and a retired chef. I never do anything nice and easy. I'm either all-in or all-out..My reputation is on the line every meal! I have a huge ego when it comes to cooking. It drives my wife crazy but I tell her I'm like a gunslinger who has to defend his rep whenever a new kid comes to town. I never want to let anyone leave my house less than thrilled with the experience.

                                1. re: zackly

                                  And that's why they're rare for you and common for me. I figured out some years ago that it's about the coming together more than the food. We had a dinner party one time the day we moved. It was takeout pizza and salad and jug wine. But the table was pretty, the candles were lit and everyone had a GREAT time.

                                  I'm curious. Do you entertain friends? I figure my friends have little interest in "reputation."

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I do one big informal bbq for 25-30 people in the summer and cook often for friends but not what I would call dinner parties.

                                    1. re: zackly

                                      z, I have a feeling your definition is different from mine. And that's not a problem for me :) Or you :)

                                  2. re: zackly

                                    Gee, Zackly, I'm not a professional chef, but my cooking skills are exceptional. I can identify with your reputation being on-the-line when people taste your preparations. We are 56 years of age, and I wish we still had the time to do dinner parties. We organized a Gourmet Group when we were in our mid. 30s. There would be a theme (usually by nationality), and everyone would prepare a dish to fit in. Fun conversation &/or good intellectual discourse was always a great part of these parties! The host rotated, but the host would prepare the entrée, use his/her home as the venue, and provide the matching background music/ambience. These were lots of fun, but no ones gourmet cooking skills were on par with mine. Clearly my ego is also huge when it comes to preparing fine cuisine. I would treasure being in a Gourmet Group with more "Chef Zacklys"!!! -JET

                                    1. re: Jet

                                      Jet, My wife, who was born about 50 years too late, talks fondly of her parents circle of friends and all the things they did together like pre-bowling league pot luck suppers, progressive dinners where they would move from house to house for different courses with cocktails @ each stop (this was pre-Mad Mothers)
                                      beach dinners etc. She actually looked for a Gourmet Group to participate in but couldn't find one around here among our peer group (55-65). The only one she found involved 20 something hipsters.We live in suburban NYC (CT) and everyone is so harried that planning & executing a dinner party is just too much work. With the high concentration of good restaurants in our area it's just so much easier to go out. Maybe this will change when our friends retire in the next ten years, I hope so.

                                    2. re: zackly

                                      I can identify with what you're saying. I get invited to a lot of potlucks and like to maintain a reputation as someone who can be counted on to bring something really good.

                                      Having people over to my house, though, is a little different. I feel like I should treat my guests well. I like to give them something really delicious; I want to give my best.

                                      Keep up your standards.

                                    3. re: c oliver

                                      "An app, a main, a starch, a vegetable, a dessert. Easy peasy if one chooses it to be. And I do."

                                      For me this describes just having people over for dinner, it is not what a dinner party is to me.

                                      1. re: LaLa

                                        Do tell? How many courses are required to be served in order for it to qualify as a dinner party to you?

                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                          It's not just the food, it's the tablecloth, the china, the silver, the cloth napkins, the crystal glasses. I like to plan a pitcher of a "theme" cocktail too, in addition to a full bar. When people come to dinner here, and see the set table, they often seem taken aback. Once the food comes out and the wine flows, things start to relax, and conversation always is the main course as far as I'm concerned. That's a dinner party to me.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            I guess my dinners don't qualify. I have tablecloths, but they are colourful casual ones. I gave the crystal glasses I had to a charity shop not long ago - friends prefer the little Duralex tumblers we usually use for wine, water and most other things. I preferred to use that shelf for little jars of stuff (sambals, small jars of good pasta sauce etc). Trying to pare down and get rid of stuff I don't use.

                                            There is plenty of wine (we all live in central urban neighbourhoods and can take the métro, bus or a short taxi ride) but not a full bar. One friend does enjoy making martinis or mojitos.

                                            1. re: lagatta

                                              As long as you're having friends over, that's all that matters.

                                            2. re: coll

                                              But you are retired and thus have the time and resources to commit to that right? I do too because I am semi retired since last year and I have the free time and income that is required. But because I live in N. California about 50 minutes east of Napa county my b/f and I decided that this year we are going to dine at several of the renowned restaurants in Yountville.....St.Helena....Healdsburg and Napa over the summer.Let the restaurant do all of the *heavy* lifting so to speak:)

                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                Why do you think I'm retired? I have been the hostess with the mostest since I was first married in my early 20s. Then again, my career involves the restaurant business so that may make a difference in how I perceive hosting large groups of people.

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  Maybe I confused you with someone else but I thought you had posted several times on other threads that you and your husband had retired. You from the restaurant supply/ distribution field? Or relocated or something? My bad:)

                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                    I'm on a medical leave of absence due to hubby's illness, but not technically retired just yet. Although taking care of him is a job in itself! I'm honored that you remember me from other threads though.

                                                    1. re: coll

                                                      I do remember you from when I was a *lurker* because you had posted about your extensive knowledge regarding the beef/cattle industry. I found that impressive.

                                                      1. re: MamasCooking

                                                        Oh thanks, I had the privilege to work with two "old time" meat guys at different jobs and when they saw I was interested, they took me under their respective wings. I like to think I am keeping some old gems of knowledge alive, although there are a few here that know a lot more than me! For some reason, it's very "romantic" to me (for want of a better word!)And it seems guys that were in the meat business back then were all real characters! Part of the attraction I guess.

                                                        1. re: coll

                                                          Every aspect of food production is interesting. Good for you for having the brains to learn about all of that.

                                            3. re: MamasCooking

                                              It's not the number of course FOR ME it is more in the intent this is a casual having people over for dinner...something I could do any day of the week. A dinner party requires effort in MY opinion.

                                              Is that enough "do tell"

                                              1. re: LaLa

                                                I requires effort, that is a very good description!

                                                1. re: LaLa

                                                  Effort is putting it mildly:) These days I am usually a guest. That is just how things have evolved and I like it this way:)

                                          2. re: zackly

                                            Maybe it's that women now typically work outside the home. In the 60's they were still at home, for the most part.

                                            1. re: Querencia

                                              I don't have a clue what that means. Well, unless it's a single household. Two people cooking together in the kitchen can turn out a good meal quite easily.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                And get the table set and the home ready for guests.

                                                1. re: Candy

                                                  Which I've done even a day in advance :) And covered the table with a sheet!

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    But not all husbands will help! I have the short end of the stick there, unfortunately. I love "dinner parties" or whatever other name one wants to give. Anything is possible as long as you give yourself three or four (mostly partial)days to prepare, at least that's what I find. For some people that is too much, I know. But for me, well it hasn't stopped me yet ;-)

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        One person can swing it, if they really want to. Why put the blame on your poor spouse? I never faulted mine, it was always my idea to have the silly party in the first place!

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          We both work so of my husband can do the heavy cleaning while I prep food things go much more smoothly

                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                            That's kinda how it works for us. And Bob is great about doing all/lots of the cleanup as I'm cooking.

                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                    Yes but if both people work, putting together a good dinner is still difficult. Back in the day when it was more typical for women to not work outside the home, they had all day to prepare for a dinner party.

                                                    I also think the changes in the work environment contribute too. Less and less people work a typical 9-5, home by 530 or 6 sort of job. Also there's a lot less "have the boss and the mrs. over for dinner" type of entertaining as well.

                                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                                      When we were working and raising kids, "dinner parties" were generally on Saturday evening.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        For me at least, Saturdays are filled with errands, laundry, chores, etc etc. Not a ton of time to do them during the week between long work hours and a longish commute (about 30 minutes each way). I know for me at least (we don't have kids), getting the house ready and making a few things for our Super Bowl party was exhausting... I can't imagine doing that on a regular basis and I bet most people these days can't.

