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52 Dinner Parties

One of my goals for the new year is to throw more dinner parties. The goal is actually more specific, I want to throw 52 dinner parties. I’m not actually holding myself to a weekly goal but I want to do 4-5 a month. I’m not planning on all of them being big and fancy, I read this article about this woman who does a weekly casual dinner with her friends. I found it completely inspiring. I have two main motivations for this goal. The first is, we finally have a dining room. I spent the last decade of my life without a real dining room and now we have a nice big one! I still feel really inexperienced cooking for lots of people and I want to get really good. I want to be a professional-dinner-party-thrower. The second motivation is I always meet people and think “we should have them over.” But then I never make time to actually make it happen. If I have some dates set on the calendar I think it will be more motivation to spend time with friends, make new ones and make our community bigger and stronger.

The pictures below are from my Instagram. I hosted a “Serial” Dinner Party last week. I asked my friends on Facebook who wanted to come and discuss the Serial Podcast and the next thing I knew I had 14 people coming over to my house! It was a really fun evening. For dinner we had parsnip soup, spicy meatballs, lemon pasta, salad, roasted carrots and chocolate cake. I foraged some olive branches to decorate the table and used my pretty Mud Australia dishes and West Elm gold silverware. We had a great time and I’ve been trying to keep notes about what worked and what didn’t so I learn and get better each party. I would love to learn what your tricks are for dinner parties? Please leave tips in the comments below!

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photos by @ohhappyday

  1. Evan

    January 13, 2015

    Love this idea! It’s both noble-minded and fun.

    I suggest you check out this book by Shauna Niequist (here’s a link http://amzn.to/KnSpHA) it’s a wonderful book full of stories, recipes, and lessons on hospitality.

    I’ve always found that the less appetizers the better. People get overwhelmed by too many options (especially cheese, which is sad because I love a good platter).

    I enjoy going around the table and having everyone share a story about themselves. It builds community and opens up a dialogue even before the meal begins. I usually warn everyone a week in advance so they don’t freeze up, though.

    Enjoy! Would love to attend one of your dinners someday. I’ll be in San Fran this June. Can I reserve a chair now?

  2. magali

    January 13, 2015

    I have the feeling you will get sick of doing soooo many dishes! But I’m really looking forward to reading about all the ideas you get from doing this! (my husband and I planned almost every single detail of a dinner party while out the other night for the dining room we are hoping to eventually have!)

  3. Sara

    January 13, 2015

    When people offer to bring something- say YES! Salads, dessert or wine are great things to have someone bring to complete the meal. I plan the main dish- and delegate the rest. I’m trying to host once a month this year (despite being in the middle of renovations!) If I wait til our house is “done” it will never happen. Looking forward to following along your dining adventure this year!

  4. Kelli

    January 13, 2015

    Wow Jordan, what a wonderful goal! Looking foreword to seeing that! Will you share the recipes from this party?

  5. Cristina

    January 13, 2015

    When I was in college, my friends and I lived off campus I the same neighborhood, less than a really well done stone’s throw away from each other. Because we were poor and also loved each other’s company, we would each take a day of the week and cook dinner for the group. Each meal was simple (hamburgers, pizzadillas, pasta, etcetera.) and probably less than $30, but it was an actual meal instead of a cup of ramen. We made it a thing, and stuck to it, and it was great!

    Today, I have friends whose parents host a weekly potluck. Anyone can come, bring any dish – no coordination or sign ups necessary (more than a few weeks there was only pie or everyone brought wine, ha!). And suddenly you’re in a house with a ton of new folks (a young couple who only speaks French to their baby, a popular local music band, friends you never knew knew each other!). It’s awesome, and no obligation. Heck, one time I showed up late because I was working late on stuffing envelopes at the office. I needed a break, packed my car to work at home, then went to go visit for a quick bit before I went home to finish up a million packages. Before I knew it, someone had heard there were six boxes of envelopes in my car and everyone was stuffing! People who barely knew me where helping. I was done in 30 minutes

    Comraderie is amazing, and I def think the dinner party is doable and also you should switch it up! There are lots of ideas!

