You’ve been watching too much Food Network, or flipping through too many staged dinner party photo shoots in your Facebook feed, and the result? You invite too many people to dinner.
I applaud your over-eagerness and want to remind you what Maya Angelou told us — people will remember how you made them feel. So, if your RSVP list is longer than your number of chairs, do not worry. Here are four ways you can have a great, intimate party without having a round-the-table gathering.
Go for Buffet Style Dishes
You do not have to serve dinner family style. (If your chosen menu lends itself well to family style, time for you to have a kitchen “make it work” challenge.) Buffet style works just fine and most guests won’t even notice as long as you don’t use cheap paper plates. There is tons of creativity you can have here when it comes to buffet — you can do a bruschetta bar, a soup bar, sliders, or even a chocolate bar! Consider breaking up your buffet into stations to help keep the flow going if you’re short on space.
Make It a Pajama Party
Warning: opinion ahead! Pajamas parties are a mindset, not a clothing type. You can throw a PJ party without having to have everyone romping around your house in their underthings. But, why not? What’s the worst that can happen? (
Seriously, though, sending out a themed invite with the idea of it being a “PJ, casual dress OK,” sends the message that your party will be casual. This gives you permission to haul out the oversized pillows, picnic blankets, and sleeping bags and enjoy some fine dining on the floor. Maybe you want to go for a movie night or indoor camping-themed event. The interesting thing, though, is that I’ve noticed that people seem more relaxed and hold back a little less if they are sitting on the floor. It sort of drops their guard a bit. So, there are benefits to not giving people chairs. Just make sure they know in advance so they can dress appropriately — ladies will always understand this one!
Create Socializing Stations
Similar to your food stations above, you can set up “socializing” stations to help spread your guests out and keep that intimacy without having a lot of chairs around a big table. If you have a porch or balcony, this is a great place where you could set out some snacks and let people roam and find those hidden treasures. People always gravitate towards hanging out in the kitchen, but you can get them moving along somewhere else by setting up the bar/tea station/coffee station elsewhere. The challenge here is, as the host, making sure the energy and flow works, but if you’re thoughtful about who you invite to the party then this will typically solve itself.
Take Your Party On the Road
Last but not least, you can split up your party among your friends and have a walking party. This might not be ideal in the dead of winter, but who knows — it might be perfect. We don’t live near our friends so I’ve never done this, but I am dying to attend one. Please invite me.
If you’re in our shoes, consider having part of your party take place in a nearby park or open location. This could be a fun transition; just plan ahead and have a picnic basket at the ready so you can bring extra soda and party games with you. You will also want to have a helper who has your house keys so if a guest needs to leave and left their jacket or favorite punch bowl at your house, they can help them fetch their belongings without you having to leave the second venue.
Good luck with your party! If push comes to shove, order some extra chairs; I always have some spare wooden folding chairs on hand (and always go for wood — they look nicer and tend to be more comfortable).