                                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                                          my MerMer and Poppa remember growing up with "help" being in the house even though they both were not from particularly affluant homes .. both told stories of parties.. My Mom though remebers her parents entertaining and her mother worked outside the home ( very odd amongst her friends) My parenst entertain often..both big parties of 40-60 and dinner from 6-12 btoh work outside the home....Some people play golf...some go to vegas,,, my parents entertain for fun...

                                                          1. re: girloftheworld

                                                            That's a perfect description...to entertain for fun! It's a hobby as much as anything. If you don't enjoy it, no reason to do it.

                                                            1. re: girloftheworld

                                                              Agree with coll that's a great way to describe it. None of them are wrong. We also entertain for the fun of gathering our friends around the table and eating whatever and however. (Been know to put out a roll of paper towels if it's ribs! And that's still a dinner party to us.)

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                Ina Garten sort of represents casual elegance to me. She knows how to set a lovely table and she of course is a *fabulous* cook.However she always places emphasis on what you are expressing c oliver, the gathering of friends, family to *break bread* together and the whole *food is love* philosophy.

                                                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                  And if that ain't a dinner party, then I don't know what is.

                                                2. I suppose it depends upon your peer group.

                                                  It is getting more rare amongst my friends. We are all 50 plus professionals- mostly in private practice medical and law. It seems like we are always going to charity auction events and we are being invited to sit at a "group table". I am actually going to one tonight, instead of going to someone's house for a dinner party.

                                                  Parties at someone's home for certain occasions are more frequent ( oscar night, Super Bowl, Olympics, political events, etc). The standard "dinner party" for 4 to 8 is getting rare with us.

                                                  1. I think that younger people( like under forty) think they have to make something very elaborate and time consuming , like a TV chef.
                                                    If I am short on time I make a roast chicken, some sort of lovely ly starch, salad and dessert. No complaints ever, but very easy.

                                                    1. Dinner parties are not dead. I find nowadays (last 15 years or so?) that more people who want to have a dinner party host said party in a restaurant instead of their home.

                                                      We love giving dinner parties -- but haven't given one at home in many years. I'm in the restaurant business, and I'd like to believe that my job is like giving a dinner party for dozens of people, each day I work.

                                                      1. While I enjoy planning and hosting dinner parties, I live in an apartment with open plan. It's unlikely that I would host a formal, sit-down dinner, EVER, because I find it difficult to have "formal" in a space where one can see all the dirty pots/etc. :)
                                                        But friends of ours have a separate dining room. They have sit-down Family Dinner almost every week. We are invited. Hors d'ouvres in the family room, entree & dessert at the dining table. But I wouldn't call it a dinner party. It's just having dinner together.
                                                        I think that many people in my circle (ages 28-66) don't host sit-down dinner parties for "lifestyle" reasons. Those of us who live in the city center are surrounded by places to eat, many of which are inexpensive. We are all on tight budgets, so going out or opening our home for a potluck offers the opportunity to get together, but also to share in expenses.
                                                        If I am called upon to "host" a family dinner (my immediate family is 18 ppl), then I will arrange for tables at a nearby restaurant. Of course, as the host, I take responsibility for the bill.

                                                        9 Replies
                                                        1. re: KarenDW

                                                          I don't see any indication of "formal" in the OP. I've done FORMAL perhaps twice. The rest of the time, folks can be in their Levi's and socks :) Still a dinner and still a party.

                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            in my mind, "formal" means that the host is in charge of all the food and drink, different from a potluck, or bring-a-dish dinner party.

                                                            1. re: KarenDW

                                                              To me "formal" means black-tie which I've done twice. The rest of the time, a dinner party is as YOU describe "formal." As the host, I cook. As the guest, they eat. Can't remember which CH taught me that. Karl S or Jung Mann.

                                                            2. re: c oliver

                                                              I didn't say anything about formality in the OP because it seems relative. What I do at my house would be considered formal to many people, maybe even to most. My mother, on the other hand, grew up in a household where they had footmen at the table, professional cooks in the kitchen, maids, a houseboy, etc, My mother would consider my dinner parties very casual.

                                                              Should I step it down a couple notches so that they feel like they can be in their Levis and socks? And would that entail lowering my culinary standards? Or just the table setting?

                                                              1. re: amoule

                                                                Please describe what/how you do it.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  I'll quote myself since I don't know how to point you to the relevant post:

                                                                  I'm not sure about a definition, but here's what I typically do:

                                                                  - I usually have 6-12 people
                                                                  - I set the table nicely, choose pleasant music
                                                                  - I plan a menu of great dishes (usually previously tested)
                                                                  - I prepare all the food myself
                                                                  - We typically have hors d'oeuvres in the living room with wine, then move to the dining room
                                                                  - I usually have 3 courses

                                                                  It's pretty much the same format my parents used. Should I update something here?

                                                                2. re: amoule

                                                                  Are you inviting royalty:)? You must know your guests and their lifestyles prior to extending an invitation to a formal dinner party you are hosting. Do you request that your guests *dress formally* for your formal dinner parties? In all fairness to your guests maybe they are not having any fun with all of the imposed *formality*? Maybe either start or join an already established *supper club* where the members are all like minded....make the rules and call the shots.

                                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                    It's interesting that you perceive this as formal. I wouldn't say that this constitutes a formal dinner party. As I've said, I just invite people to dinner.

                                                                    Your strong reaction confirms what I suspected: that what I think of as a pretty ordinary form of entertaining is now an oddity.

                                                                    1. re: amoule

                                                                      I didn't say anything about formality in the OP because it seems relative. What I do at my house would be considered formal to many people, maybe even to most. My mother, on the other hand, grew up in a household where they had footmen at the table, professional cooks in the kitchen, maids, a houseboy, etc, My mother would consider my dinner parties very casual.

                                                                      Should I step it down a couple notches so that they feel like they can be in their Levis and socks? And would that entail lowering my culinary standards? Or just the table setting?

                                                                      I was responding to the grandiose tone of your description of your mother and her maids and houseboy:) Tongue in cheek. Maybe your guests feel uncomfortable or awkward? Your menu's sound decent enough but if people are hedging on your invitations and you never receive invitations to be their guest then maybe the ambiance is lacking? Maybe it is just a simple matter of disinterest in attending a nice dinner party. That is why I suggested maybe trying to find some *dining hobbyists* who would appreciate your dinner parties. I would certainly persevere and try to meet some like minded people because it sounds as if you know how to *do* a great dinner party. There are some of us who covet nice affairs like that.

                                                            3. Interesting question. I don't have what I would call dinner parties. We live on the outskirts of a sprawled out area (Phoenix) so we're more apt to meet at a restaurant so no one has the burden of driving an hour or more to get home. We're also pretty casual so when we do have people over it's low key. The last two times I served spaghetti and chicken tacos respectively. I wore fuzzy slippers both times. When I think "dinner party" I think of appetizers, cocktails, nice china and stemware (which we don't own). It seems like a nice idea but it's not exactly my life.

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: ErnieD

                                                                See? There again, you define "dinner party" as something different than a party that includes dinner. Our dinner parties can frequently have pasta and Mexican food. Why not?

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  I guess that's true. The term just has a connotation of "fanciness" that I really don't do, but having a few people over and eating is definitely something I enjoy.

                                                                  1. re: ErnieD

                                                                    See? You've been having dinner parties all this time :)

                                                                    1. re: ErnieD

                                                                      "I wore fuzzy slippers both times".

                                                                      Thanks for the laugh. You sound like my kind of person/host.

                                                                      1. re: miss_belle

                                                                        ;). Mine are leopard print, so that's practically dressy, right?