  6. Clara

    January 13, 2015

    I suggest you know your source when it comes to recipes. Books or websites you know work right for you and don’t make all dishes very complicated, even if you want to learn, do just one complex and the rest more basic (which doesn’t mean they have to be shabby) in terms of safe choices (these are different for everyone). As for décor I’d suggest inspiration from Pinterest or blogs or books or whatever you use to inspire you.

  7. Britney

    January 13, 2015

    This is so cool and completely inspiring!! I would really love to do something like this but maybe on a smaller scale just because for a 21 year old hosting 52 dinner parties would be pretty extreme! You’ve gotten me all excited now! I can’t wait to see your adventures in this endeavour 😀

  8. ElaineEEllis@gmail.com

    January 13, 2015

    I have a similar but much more modest goal, which is to throw one dinner party each month. After years of living in tiny apartments, I’m in the same boat of finally having a dining room, which has been life changing. I’ve hosted my book club, a Halloween dinner party, Christmas and my husband made Indian one evening. For 2015, I want to mix up friend groups, learn to clean as I cook and learn to entertain more cheaply (no more $50 cheese boards because they’re easy).

    PS – 52 Supper Parties would make a great Chronicle book.

  9. tara

    January 13, 2015

    we do almost weekly dinner with a group of friends – we keep it simple and fun. if i am doing the cooking, i make something i can make ahead of time (soup, chili, braised short ribs, lasagne) and then everyone brings something (usually appetizers, salad + dessert).

    if you make it into a big “Event”, it feels more stressful – i am a big fan of keeping it casual, since the whole point is just getting together and sharing a meal! good luck with this and have FUN!

  10. Meg

    January 13, 2015

    Mix and match dinnerware and simple dishes – appetizers only party and an assortment of desserts. Taco bars are always a hit!

    Also, how did you manage to collect so many Mud dishes? Were they shipped from Australia? They are so darn expensive!

  11. Ann

    January 13, 2015

    Love this! My goal is more modest – one a month, but similar in concept to what Sarah (from the article) and you are trying to create: community, ease-of-entertaining/cooking. Can’t wait to follow along!

  12. Heather

    January 13, 2015

    It’s funny, if asked I would say I rarely throw “dinner parties” because that brings to mind something out of Downton Abbey, but I regularly, at least once or twice a week have friends over for dinner. They are usually casual, often last minute, and most importantly always fun. I try to keep it low stress. It’s lasagna on Sunday night, or chili and baked potatoes to watch the Superbowl, or a friday night BBQ and beer, or an Easter egg hunt and potluck lunch. It’s usually noisy, our children sit and eat with us if there is room, or it it’s a bigger crowd, we feed the kids first, let them watch a movie and eat together as grown-ups. I often try brand new recipes I’ve never made before, I always say yes if someone offers to bring something, I rarely use a tablecloth, and I still don’t have a full set of silverware that matches. But I love seeing friends, and drinking wine, and having some time to catch up with each other. Keep in mind the reason why you do it, enjoy the process of setting the table and picking the flowers if it’s fun for you, but don’t worry if it’s not picture perfect!

  13. Alishka

    January 13, 2015

    this is what New Year resolutions are all about!!!!

    Love the idea and I can’t wait to see what you bring to the table each week :)

  14. Stefanie B.

    January 13, 2015

    Have you read the book “Entertaining is Fun: How to Be a Popular Hostess” by Dorothy Draper? I saw it mentioned on some blog a few years ago, and picked up a cheap copy from Amazon. It was originally published in the 1940’s, but it is a fascinating read. She covers all types of gatherings, large and small, and even has illustrations that show you how to set up a room for a party. Most importantly though, she talks a lot about why it’s important to have gatherings, and I found most of her points are still valid today!

  15. Miranda

    January 13, 2015

    My husband and I host dinner parties regularly. I do all the cooking/decorating and he does all the clean up. This is such a great separation of duties for us and it makes me enjoy our guests, be they 6 or 26. Also, try at least one party where everyone can bring their kids. It may get a little crazy, but at least you’ll be able to involve your children too!

