I have to admit, I'm a bit baffled by the term dinner party, and how it's different from just having friends over to dinner. If you asked me if my parents entertained while I was growing up, I would likely say no, but the truth is, we did have people over to the house for dinner on a fairly regular basis. Entertaining was reserved for Oktoberfest in our house, that's when the fancy dishes came out, and that's what I would consider a dinner party.
Now that I'm an adult and can entertain on my own, I'm a little bit murky on what constitutes a dinner party, and what is just a dinner with friends.
Here's how I separate the two in my mind:
Dinner with Friends:
- planned somewhat spontaneously (no farther than a week in advance)
- planning is in person, over the phone, or via e-mail
- food is simple and doesn't take a lot of advanced preparation
- no themes, special decorations, or place settings
- no activities, unless the Scrabble board spontaneously materializes
- small group of guests whom you see on a regular basis
- planned further in advance
- email or phone invite is more formal (it's the primary reason for the email or phone call, not just a piece of it)
- food is something that you would not normally cook; it might take ingredients you don't normally have on hand
- there is something special that sets it apart, and extra effort is put into setting the table
- there might be some kind of event or activity before the meal
- likely includes close friends and people whom you are just getting to know or don't see often
What do you think? I'd love to hear how you differentiate a dinner party from a casual dinner with friends.