                                                                        1. re: ErnieD

                                                                          Hey that's what I'm talkin' about:-)

                                                                2. Other than a family Thanksgiving, I can't remember the last time I was invited to one. And when I have tried recently, I have got so many non-responses, vague responses ("Well, maybe,I dunno not sure, I'll make it if I can.'), cancellations and no shows, that I gave up. And that's before considering special diets, everyone is on something different. There are other threads about that.

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                    > "I have got so many non-responses, vague responses ("Well, maybe,I dunno not sure, I'll make it if I can.'), cancellations and no shows ...." Oh that is so annoying. I give them a second chance but not a third.

                                                                    1. re: amoule

                                                                      Yeah, but then I have no one left to invite----which is the case. Y'know, dinner used to be sacred (read Emily Post): You must respond to the invitation immediately, and the only excuse for cancelling was an invitation to the White House. The only excuse for not showing was death.

                                                                      1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                        This is how I was raised. Dinner is sacred.

                                                                        I still believe it. There's something special about breaking bread together.

                                                                      2. re: amoule

                                                                        Many people today are clods and oafs. To them, RSVP stands for...nothing.

                                                                        Emily Post was over the top in many ways, but basic courtesy wasn't one of them.

                                                                      3. re: mwhitmore

                                                                        The last minute rsvp changes are what deter me, I think. When I moved a little over a year ago I was determined to do monthly dinner parties. But folks just seem to have such a tough time understanding commitment to an rsvp. So I am more likely to host a cocktail/app or cocktail/dessert get together. Seems to match better with flexible numbers than sit down dinner.

                                                                        I have hosted a couple of weekend brunches, and RSVPs seem a bit more stable for those.

                                                                        1. re: debbiel

                                                                          Valid point. I didn't see the OP address RSVP's or general ease/lack of guest commitment but I've read enough CH threads on that topic to know it will and often does kill the spirit of entertaining.

                                                                      4. They're not passé but they're likely declining due to time.

                                                                        I used to host a lot more than I do now and it's because people don't have the time, especially with my preference to put out multi-course dinners. I don't get invited to many dinner parties.

                                                                        24 Replies
                                                                        1. re: wattacetti

                                                                          Maybe I'm asking this in part because I'm becoming sensitive about seeming old and out-of-step with the present era.

                                                                          Does a person who gives dinner parties seem dated, like someone who hasn't a clue about technology of the past two decades?

                                                                          1. re: amoule

                                                                            So when you invite people for dinner, do they decline? Or do they seem like they're not having a good time?

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              I almost never get declines. When I do, they usually say something like, "but we'd love to come another time."

                                                                              On a rare occasion I get someone who seems uncomfortable with sitting down a set table or with fine foods.

                                                                              I see what you're getting at: I shouldn't worry about it. You're probably right.

                                                                              1. re: amoule

                                                                                My mom is still somewhat uncomfortable using cloth napkins! She thinks it's too fancy, and too much work. But she does understand that my preference is to have reusable, rather than disposable. :)
                                                                                I'm imagining that your friends are happy to join your table, as you rarely get declines. You must be doing at least *something* right! Good for you to make time for your friends.
                                                                                I wish I could do larger sit-down dinners more often. But we do really enjoy having people over in small groups.

                                                                                1. re: KarenDW

                                                                                  I figured out how to make cloth napkins seem informal: don't iron them, just smooth them with your hand when they come out of the dryer. If they are linen or cotton they will give a slightly rumpled "shabby chic" effect. I wouldn't do this for Thanksgiving or Christmas, though.

                                                                                  1. re: KarenDW

                                                                                    Huh. I feel uncomfortable with paper napkins at home. And a restaurant with paper napkins had better be serving barbecue....

                                                                                    Paper napkins cost money, are wasteful to a degree and aren't as effective as cloth. And they feel cheap. What's the good part of paper napkins?

                                                                                2. re: amoule

                                                                                  My impression is that hosting a dinner party shows a certain generosity for time and resources. Based on some of the nuances in your replies, I'm guessing you're feeling "out" because you do the invites to formal parties but you get invited to just the casual stuff.

                                                                                  I've done this scenario - people were "intimidated" that I'd do the multi-course thing whereas they were into la bonne franquette and pot meals and thought they'd have to do restaurant service if I was there.

                                                                                  I'm not saying this is also the case in your situation, but there is the possibility that the casual stuff is what they like to do.

                                                                                  On the flippant side, if you're trying to demonstrate that you haven't a clue that time has passed, tell everyone that you're serving raspberry vinaigrette,skewer tortellini and will have sun-dried tomatoes in everything else.

                                                                                  1. re: wattacetti

                                                                                    I'm just wondering if I seem like a relic from a time gone by.

                                                                                    I'm sure that most people do prefer casual things. Should I change the way that I entertain to suit the guests and try to offer something more familiar or maintain my own style?

                                                                                    1. re: amoule

                                                                                      You're a relic? I do formal dinner progressions, have cloth napkins and change service pieces with every course. I have been described as a dinosaur.

                                                                                      Anyway, should you change? Interesting question. Do you want to change? Do you like how you prepare/serve food for your invitees? Are you comfortable doing casual?

                                                                                      It's not that my opinion counts, but I say don't change - what you're doing is successful and the lack of declines means that those who show appreciate your effort. On the flip side, accept the casualness for what it is and if you do get the occasional formal invite, cherish the moment.

                                                                                      1. re: wattacetti

                                                                                        Do I want to change? No! Should I try to make my guests feel more comfortable? Hmm. It does seem like part of hospitality.

                                                                                        Am I comfortable doing casual? Not particularly, no. I feel like I should, though.

                                                                                        Your dinner progressions sound lovely.

                                                                                        1. re: amoule

                                                                                          What's the most formal and off-putting part of your parties?

                                                                                          1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                            To someone raised like me ... nothing.

                                                                                            I make friends with people who are unlike me though.

                                                                                            I love good food and emulate a lot of restaurant dishes at home. Last night: risotto with saffron and cauliflower; arugula and mint salad with apple, toasted walnuts and a shallot buttermilk dressing; brisket braised in burgundy and balsamic vinegar, black olive aioli, roasted green beans and red onions; orange almond cake. The previous night: risotto with escarole and lemon; chicken breasts marinated with lemon, sage and balsamic vinegar, pan-roasted zucchini with cilantro-mint gremolata; toasted almond panna cotta with saba. To many people that probably comes across as intimidating or even pretentious. For me, it's just a love of good food.

                                                                                            1. re: amoule

                                                                                              Nothing intimidating about that unless your normal diet is Big Macs and Lunchables.

                                                                                              1. re: amoule

                                                                                                I cook like that quite often, and it's just the two of us here at the breadchick home. My husband prefers to eat at home than go out, so it works for us.

                                                                                                I cook more casually when guests are over because I want to focus on them. Usually a large pasta dish that I can prep early, very good salad, pre-dinner nibbles, a simple but decadent dessert, and really good wine and coffee. Not as much clean-up either.

                                                                                                I make my own bread, so that's an enormous hit with our dinner guests. I have to guard it before dinner starts! :)

                                                                                                1. re: amoule

                                                                                                  This sounds delicious. I would love to come to one of your dinner parties.