  16. marie

    January 13, 2015

    nice I would really love to do something like this but maybe on a smaller scale just

  17. Shelley

    January 13, 2015

    Friends of mine hosts at this magnitude: countless family events, retirement parties, neighbour gatherings, birthdays and every Sunday of advent. I am in awe of how they pull it off — not just logistically, but that every guest feels so, well, hosted! Seriously am not trying to shameless plug, but I wrote a blog post about it because I thought she had some fabulous tips. Jordan – maybe there is something helpful in here! http://bit.ly/14Sre2z

  18. jen

    January 13, 2015

    i would love to do this but cooking for so many people as well as the expense of feeding 14 people seems a little out of reach for me. would love to know how you did it. were kids included? what about alcohol? what was the budget? so many questions!

  19. Marianne

    January 13, 2015

    We love to host dinner parties where making the meal is part of the entertainment/fun. Making pizza, rachlett dnners, fish tacos where everyone comes and helps make it together. We have a big kitchen so that is helpful.

  20. Kaitlin

    January 13, 2015

    Sounds like fun! You should post links to recipes or the recipes for what you make at the dinner parties!!

  21. Nora

    January 13, 2015

    Hosting is one of my very favorite things to do. What I have learned over the years, is to cook the day before, that way the food is easily ready and the kitchen can be clean. So many recipes can made a day in advance and are even better with the extra time.
    We also often use paper plates. You can always find cute ones and then there are so many less things to wash when the gathering is over.
    Ultimately, this all leads to being more relaxed about having people over. You aren’t stressing as much before or after…which is the point, to have fun.

  22. Alice Robertson

    January 13, 2015

    1) Shower early in the afternoon, so you don’t get caught coming out of the shower by early guests!
    2) Put something out for guests to eat and put drinks/wine out for self service before they arrive.
    3) Make a sturdy dish that can be held over heat for an hour or so – so it doesn’t have to be served right at a particular time
    4) You can always skip dessert – nobody expects it.

  23. Carmen

    January 13, 2015

    We host dinner parties pretty regularly because I think it is such a better pace than going out to dinner with friends. At home, we get to talk without being interrupted by a waiter and you can stay as long as you want. A few tips that help:
    – Sunday is a great night for a get together. It also lessens the blow of Monday.
    – Aim to have as much cleaned up BEFORE people come over as possible. I aim to have the dishwasher empty and anything that isn’t necessary to finish off the cooking washed. That way when people want to help, you can steer them to load the dish washer and then all you have to do is any remaining pots and pans, etc.
    – Find dishes that can be made ahead of time, so you don’t miss out on all the initial fun by being stuck in the kitchen.
    – If you don’t like to make a certain part of the meal, outsource it. I am not good a dessert, so any time anyone asks what to bring, that is the answer.
    – Put some water pitchers on the table. It creates one less thing you have to “do” for your guests so you can socialize.

    I love your goal and I can’t wait to see the results.

  24. Kristin Brown

    January 13, 2015

    I like this idea a lot. How great to set an intention to learn along the way as you have more and more people over. I think you’ll get better every time and yet, from what I’ve seen, you’re pretty good already! Pop up dinner parties? Dinners on the beach! My, now your own home, I can only imagine you will fine tune it to an art.
    I threw a last minute New Year’s Day open house/party, just because I wanted to have people over and I let go of the need of having everything be perfect. Only a few couples came, but it was so nice to have people from different parts of our lives meet each other. The day was stressful, as I’m not that practiced at doing it and being all chill! But, I realized that I’d learn and that I needed to just get through the initial discomfort to get better and more relaxed. It was a fun day and enjoyable for all.
    I decided that for this year I’m going to have as many get togethers as I can. I like the idea that someone shared in the comments of having a potluck once a week. I also like how you do things, so beautiful in your preparations, presentation, and ambiance. Which means, I like to not have to have people bring something too, as it leaves room to create the evening from start to finish. I often read your blog when I’m looking for some inspiration. I appreciate all that you share.
    Happy New Year and Happy 52 dinner parties!

