Are Dinner Parties a Thing of the Past?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

In a season so devoted to entertaining and indulging a little more than usual, this may seem to be an odd question. Until you stand back and ask yourself: when was the last time you hosted a traditional sit-down dinner party? Perhaps it’s been a while?

Last week, The New York Times wrote about the disappearance of the dinner party. Writer Guy Trebay explored the factors behind it, quoting famous hostesses, entrepreneurs and authors regarding their takes on the slow demise.

Louise Grunwald, one of New York’s great hostesses from back in the day is quoted as saying, “You may want the dinner party to come back, harkening back to another era. But it will never happen.” Many of the folks interviewed hinted towards the fact that they’re from a different time, a time when schedules were a little looser and people were more interested in the pomp and circumstance of the dinner party. More young couples received nice china on their wedding day, and tableware and silverware were carefully collected.

Or maybe these are simply the dinner parties that surround “social prominence, deep pockets, commodious apartments, household staffs,” as Trebay astutely points out. Surely there were folks hosting simple dinner parties that didn’t involve such a to-do (I know my parents did, without the slightest hint of china or real silver).

So then, maybe there are other issues underlying the demise of the dinner party: perhaps we no longer know how to sustain a real conversation for hours? Or maybe it’s just easier to meet friends out for dinner, requiring little to no planning and clean-up. Plus, if you go that route, your friends will never see your shabby mismatched silverware.

I finished this article feeling a bit disheartened only because we actually do host dinner parties in our home. Not as often as we’d like, but once every few months for sure. In fact, we’re having friends over tomorrow night for latkes and brisket and I’ll likely make some sort of chocolate dessert. I always keep things relatively simple so we’re not stressed about it, and think of it as an opportunity to truly catch up with friends into the evening instead of rushing out to meet at a convenient restaurant where, at best, we’ll have a few hours together. So in our circles, they’re very much still alive. Thank goodness. It’s my favorite excuse to try out a new recipe, and to push myself out of a cooking rut.

How about you? Do you host dinner parties at home or find it more hassle than it’s worth? What does a “dinner party” mean to you?

(Image: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan/Faith Durand)