                                                                                                  But alas, I probably wouldn't. I can't speak as to why your circle of friends doesn't reciprocate. My generation, just 10-15 years younger than you, all have small to medium sized kids. We socialize with our kids in tow because once someone in the group of friends had a baby they were brought along, then more babies came and then the kids grew and enjoyed playing together. Plus finding a babysitter is difficult and outrageously expensive. If we aren't socializing with other couples with kids, then it's me out with the girls (and it's out to dinner or wine and casual at someone's...no one wants to do the work of formal when the opportunity to not cook and clean up after others is an option) or it's him out with the guys at a pub or whatever. We attempted to attend one couples (no kids) gathering last year, but we couldn't find a sitter. When we told the hostess we couldn't make it, she cancelled her sitter and we ordered Chinese and our kids played with theirs and watched a movie in the basement while the grownups hung out upstairs. A full formal dinner party would be lovely...but honestly, no one I know has the time or energy. Aside from having kids (and their busy schedules) we all work full time, some with long commutes on top of the work hours. Even if I wanted to do a formal dinner party, I don't know when I would clean my house and do the shopping and cooking.

                                                                                                  So perhaps the dinner party is a thing of the past because none of us have the time we used to. Not necessarily by choice. But as soon as my kids are old enough to stay home alone, I'd love to attend one of yours, or one like it!

                                                                                                  1. re: 16crab

                                                                                                    Your social gatherings sound fun and very family oriented. I love that. Adult venues are fun but being around children and young people is so energizing and fun:) Enjoy enjoy enjoy!

                                                                                              2. re: amoule

                                                                                                Comfort is a part of hospitality, but your guests return every time they're invited. if they weren't comfortable with what you presently do, I think there would be many more declining.

                                                                                                1. re: wattacetti

                                                                                                  Thanks for the vote of confidence.

                                                                                            2. re: amoule

                                                                                              I enjoy formal dining but I am old school and I love luxury in any form. Maybe you should *revisit* your guest lists and try to find some *formal centric* dinner party guests that can relate to your lifestyle preferences instead of inviting people who may be more casually oriented regarding dining etc. Out here in California people join and sustain *supper clubs* and they do so for the very reason that you are posting about. Many members want to do actual formal dinners with several courses, table settings etc. and dine in the company of similarly oriented individuals.I have yet to join one because the closest *great* ones are in the Bay Area and Marin which is about 70 miles from me so logistically it is out of my zip code:)

                                                                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                Agree. But not necessarily "change friends", just do other activities with those uninterested in the art and craft of cookery. Running, music, lots of other worthy pursuits.

                                                                                                I have (and had) friends who would think nothing of devoting a couple of days off to sourcing and preparing a lovely repast. Though it wouldn't be as formally staged as some suggest here (although that is fine too, and thanks to my mum I certainly know how to behave at formal events).

                                                                                                Many of these people are in the arts, so money is limited, as such work can be unsteady.

                                                                                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                  You've made a couple excellent suggestions. Thank you.

                                                                                            3. re: amoule

                                                                                              Maybe you can send your invites via evite. :) (Or is evite passe now?)

                                                                                              I am in my mid 40s. I would love to be going to dinner parties regularly.

                                                                                              1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                Another good point about attending. Some people make better guests than hosts. Which might work out best for the folks who love to create dinner parties and all the fixings and the guests who rather attend a lovely party than host one.

                                                                                          2. An interesting question because my neighbor asked me the same question last week. Her sons, in their late 30's, live in a world without dinner parties. My sons, in their 50's, don't have dinner parties or attend them. We concluded that dinner parties are history,

                                                                                            1. Actually just had a hot pot dinner party with my friend set. We are in our late 20s. I think for us time is just hard and depending on how many people we are inviting a sit down dinner party is just not do able.

                                                                                              1. I sometimes spend all day cooking different dishes to have friends over, but never in such a formal sequence as a dinner party. And there is nowhere but my kitchen (with a nice wooden table and chairs) to eat, as I don't have a living room: it is my home office and it really is nothing but an office.

                                                                                                Also, for such casual meals among those I know, the friends will usually bring wine (with some indication of what we will eat). I really can't afford to buy the wines for 8 people or so.

                                                                                                But if I am busy, instead of preparing a main dish, I have no shame about buying a Chinese duck or a Portuguese roast chicken and doing vegetable and other dishes.

                                                                                                But yes, in my circle there are suppers among friends, also because that way nobody is excluded if they can't afford to go to a dinner-worthy restaurant.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. Speaking for my own social circle (I'm 40) -

                                                                                                  I'd say 2/3 of my friends and acquaintances have limited cooking facilities (as in hot-plate + microwave) and/or limited entertaining space (if they have more than 2 people over, someone has to sit on the bed), or at most can fit four people at a small table).

                                                                                                  A similar fraction has probably never cooked dinner for 8-14 people ever in their life, casually or formally, and rarely does more than the most basic cooking at home, if that.

                                                                                                  The last two times I was invited to dinner at someone's place, where they cooked, it was fairly casual - in one case, perched on every available surface and eating off of paper plates, in another, sitting on cushions on the floor. The dinners were tasty, but didn't involve courses (in both cases, it was curries, flat bread and a side dish), the guests brought the alcohol, and music was provided by laptop. The most common social event is either a potluck party, or going out somewhere together.

                                                                                                  If you're regularly getting invited to wine and cheeses, cocktail parties, barbeques, etc., I'd say you're actually doing better than most people in your invitations.

                                                                                                  I do like to entertain, but inviting 6 people is the maximum I can manage without making the event casual, due to space. In my currently city, literally the only person I've ever met who had a separate dining and living room was the Canadian ambassador.

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                                                    I am also 40...I find it interesting that so many in your social circle still live like they are in college or just starting out. Is that a regional thing?

                                                                                                    1. re: LaLa

                                                                                                      I suspect that tastesgood lives in a city/country where housing is extremely tight, even for people with a professional job (perhaps a temporary or freelance one). Certainly a lot of people live that way in major cities in some parts of Asia.

                                                                                                      1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                        Exactly. We have a two income, professional household (both with PhDs, working in academia). We can afford a rented, small three bedroom apartment with a galley kitchen so small that the refrigerator, microwave and toaster oven (plus dry goods and canned goods) go in the single main room.

                                                                                                        Single family housing (ie, not an apartment) literally does not exist in Taipei, and the housing prices are so high that we'd have to move outside of the city limits, pay more per month for an even smaller place and buy a car to be able to afford to buy.

                                                                                                  2. Interesting thread and responses. amoule, what do you do to liven things up at the party. I know you mentioned music but do you play any games, watch a film together, what is the dinner conversation like? Do you take the dinner party down to a more relaxed level by dessert & coffee? Do your guests unwind? You're doing so many things right but I'm not getting a sense of the party atmosphere, the conversation or the connection btwn your invited guests.

                                                                                                    We throw gatherings. I don't really call them dinner parties anymore because we invite people of all ages, all interests at all times of the day/night; week/weekend as the opportunity arises. We throw celebrations of course but mostly we just like having company.

                                                                                                    One of the most important aspects of any party though (beside all that delicious food you are making) is the company you keep and the atmosphere.

                                                                                                    How is that working out for you?

                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                      You bring up some important points, HIIJ.

                                                                                                      I don't really ever call them "dinner parties" to the guests, that's just how I think of them, probably because that's what my parents call them. I just invite people to dinner, not to a "dinner party".

                                                                                                      I never do anything like games or films, but I like the idea. I'm not really sure how to transition to something like that -- I'm an engineer by profession and I'm characteristically geeky and socially awkward. :) I depend on the guests for much of the conversation. I'm careful to always invite some extroverts, some talkers. And I only invite groups of people who know each other or who have a lot in common. I invite a wide array of people over the course of a year, but not to the same dinner or brunch.

                                                                                                      The result is a great meal with friends and conversation. It's not big celebratory party atmosphere, though I'd really like to learn how to create that. It doesn't come naturally to me.

                                                                                                      1. re: amoule

                                                                                                        The quick answer: delegate to those wonderful extroverts the "entertainment" portion of the evening and see what evolves over time. As hosts it's natural to assume and take on ALL the work-but, we don't need to. Next time, ask your guests more prone to humor or playfulness among a group to bring a fun board game with them and make time btwn dinner and dessert.

