5 Dinner Party "Hacks" to Upgrade Your Night

5 Dinner Party "Hacks" to Upgrade Your Night
I haven't decided how I feel about the term "hacks." We've got life hacks, dinner party hacks, kitchen hacks, sleep hacks, wine hacks, bathroom hacks... there isn't much of our lives the Internet hasn't hacked. (The irony...)
Originally, I had set out to drum up an exhaustive list of dinner party hacks. You know, like, 500 dinner party hacks or something. But that felt a little intense, and exhausting. Instead, I decided that you have more than likely explored our dinner party & entertaining section enough that you've got a good handle on things.
Instead, I'm sharing my shortlist of hacks that will help you upgrade your next night, evening, or occasion. Make it a night to remember, a moment that matters. (And the title says dinner party, but it could easily be date night or girlfriends night.)
Let's dive in.

1. Make Your Wine a Statement Piece

Since our wine section is one of our most-read sections, it is no surprise to me that many of you entertain with wine. And while it's great to have your favorites, sometimes it's more fun to make your own wine. And by that, I simply mean change your labels!
Plum Deluxe has some of our own creative wine label printables free for download. You can use these as a great conversational piece, use them for wines you are gifting, use them as a game (any guesses as to the grape blend in the bottle?). Believe me, wine tastes better with fun labels like these!

2. Print the Menu

I know this may seem silly -- especially for those of you still deciding what to cook an hour before guests are due to arrive -- but I think having a menu is such a fun way to create a memorable night. I encourage you to give it some flair. For example, you can use the French translation for instant chic (haricot vert or pommes frites, anyone?). You can give things your own names (Mamma's Famous Brisket). Have some fun with it.
No need to get fancy -- I've just printed in black on white index cards. You can even use your printer and print them on paper bags (example here).

3. 'Splurge' for Mis-matched Dishware and Cutlery

When I lived in Europe, a friend of mine used to entertain frequently, and he was known for his collection of eclectic dishes, bowls, cutlery, and glassware. The table was always such a delight upon arrival, as it looked more like a museum or quirky restaurant than a simple dinner party.
After one particularly late party (and after many bottles of wine), I asked him how he got this setup, and he told me that he'd just set aside $15 a month and would buy the most inexpensive but still pretty/functional items he could find in the thrift shops. His goal was $1/item, which meant he could get 15 items a month -- and he ended up getting many pieces for free. It only took him 2 months to have a full, over-the-top collection.
If you can spare a cupboard for your curious creations (and a dishwasher to give them a good cleaning), this makes for an outstanding conversation starter over dinner. If you can get people to stop Instagramming, that is.

4. Create Clever Conversation Starters

One thing I find good hosts always do is plan for moments of great conversation. You may already be doing this with strategic introductions, assigned seating, or commentary when sitting down for dinner ("Joe's starting a company, Ellen maybe you can give him some tips," or similar), but as the wine and meal flow, consider digging a bit deeper. This is the perfect time to break out our Mindful Moments Deck -- thoughtful questions for creative conversation -- but you can create your own questions, too. Think of open ended questions that allow people some creativity without getting themselves into trouble (but if they do, we have some tips on how to fix that). Examples:
  • If you had plenty of time and the money to splurge, what kind of class would you take and why?
  • If air travel was replaced by safe, inexpensive teleportation, would that change where you live now? Where would you visit more often? Why?
  • If you were traveling by slow train across the country, unable to disembark for several days and free from work duties and obligations, and able to carry anything you wanted with you, what would you do to pass the time?

5. Send Your Guests Home with Parting Gifts

Last but not least, although you've given your companions the most wonderful gift of your time and space, send them away with a momento of their evening. Something little like macarons or a potted plant is best; you don't want to overdo it. Some ideas:
  • If you're planning a bigger meal, know that likely many people will be too full for dessert, so have some desserts ready to go and waiting in their boxes in the fridge. Some homemade chocolates are great.
  • Gifts of mindfulness really strike home the fact that you appreciate the connection you have. The easiest way to do this is to cut up small pieces of paper, put an affirmation or word of appreciation on them, and tape them to the bottom front of your chairs. Then guests just reach down and grab them when you make the big reveal.
  • And, of course, tea makes a great gift. You could even send guests home with your own custom blend! Just sayin'.

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is the founder and creator of Plum Deluxe. He authors our award-winning weekly email newsletter, The Blend and curates our popular organic tea of the month club.
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