  25. Huub Ricardo

    January 13, 2015

    I would love to do more dinner parties and I also have the problem that we don’t have a dining table yet with chairs and all that. It’s a long process when entering your new build from scratch home and you don’t have all the furniture. But when we do have dinner parties, I just borrow a big table and rent or borrow some wooden chairs. Oven dishes are the easiest and very quick to made. Just put everything together and in the oven it goes. Some fruits (like grapes) is also a hit. Have good time with the dinner parties and I’ll be checking in for some table setting ideas 😉

  26. Kristine/LifeBeginsWithZ

    January 13, 2015

    This looks like such a fun evening! For me, that many dinner parties would get so exhausting, as I like to curl up with Netflix all alone lol! But I love the idea of hosting a nice get together every now and again :) love the way you set each space. Can’t wait to see more.

  27. Rachel

    January 13, 2015

    What a great resolution! I am inspired to think about more formal dinner party ideas. For over 5 years my husband and I have hosted a group of friends every Thursday night for the simplest meal of Central American rice and beans. Sometimes 2 or 3 join us,, often 5 or more. Our friends provide great beer, maybe a bottle of wine, and wonderful conversation. My biggest word of advice is never turn down help with the dishes! The best conversations happen over the sink.

  28. tsewei

    January 14, 2015

    I did a version of this for 2014 – one party each month – and it was really fun! And it isn’t always dinners – sometimes we did lunches so that friends with kids can come by and hang out longer instead of rushing home for their bed time, and once we did brunch, with fancy poached eggs and waffles and all.

    Some of the parties ended up pretty big, with almost 20 people in our tiny flat. So one thing that really worked for me was a crazy detailed timetabling for every session we hosted – I’d break down tasks, like each step of the cooking, kitchen prep and even house cleanup, by the hour so I always finished in time to welcome the guests. I’m also super lucky to have friends who always volunteer their help with the dishes!

    I’m looking forward to more posts about your 52 dinner parties!

  29. Jordana @WhiteCabana

    January 14, 2015

    Wow! Love the idea and I love the before and after photos of the dining table. Signs of a good time…

  30. Kelly

    January 14, 2015

    I’ve thrown many, many big dinner parties through the years. My best advice is to keep it as simple as possible so that you will want to continue. A Big Pot of Something (that can be made ahead and kept warm in a slow cooker), a huge salad, bread and then let everyone else add to the table. It really is fun when you let others bring whatever they like. Have fun!

  31. Meg

    January 14, 2015

    Amazing! Your dining room looks like the B-O-M-B. Have a blast!

  32. 204 Park

    January 14, 2015

    Oh my gosh 52 dinner parties?!?! You go girl! I can’t wait to follow along and see all the swell ideas you put out there, you’re an inspiration! haha XO, D

  33. liz

    January 14, 2015

    I love having people over, sometimes fancy but most often simple. When I was young and broke we’d declare a theme–Chinese, Italian–and everyone brought ingredients we could throw together for some semblance of a meal. (Except for that one weird girl who always brought diet 7-up.) More recently we tend to make a main one-pot dish and people who offer to bring something bring apps or finger-food desserts. However, a wise friend taught me long ago it’s not what you put on the plates that matters–it’s who you put on the chairs.

  34. Meredith@EverydayEnthusiastic

    January 14, 2015

    Thank you so much for sharing this Jordan! I found both your article and the self-proclaimed “Meatball Maven”‘s article to be so inspiring. Why does it always have to be a show? Have to be so much work? It was revolutionary for me to hear that it doesn’t! I’ve already spoken to my husband about taking on a similar venture. Thanks!!

  35. Lynn

    January 14, 2015

    Phenomenal idea and you had me at the cake! My husband and I both love hosting but I’m much more of a control freak – and I’ve learned a lot from his more relaxed attitude. I think some combination of our two approaches can work well: go over all the details and prep as much as possible, but when the guests arrive, relax and enjoy. No matter how good the food is, it’s more about the fun and the conversation than anything else. Will be following to see how your other 51 go! Thanks for sharing this great idea.