                                                                                                        Worth a try?

                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                          Just warn me, so I can say my cat is ill and I have to find an emergency vet office open that evening...

                                                                                                          I hate games.

                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                              We even play poker in the pool. Love cards.

                                                                                                              1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                I'm not fond of cats (dog person) but hey, you'd still be welcome to hit and run with some good food and a cocktail before you excuse yourself.

                                                                                                                So I'll warn you, you don't have to dash and run unless you feel the need.

                                                                                                                I hate when people feel uncomfortable. I don't force guests to do anything more than join in and have a good time.

                                                                                                                Board games, live music, movies with a group, outdoor sports...well count me in! My company enjoys to laugh and have a relaxing time. You'd be more than free to go or surprise yourself and meet new people.

                                                                                                        2. I wouldn't say dinner parties are now passé but that they've fallen out of favor.

                                                                                                          My parents used to host a few dinner parties a year and attended a few more as well. This was back in the 1970s and 1980s. My grandparents were very social people and hosted both dinner and cocktail parties frequently.

                                                                                                          A large part of the reasoning behind the dinner parties was actually professional. My father and grandfathers were expected, as part of their work, to entertain the other partners and prospective clients, as well as newcomers to the companies/firm.

                                                                                                          These dinner parties were formal. Good silver and china, served by the help, and people dressed up for them.

                                                                                                          The decline of the formal dinner parties can be attributed to several reasons.

                                                                                                          1. Most work places no longer expect their senior management to entertain as part of the job duties. The closest that comes to it are the various networking events that are almost always held in a public venue. For genuinely legitimate concerns over discrimination (both racial and gender) this social aspects of work has largely disappeared.

                                                                                                          2. The wives now likely have their own busy careers and don't have the time to plan and cook a formal dinner party.

                                                                                                          3. We are less formal as a society. The days when a prosperous household was expected to have full sets of silver, china and linens are now long past.

                                                                                                          4. Competition. "Back" in the day there were far fewer restaurant choices available. For my grandparents, dining out meant eating at their club. Restaurants were either luncheon places, casual diner places or uncomfortable hotel restaurants where the food wasn't likely to be that good but you sometimes went there for a wedding or a function. Most cities would have one or two French restaurants but those were for intimate dinners, not group dinners. It wasn't in the cultural psyche to take an entire group out to dinner at a restaurant, unless it was your club restaurant.

                                                                                                          While the form of the formal dinner party has largely disappeared for most people, the socializing function hasn't disappeared. It's just morphed into other forms that you referred to. Casual dinners with good friends over and people share the cooking responsibilities are still commonplace.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                                            A very interesting and thoughtful response, Roland. Thanks for your insight. What do you do when you entertain? -- No, wait, I think I'll start a different thread for that.

                                                                                                            1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                                              Yes, any work networking events I attend are at public places; not only restaurants but galleries, parties after public events etc. Good thing too, as my little flat would be no place to reciprocate.

                                                                                                              It is quite impressive to attend an estate sale in "old money" parts of my city; descendants and agents are selling off all the things Roland mentioned in his post. Which means that the adult children, many of whom must hold professional positions, don't want those things.

                                                                                                              However, here in Montréal at least, having friends over for supper is still very common, and many of us will spend quite a bit of time and effort shopping and preparing nice food.

                                                                                                            2. You are one of the few, so are the B's.
                                                                                                              Dinner parties are not passe, but they take work and not that many people want to bother or feel capable to do so.

                                                                                                              Mrs. B is a designer. In the past 25 years most new homes in our area do not have formal dining rooms (or have miniscule ones). A great room or eat in kitchen is not condusive to a formal dinner party.

                                                                                                              Casual and/or lazy is in. There have been numerous threads about not having/using fine china, silver, crystal on these boards.

                                                                                                              I'm sorry, but a dinner party is not served on Corelle with plastic cups and stainless.

                                                                                                              My wife is far more likely to have a client ask for a 20 thousand dollar outdoor kitchen than a dining room.

                                                                                                              Our observation is that dinner parties are far more likely to be hosted by over 55s or those who do regular formal sabbath and holiday meals on a regular basis. They tend to have the formal dining space, and silver, crystal, china and are in a fine dining cooking, serving cleaning mode.

                                                                                                              If you regularly have 8-12 people sitting down for a homemade multi-course sabbath dinner, then a dinner party for 6-12 is no big deal.

                                                                                                              Then again, a dinner party requies involvement and social intercourse of those around the table. See the thread about those using devices and not interacting on the Not About Food board.

                                                                                                              In a orthodox Jewish home, where weekly sabbath restrictions on use of electronics exist, children learn early to converse at the table over a multi-hour meal.

                                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                "I'm sorry, but a dinner party is not served on Corelle with plastic cups and stainless."

                                                                                                                In your opinion, of course. A "dinner party" is a get together where the main point of it is dinner. In MY opinion, of course. To say that it has to be served a particular way or on specific things is going to discourage those who either can't or don't want to do it that way.

                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                  I agree with this. I usually pull out the actual plates, but I almost never pull out the actual silver, though. Stainless FTW!

                                                                                                                  1. re: Savour

                                                                                                                    We purposely didn't register for silver and SS is very sustainable we have a very formal traditional pattern.

                                                                                                                    1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                      We didn't register for silver either. Ours is all inherited. And our "formal" china is dishwasher friendly mix and match Spode. I think formality generally is much lower than it was "back in the day". But we do still pull out the candlesticks, set the table with flowers, etc.

                                                                                                                2. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                  And this would be why I say I don't throw dinner parties even though I have people over for dinner. I don't find any value in worrying about what we're eating off of, and I have no interest in judging my friends' china when we eat there. Plus I would literally die before I policed another adult's technology use. It's not that I'm lazy, it's just not how I want to live.

                                                                                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                    I don't have Corelle; I have Athena white stoneware from Johnson Brothers (UK); bought that at least 30 years ago precisely because it was nice enough for company but practical for everyday. I have nice stainless my mother gave me as a birthday present many years ago. And friends prefer the Duralex tumblers; they remind us of congenial meals in southern European wine countries. I do think decorating and creating a beautiful space are important, but that needn't be a formal space, and it is impractical in a small flat.

                                                                                                                  2. There was a time, before massive inflation came in the early 1970s, when the usual marriage arrangement was the husband working outside the home and the wife staying home. Such living arrangements are mostly gone due to the economic necessity of two incomes being needed to maintain a middle class lifestyle. When both adults in the marriage work full time and return to care for the children and do all the many things required to keep a home from falling to pieces or prevent the need to tunnel through growing clutter, finding the time and energy to entertain with an old fashioned dinner party comes hard. Such entertainment can be expensive and worse, time consuming -- especially if the back log of house work needs doing before a comfortable place to dine can exist. I think that those who manage to entertain in any fashion at all under these circumstances are heroic.

                                                                                                                    15 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: susanl143

                                                                                                                      I can pull a couple of packs of Hazan's Bolognese sauce out of the freezer, boil pasta, make a salad, slice some good crusty bread. You saying that wouldn't constitute a dinner party? I guess all the dinner parties I've been giving for many, many years really weren't?

                                                                                                                      1. re: susanl143

                                                                                                                        There's all that ...coupled with the fact that most adults don't know how to actually cook.

                                                                                                                        Yes you could have it catered...or do pasta...or burgers; but your sort of DP (three courses etc) requires more than a bit of skill.

                                                                                                                        1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                          I'm going to ask til someone answers me :) Why is what I describe not a dinner party? BTW, I'm 66 y.o., have loads of times. Sometimes I pull out all the stops and sometimes I don't. I consider them all DPs.

