Whatever happened to dinner parties? Does anyone do them anymore?

As time moves on many things in our lives change. Some for the good and others for the bad. But

As time moves on many things in our lives change. Some for the good and others for the bad. But there is one thing that has changed and we can’t help but wonder – why? Do you remember the day you were ready to use your fondue set for the first time?

The table was set using the good silverware, the menu was planned with entré, mains and fondue and the food was an added bonus to the night – not the main focus. The main focus was each other ­– sharing each other’s company and having conversations with friends.

Hannie Rayson described this change in her biography, Hello Beautiful, by saying, “People are suffering from performance anxiety at the prospect of entertaining their friends at home; the modern ‘fetishisation’ of food has contributed to less conviviality rather than more. If only we were content to throw a few chops on the barbie and serve them up with a green salad, we’d see more of each other.”

And if you think about it, this is very true. People get so caught up in the “image” of entertaining that they let it get too big to handle – and too expensive! When it was once acceptable to serve spaghetti bolognaise as a main or have a delicious, steaming warm crockpot meal, now things must be crusted in something and served with jus, using the most obscure meat cuts and awkward vegetables for people to consider it a good meal! The price of these foods only adds up to be quite expensive when you’re cooking for large numbers and so, it becomes incredibly difficult to entertain on a regular basis.

It wasn’t uncommon to have a dinner party almost every second week back in the day, and our social calendars were filled with them.

But there’s another thing that has contributed to the demise of the dinner party – the way we interact with others. The art of true, meaningful conversation is slowly being lost and people more often than not would rather talk about themselves than engage in discussion with others. Perhaps part of this comes down to the changing modes of communication. Social media is very self-centric. We choose to only see what we want to see and we choose what to say to who and if we’re not interested in someone else’s achievement, story or moment, we simply ignore it! The conversation of a dinner party was so great because everyone shared their own stories and their own ideas in between listening to everyone else’s. Happy debate was also important and generally only made the night funnier or more interesting. So if we don’t like to converse and don’t like to hear what other people have to say, then what’s the point at all?

If it’s too expensive and if we don’t enjoy it like we once did we have to ask ourselves, why would anyone want to have them? So based on that theory is the demise of the dinner party, in fact, our very own fault?

The thing is that if we can move past the self-centred communication and bring back traditional, engaging discussion with friends, then it comes down to money. And that is a problem we can definitely solve! There’s no need to go fancy. Make a large one-pot stew and serve with rice. Have a themed night and ask everyone to bring a dish! It takes the workload off you and every gets to enjoy something they like. Actually, our lovely book club coordinator, Karen, reminded me that in the dinner parties of yesterday, everyone would bring something and the homeowner would provide just that – a home!

So why not bring the traditional dinner party back? Tell us today, do you remember the days of the dinner party? Do you still go to them? Do you still host them? How have they changed over the years? Let’s get nostalgic today!

  1. Back in the day,we had dinner parties all the time and dressed for the occasion.The conversation and company were the focus.I cannot remember the food much,except the first time I did the prawn cocktail thing,and I’d bought special cocktail glasses which held the shaved ice underneath! However as the years went by,it seemed to get very competitive and some people started getting caterers to do theirs! So that’s when I opted out! We still all gather at each other’s houses now,very casual,but still good company,and good conversation and still a lot of fun.

    • We were given those prawn cocktail glasses as a wedding present, and had lunch with the couple who gave them to us the other day. Glasses long gone.

    • Lovely,Vivienne. My glasses should be long gone but our visitors had a laugh when they found them at the top of the cupboard in the flat,and suggested we have a flashback night and pull out the old fondue set as well!

  2. Cheese fondue! Ugh. They were so rich!! Lol. But dinner parties were nice. These days I wouldn’t know where to start!!

    • never did cheese fondues..used to have oil in the fondue pot and fillet steak cubed and allotted to each guest to cook ..heaps of different sauces for dipping as well as different salads and heaps of bread. never had any complaints.. =D..

  3. It was so lovely going to someone else’s place for dinner, it would get a bit stressful at my place when we held it but I loved it

    • Yes I remember my first ever one where I got into the wine while cooking and ended up having dessert then main then entree. 🙂

    • Stressed is right! My husband banned them because of all the stress it caused before! I can laugh now xx

  4. No so much me, Mum was the dinner party Queen, everyone dressed up, cook books studied, beautiful foods cooked, I loved them and remember helping Mum prepare them. Also they went to annual dinner dances, such beautiful gowns.

  5. The sentiment of being together with family and friends remains but the style is less formal and less pressure on the hosts!

  6. Still have dinner parties these days but now mainly our kids and grandkids and in laws!! 4 kids grew up, married so then there were 8 and then they gave us 10 grandkids!

  7. I remember getting dressed up to go with make up and hairdo. You never went empty handed. Wine for him, bouquet for her.
    Although nobody in our group had much money as we were newlyweds, the table was always set as best as we could and the food beautifully prepared and presented.
    We were punctual. 7 for 7.30.
    We had manners.
    We had the most wonderful conversations.
    We reciprocated.
    We left at a decent time.
    We did not get pie-faced.
    We welcomed, and wanted our friends in our homes and enjoyed going to theirs.
    It sounds to some very structured and boring, but on the contrary.
    There was no public drunkenness, no coward punches, no getting drunk before you go and strong social ties were made. Some of these very early friendship are still continuing.
    I suppose because we were so young(most were married at 18), we were playing at grown ups, but that is how social and community lessons are learned.
    Good times!

  8. i used to then, i realized that i was having people over, over and over again but there was rarely an invite to their homes. when i stopped having bbqs and dinners our social life stopped as well. i love entertaining but i don’t like being used.

  9. I used to love dinner parties at home and at other people’s places. The variety of menus was fascinating and the exchange of recipes afterwards was great too. I knew one lady who kept a card file of dinner parties she held at her home all dated with a complete menu, list of guests, and what she wore that night!

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