  36. Jane

    January 14, 2015

    What a great goal! I love hosting dinner parties — we usually do one a month, varying dinner and lunch so friends with kiddos can attend, too. Meanwhile, I’ve been intrigued by this site: https://www.mealsharing.com/, through which you can either open your home to strangers or go to a stranger’s house for a meal (often cooked by a professional chef!).

  37. Chrystina

    January 14, 2015

    I love this idea. I just went back and read the article about the lady who inspired this project for you and I think it’s great that she points out that the more she did it the easier it got. Having people over doesn’t always need to be a big production, and I love the idea of keeping it simple with a staple dish. I just followed you on Instagram to keep up with how the dinner parties are going, I’m hoping to get a little inspiration to throw a few of my own. (I’m sure I will.)

  38. Amanda

    January 14, 2015

    A fun dinner party is to have a “salad bar” dinner. The host can provide all of it, or outsource (it’s kind of fun to see what different people think of for salad toppings if you assign them “crunchy” or “creamy” or “healthy.” It’s a great way to not have to really spend much time cooking, and it accommodates all sorts of food allergies. It also uses up leftovers. I did this with friends over the holidays and it was awesome: I did large bowls of greens (a few kinds–so people could mix and match, or dedicate to one kind) and then little bowls of all sorts of stuff: avocado, corn, beans, cheeses, bacon bits, crispy onions, roasted tomatoes, fancy olives, nuts, green beans, edamame, croutons, marinates artichoke hearts, etc. It also “holds” and can be prepped ahead. Everyone creates their own salad, and then there’s room for a fancy dessert. You don’t need to be a confident (or even a good) chef to pull off a fun party. Awesome goal for the year!

  39. 180360

    January 14, 2015

    Such a fantastic and ambitious idea. I’d love to do the same! I definitely feel the need to create more of a community and nothing brings people together better than food. For me, the hardest part of cooking for a large group is getting the timing right. Hopefully you will come up with the answer for that! My tips are: Make as much in advance as possible. Buy dessert, make the rest. Set the table the night before. An hour before guests arrive make sure you and your house are ready. Allow guests to help clean up.

  40. Souraya | Binti Home Blog

    January 14, 2015

    Thank you for sharing and what a beautiful idea. This makes me directly thinking about creating a monthly dishparty or dinner. Ive got many friends from different parts of my life and non of them are really friends together but I think that will make it nice as well! Love the decoration of your table! :) have a good day

  41. Alli

    January 15, 2015

    Hi Jordan- My husband and I throw dinner parties all the time, but I could’t imagine resolving to do 52 in a year. That’s ambitious! We’re probably averaging 2 a month. Anyway, I look forward to seeing how it goes for you as you seem like an already very busy lady! Here are my tips:

    1. Set the Scene: Ensure the (hopefully relaxed) vibe is felt the moment your guests walk in the door by lighting candles, having music on, dimming the lights, and setting out drinks for your guest. I bought a vintage punch bowl & cups a few years ago and now use them all the time for parties. It’s so great to have a pre-batched cocktail available not have to play Mixologist all night long.

    2. Choose Your Priorities: If you try to control every aspect of every dinner party you’ll drive yourself nuts. For me, the savory food is always my priority. I can’t allow friends to bring dishes unless I know that they can execute them to my standards (for example, I’ll have my cheese monger friend bring a cheese plate, but I would never ask my vegan mom to do that!), but I’m happy to delegate the music, dessert, or decorations to a few trusted friends. I know it sounds anal, but I know my priorities.

    3. Figure Out How to Enjoy Yourself: Guests will pick up on the attitude of the hosts, so do whatever it takes to make sure you are relaxed and social once your guests arrive. Maybe it’s ensuring that your main dish is a braise or roast, maybe it’s hiring a house cleaner to come in the AM, maybe it’s making sure you pick out your outfit the day before, or maybe it’s that you choose to just BE RELAXED, but whatever it is, make sure you’re feeling good about it when they walk in the door!

    4. Make enough ice. Make more than you ever think you’d use, just in case.

    Good luck!
    Alli

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