                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                            Sometimes I pull out all the stops and sometimes I don't. I consider them all DPs.
                                                                                                                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                                                                                            Same here. Whether I'm the host or the guest. Definitions don't always fit the occasion but I'm also not tied to one..and it sounds like you aren't either. :)

                                                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                              Yeah, HJ. I'm really not clear why some here think some things count and others don't.

                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                Bkeats , down thread, has a definition that describes the term dinner party that I use as well. I think it is just a matter of a different description. We probably are just using the same term with tighter or looser meanings for us.
                                                                                                                                What you describe, is just having friends for dinner, which is different than hosting a dinner party, to me.

                                                                                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                  but,but,but..when you have friends over for dinner you are hosting.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                    But I wouldn't use that term. If someone asked me what I was doing tonight, I wouldn't say I was "hosting a dinner party" if I were just having some friends over for dinner. I would just say that some friends were "coming over for dinner".

                                                                                                                                    To me, the term "dinner party" usually means something else....more elaborately planned, more formal, more orchestrated, 4 to 8 ish guests (not just another couple) with some people I might not know (or don't know well), with written or e-invitations (not just a "come on over Saturday for dinner" verbal invite).

                                                                                                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                      Oh okay, I think I'm understanding that how you reference hosting has different expectations/parameters set. One is impromptu/maybe casual and the other planned out.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                        Yes. Also, when my neighbors come over for a glass of wine, I don't consider myself "hosting a cocktail party" .

                                                                                                                                        I have to believe that most folks also consider some differences between a "dinner party"and casual "get together". I would automatically wear jeans/casual dress if you verbally invited me for chili at 6:30 on Saturday. I would definitely ask if I could bring anything. I would probably show up with a beverage to share.
                                                                                                                                        If I got your e-vite for a dinner party where cocktails began at 6:30, I would dress up a bit. I might not ask to bring anything. My hostess gift might be different. I would not show up with a beverage to share.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                        In French, it is a dîner or souper anyway, (not "dinner party") unless you are talking about a full-on banquet. One could have a dîner mondain (the type discussed in the NYT article) or a dîner formel, or even officiel... (Think of Obama's state dinner for François Hollande)...

                                                                                                                                        (The ordinary evening meal is le souper in Québec, also in Belgium and Switzerland - though there are exceptions to all these, of course).

                                                                                                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                          Whereas I'll say "We're having a little dinner party on Saturday" to mean anything is fair game.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                            And either I or Hill would be sending out or responding to txt messages until the plans were firmed up and the gang arrived w/ or w/out food in tow...and we'd figure it out as we go.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                      One of the great mysteries of life!

                                                                                                                              2. re: susanl143

                                                                                                                                My family must be unusual. My grandmother worked outside the home starting almost one hundred years ago. My mother got married during WWII and worked outside the home until age sixty. My wife had had a career and only moved her office into the home five years ago.
                                                                                                                                All of these women raised children and hosted dinner parties regularly.
                                                                                                                                I think your explanation is an excuse for those who don't wish to put the work into making a dinner party. None of these women were June Cleaver types. And the husbands were just as likely to cook...serve..art and clean...no sexism.

                                                                                                                                BTW my seventeen year old daughter and her circle of friends take turn hosting dinner parties once a month...four couples.

                                                                                                                              3. My DH and I love having friends over and I love cooking for people, so we do any and all of the following:

                                                                                                                                - brunches
                                                                                                                                - cocktails and apps
                                                                                                                                - multi-course plated dinners
                                                                                                                                - casual family-style meals (bo ssam, hot pot, breakfast for dinner, mac and cheese, roast chicken, etc.)
                                                                                                                                - champagne and dessert parties
                                                                                                                                - sit-down buffet dinners for 30 (cramming 3 long tables into our dining room)
                                                                                                                                - picnic-style backyard events (we're planning on a pig roast this summer)

                                                                                                                                Regardless of the type of meal, we always make a point of setting a pretty table and making our guests feel welcome.

                                                                                                                                Over the years, I've learned not to expect or look for a reciprocal invite as not everyone has the time or interest to entertain. DH and I both work full time, but we also both work from home, so it definitely makes it easier for us to plan, cook and host.

                                                                                                                                We do have two types of friends, though -- our chowhound friends and our non-chowhound friends. The cooking and hosting skills in my group of chowhound friends is seriously impressive and I've often had amazing dinners at their homes. Amongst my non-chowhound friends, I think there is possibly that intimidation factor mentioned by some folks mention above. Which is a shame, because we just enjoy our friends' company and honestly wouldn't care what was served to us or how. But with those friends, we frequently meet for dinner or drinks out at a restaurant, so we still get to hang out with them.

                                                                                                                                As for the age issue, maybe I and some of my friends are an exception to what others are describing, but I'm 43 and have been hosting dinner parties since my late twenties. A couple of my chowfriends are in their late twenties/early thirties and they love creating multi-course dinners for friends. One particular friend lives in a tiny apartment so can't entertain there, so one day last fall, she took over my kitchen and made a remarkable 9-course dinner for 4 of us, and she's only 26. So the art of dinner parties hasn't been totally lost with the younger generations!

                                                                                                                                Some pics below to illustrate. The first is a typical table setting for a dinner party (snapped before the wine glasses were added), regardless of whether the dinner is going to be plated or family style. The second is my friend's "menu" for her kitchen takeover dinner, and the third is the casual "chef's rail" setup for her kitchen takeover. We had so much fun chatting with her while watching her cook for us.

                                                                                                                                We also have quarterly group theme days, where my friends all gather at one person's house and all make one type of food: cake day, cookie day, pie day, dumpling day. They are casual, messy, raucous and ridiculous amounts of fun.

                                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                                                  And, to me, everything you describe are all dinner parties!!!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                    I agree, with the exception of brunch and cocktails. :o)

                                                                                                                                    But yes, mac and cheese or multi-course plated meals or backyard bbq...all dinner parties!

                                                                                                                                    1. Dinner party, oh what a fraught and weighted term. When I was growing up, my parents would have people over for dinner regularly. These were not dinner parties, it was having people over for dinner. They were casual.

                                                                                                                                      A dinner party on the other hand was something different. Invitations were sent out in advance. Large amount of preparation went into the event. Tables were set with China and crystal. Bar was stocked and wine was delivered. Sometime my mother would hire help. Guests would arrive dressed for an evening out and us kids were shooed off. This was adult only time. We would watch tv in the family room and eat the same food off of tv trays. You could overhear lots of conversations and since it was the 70-80, there would be lots of cigarette smoke.

                                                                                                                                      Now that I'm grown up, we do something like that 1-2 times a year. Spend all day cooking and have 1-2 people we hire for the evening help with the serving and cleaning up. They are difficult events to hold because you need to get the mix of people right. It's not about just having a bunch of people over and feeding them and calling it a party.

                                                                                                                                      You need a mix of people that will create a good conversation. Introverts offset by the extroverts as you pointed out. It's not easy to do and I think many people feel that it's just too damn hard.

                                                                                                                                      There was a story in the New York Times a few years ago that went into the decline of dinner parties.

                                                                                                                                      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/29/fas...

                                                                                                                                      So my observation isn't that dinner parties are passé, but rather there are so many alternatives that few have them anymore. Few people are willing to put out the effort to hold them.

                                                                                                                                      Bully for you for keeping the tradition up. I think you should keep doing what you have been and not worry about reciprocity. You are doing your guests a huge favor by entertaining them so graciously. They may actually be relying upon you to hold the events and give them one of the few occasions they may have to be in such an environment. Good food and wine with a mix of people that results in great conversation. Like the salons of Paris.

                                                                                                                                      It's the easy flow of interesting conversation that engages everyone which distinguishes a dinner party from having people over for dinner. Perhaps not important to some, but I love a good discussion over the value of Hegel's dialectic or which quarterback could become a good standup comic. Sitting around a table with people you only met an hour or two ago and talking suddenly results in planning on a potential day trip to explore a shared interest. You never know who you might meet and what you will find at a dinner party. Maybe that's what really distinguishes a dinner party from having friends over for dinner. At a dinner party, it's not about friends getting together. It's about getting the mix of people together who don't know each other but find themselves engaged in engrossing conversation and discussing topics that they normally wouldn't if they were just hanging out with the same old friends.

                                                                                                                                      So I say be happy with what you are doing. I'm occasionally in Seattle and would love the opportunity to see your dinner party in action.

                                                                                                                                      For those who think having a bunch of people over at dinner time and feeding them is a "dinner party", well to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen

                                                                                                                                      I have served dinner parties. I know dinner parties. A dinner party is a friend of mine. That's no dinner party.

                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                                        That is my definition of a dinner party as well.

                                                                                                                                        We have friends over for dinner all the time, but I don't call it a dinner party. We have a big backyard setting for all kinds of informal outdoor group entertaining, but I don't call that a dinner party either.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                                          Somehow I missed your post, but your definition is what I think of as a dinner party too- not just having a few friends over for dinner.

                                                                                                                                        2. I think the term "dinner party" is passé but the act of gathering isn't. To me, a dinner party is too stuffy and formal. I have to wear my Sunday best, be extra careful with my food, assigned seating, and there's a set menu complete with starters, mains, and dessert.

                                                                                                                                          My SO and I tend to invite people over for dinner almost monthly (it's a dinner group and we even have a name for it complete with its own Facebook page). It's nice to have people over for casual dinners; we play lots of old R&B and soul, talk while cooking, drink a few beers, and eat dinner outside when weather is permitting. We're all in our mid to late 20s as well, if that makes a difference. Our version of dinner parites are what our post-college budgets can allow and that means it's super casual.

                                                                                                                                          I love having people over for dinner! I'm glad my social group does it.

                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                          1. re: compstory

                                                                                                                                            I totally agree with the term "dinner party" being passe, but not the concept. I routinely have people over for dinner (due to space, I have to cap it at 6 for a sit-down meal) but I don't call it a dinner party. But I'm planning a menu, concerned with the quality of the food and generally want people to have a good time. I just call it "dinner", though.

                                                                                                                                          2. I had more formal dinner parties when I was married and childless. Usually no more than 8 people, that could fit at our dining table and I'd plate all the courses.

                                                                                                                                            After I was divorced, I had a toddler and had to go back to work. My entertaining became less formal, always a buffet and seating for everyone expected. But, I'd still set my tables with nice tablecloths (even if I was using disposable plates and utensils), and sometimes with fresh flowers. I remember one July 4th BBQ where I spent waaay too much on the flowers, even tho it was just burgers and hot dogs (but I still made 3 kinds of ice cream for dessert). The last time I had guests it was over the winter holiday, still a buffet, but had 14 pp at 2 tables (one was in the living room). Color themed linen, centerpieces (candles, other decor) disposable plates etc, and a TON of food. Light hors d'oeuvres, a huge salad, 2 proteins (chicken, brisket), sweet potatoes, a large roasted vegetable platter, dessert etc all laid out on the kitchen counters. For me, the effort is less on the formality of the seated dinner and more on the food and presentation. My guests are appreciative of the effort, I just wish I had the time and energy to do it more often.

                                                                                                                                            1. Ithrow "dinner partys" for my friends about once a month I am 13

                                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                                                How many of your 13 yr. old friends throw monthly dinner parties?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                  oh well.. they come to mine, I think that is at least something...right? I think a few of them would have them if their parents would let them.

                                                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                                                    You are the young girl who is a cooking prodigy right? GO FOR IT!!!!!!!! You are so cool kid:)

                                                                                                                                                2. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                                                  Thats awesome!! How do you guys pick what to make? Do you all help or do you do all the work?

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: daislander

                                                                                                                                                    sometimes I do a theme with a book. I did a "Hungergames" Dinner( they ate goose liver) and a Tales Dark and Grimm dinner and a Through the looking Glass... I did a French one when La Mis came out.. I taught some of my friends to make crab rangoon using the deep fryer.. and cook wagu beef using nothing but hot rocks ..some kids help..some kids clean..whatever they are comfortable with... the rule is simple.. be respectful.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                                                      "the rule is simple.. be respectful."

                                                                                                                                                      That's a very good rule to keep in mind.

                                                                                                                                                    2. Obviously there are at least 2 types of dinner parties! Nobody is right or wrong in how they conduct there party. Lets say least a 'formal' and a 'casual'. The formal is when you may be inviting work related people or new people maybe as well as your circle of friends. You go all out china, crystal, sliver. The casual were you still put out nice things (or not), maybe not as much and play board games between courses.

                                                                                                                                                      I think the op was asking about 'formal' dinner parties and has realized yes at least with most people on this board they are 'passé'

                                                                                                                                                      1. I prefer to host more casual gatherings as it's a lot easier to accommodate dietary restrictions with a buffet type service instead of a formal plated situation. I don't mind cooking nut free gluten free vegan meals, but it doesn't mean I want to eat that every time we entertain. So casual just works better for us, more relaxed and relaxing.

                                                                                                                                                        Sometimes I feel like I can't relax at a formal dinner party. Could those you are inviting feel that you have great food, but the dinner party atmosphere isn't for them?

                                                                                                                                                        1. No, not here in South Central Texas. Some of our group of friends just re-instituted our long defunct dinner club. We're 5 couples who enjoy each other's company, eventho' we're older than some responders here, late 50's to early 80's. We share cooking duties, with the host couple choosing the menu, doing the main course, then assigning the rest of the meal. This Feb. I'm hosting and doing David Chang's Bo Saam. I'll farm out the sauces, the rice, and the dessert. Each couple brings their wine, so the expense is very well shared. All but one of us LOVES to cook, so everyone is looking forward to this dinner. The non-cook's husband is a good griller, so when it's their turn to host, HE will do the biggest part of the main course cooking and others of us will fill in whatever he choses or needs to complete the meal. I think this will work well for us. I'll report.

                                                                                                                                                          1. I love having friends over when i have the money. I usually do it for Sunday dinner, because everyone's so busy. a nice leisurely meal that starts with appetizers around 1:30 and ends around 6, only because people are sitting around relaxing, nibbling, and chatting.

                                                                                                                                                            The plan: several apps with wine/beer, soft drinks in the living room/kitchen. nice dinner [something they woudln't make themselves]. and desserts. yes. plural. my philosophy is that the number of veggie dishes should equal the number of desserts. and some people ALWAYS insist on bringing something - and i let them.

                                                                                                                                                            I don't have silver, and sometimes the plates are mismatched, but i have nice wine glasses, good coffee, good tea, good food, and great friends.

                                                                                                                                                            They NEVER invite me back to their houses, but they ALWAYS take me to a restaurant to reciprocate. what's important to me is that we spend time together

                                                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jiffypop

                                                                                                                                                              Wait -- you serve *dinner* appetizers at 1:30 PM? I'm confused.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                For so e of us "dinner" is the afternoon meal especially on Sundays

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LaLa

                                                                                                                                                                  My late dad always confused me with supper...dinner huh? Never lunch. I guess that is how they rolled back in the day in Iowa:)

                                                                                                                                                              2. This may depend on geography; big city vs. suburbs.
                                                                                                                                                                It seems in places like Manhattan, dinner parties are not as common. When I spent some time there, we were constantly meeting friends out. No one we knew threw dinner parties. Here in CA, it can be quite common to have people over.

                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: globocity

                                                                                                                                                                  Ah, maybe that's part of it. I'm a relocated Californian.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: globocity

                                                                                                                                                                    I agree. Geography has a LOT to do with whether or not people entertain at home. We are in the city, in Vancouver Canada. Our table can extend to seat 6 comfortably and 8 in a pinch. But more often, casual seating in the living room, on the couch... with a thoughtfully planned buffet menu. Lots of locally sourced seafood, produce and cheeses. "better" wine for company :) and we use "proper" dishes and napkins, not disposables.
                                                                                                                                                                    If we are entertaining a mixed group of friends and acquaintances, or people from really different circles, I'll choose to go out. Lots of restaurants in our neighborhood, at all price points.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. I'm 35 and I've been throwing "dinner parties" for like 10 years now...

                                                                                                                                                                    Not sure if our ideas of dinner party is the same though...is there some kind of formal definition I'm unaware of? I invite people over, make a ton of food and we all enjoy it together. :)

                                                                                                                                                                    1. Only slightly tongue in cheek:

                                                                                                                                                                      1. Because at least two of the guests will insist on bringing children and insist they remain present or in sight.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Because at least half the guests will expect the menu be aligned to their latest fad ailment de jour.

                                                                                                                                                                      3. Because the idea of turning off their phone to avoid disrupting a carefully planned and prepared dinner is unthinkable to way too many.

                                                                                                                                                                      4. Because the lazy do not reciprocate.

                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: justicenow

                                                                                                                                                                        #4 doesn't concern me because there are many reasons for that. #s 1-3 would be cause enough to not do DPs for any of those people :(

                                                                                                                                                                        I read a great idea recently for eating out. Everyone puts their phone in a stack and the first person who reaches for theirs picks up the tab. Won't work at home unfortunately

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: justicenow

                                                                                                                                                                          OK, you just nailed it with number 2. A smallish group of us used to get together every couple of weeks, sort of an informal round robin deal, and cook wonderful dinners. We were adventurous and bold, and shopped and chopped our little hearts out to present fabulous food. Decor and place settings were not important. We were a foodie cell.

                                                                                                                                                                          Then one decided she was "allergic" to onions. It was more of a preference than an actual allergy, but fine. We changed our menus to accommodate. Then another suddenly had an allergy to spices like cumin and thyme. Another announced he was suddenly lactose intolerant and his wife became a vegan. It all became too much. We were left with a few blades of grass on our plates, so we stopped. We still exchange holiday cards and send graduation gifts to their kids, but no more gatherings for food enjoyment unless we can manage to find a restaurant that caters to all of the "specialness" of the members of the group.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. Yes, of course they are.

                                                                                                                                                                          I don't think the reason is far to seek. Women used not to work outside the home, now most married women and virtually all single women have full time jobs. having a dinner party on Friday means shopping after work on Wednesday, cooking after work on Thursday, and setting the table before work on Friday in order to have a Friday evening dinner party

                                                                                                                                                                          (I do in fact prepare and serve the kind of 3 or 4 course meal served in a dining room that you describe almost every week. But I call it: the Sabbath.

                                                                                                                                                                          13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: AdinaA

                                                                                                                                                                            What does this have to do with women?

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                              V^^V apparently males were born without opposable thumbs and are helpless?

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                                                                                Yet somehow they grow them in forestry and mining camps, in the army and navy etc...

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                                                                                  Don't be disingenuous. We all know that men can cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: AdinaA

                                                                                                                                                                                    Er, if I may quote you:

                                                                                                                                                                                    " Women used not to work outside the home, now most married women and virtually all single women have full time jobs. having a dinner party on Friday means shopping after work on Wednesday, cooking after work on Thursday, and setting the table before work on Friday in order to have a Friday evening dinner party"

                                                                                                                                                                                    So you mention "women" three times. Logical to assume that YOU assume.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                      What are you really arguing about? Are you disputing that women have traditionally been the primary cook in most families throughout history?

                                                                                                                                                                                      In my family's context the men rarely cooked. I don't remember my father cooking anything more complicated than a baked potato on the few nights my mother wasn't around. My grandfathers never went into the kitchen if they could help it. They could put together a sandwich but anything beyond that was beyond their reach. There was one uncle who was known to make pancakes on Saturday mornings for his family and it was acceptable for men on camping trips to cook a chili or grill steaks. But that was about it, at least for married family men.

                                                                                                                                                                                      And we were not unusual.

                                                                                                                                                                                      If you read through the history of cookery and pay any notice to the cookbooks up through the 1970s, it was fully expected that it was a woman who cooked and if men are referred to it's usually in the context of the poor, unlucky bachelor or widower. Of course some men could and did cook but it was the dominant societal expectation that cooking was primarily done by women.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                                                                                                                        I believe this thread is about whether people currently are having dinner parties. Not what was done in generations past.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                          Actually, the OP and most of the discussion is about change. What has changed, I posit that a principal driver of change has been the replacement of stay-at-home middle class women with the time to shop and cook by two career couples.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I suspect that an increasingly casual lifestyle in all areas contributes. And the fact that the first kind of cooking American men got comfortable with was the BBQ, it would have been a way for housewives in the 50's 60's to shift a tiny part of the burden of housekeeping onto the husbands.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Back in the bad old days, by the way, single women used to prepare and invite people to dinner parties. Don Draper and his ilk didn't, not even when single and living in a nice apartment.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: AdinaA

                                                                                                                                                                                            Ah, but Don Draper is always fashionably dressed in his dinner jacket just in case!

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                              yeah but he didn't own an apron. I don't think I even remember a scene when he flipped hamburgers.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: AdinaA

                                                                                                                                                                                      I was just being facetious. Of course men can and do cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                                                                                        i think we were just playing..jeeez..weeeee reallly need a sarcasm font

                                                                                                                                                                                    3. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                                                                                      maybe they are retractable like wolverine from x men...they only come out for that pre 1950 sterotype role approprite behavior ;) V^^V?

                                                                                                                                                                              2. Another factor is food preferences/diets/allergies/religious restrictions. A sit down dinner party is difficult to do if you have friends with wildly varying food restrictions - a BBQ, potluck, cocktail party makes it easier to provide a variety of foods that people can choose as they want.

                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                                                                                                                                  My daughter is allergic to nuts, so never in our home (except for the mouse traps, but that's a different thread)

                                                                                                                                                                                  We have friends who are long standing vegetarians, vegans, my SIL has celiacs. Accommodating these situations while still having food I want to eat means a buffet is a much easier way to go. I have no problems cooking for any restriction, but sometimes when I'm hosting I want to eat the food I want to eat too.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: autumm

                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, we often do a buffet for such reasons. Not faddish eating, but a couple of vegetarians and some carnivores from Argentina and Chile in the mix, as well as some allergies.

                                                                                                                                                                                    "We" because buffets are usually done chez a friend who has a larger flat with a dining room. Not really a potluck; better planned than that, but I usually make a few dishes at home and take them there, as it isn't always easy to cook everything together, though I'm very familiar with her kitchen.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. I'm in my 30's, and I try to have a "dinner party" every week, usually on Sunday. It is tough. Most of my friends aren't nearly as into it as I am, and the group of attendees varies greatly depending on a variety of variables. But it's always fun, and I enjoy doing it. Still, these events are much less "dinner parties" than they are bbq's or otherwise just a chance for everyone to get drunk.

                                                                                                                                                                                  To answer your original question, though, yes, I do think dinner parties are passe. My friends and I don't do "dinners," we party. Sometimes that makes me sad.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. TheKitchn doesn't think that they are passe http://www.thekitchn.com/budgetfriend.... However, the intention of the article is likely hinting at what you're trying to highlight with this thread.