These days, a casual dinner party can mean anything from beach cookouts to semiformal dining. It’s tantalizing to think, “Hey, I’ll have some people over for a simple good time.” Just remember that, like any other get-together, a successful casual dinner party takes planning, communication and just that right touch of inspiration.
You don’t need to mail formal invitations to a casual get-together. If your friends are constantly texting each other, spread the news by cell phone. Or try a website that sends free e-mail invitations. These sites provide a great way to keep track of your guest list as your friends respond.
Pick a Theme
Pick a theme to add extra life to your party. You can plan icebreakers and activities around the theme and build a menu that matches your idea. A casual theme can be as simple as “Hey, let’s hit the beach,” or as elaborate as a home makeover session for your closest girlfriends. If you and a group of your friends went to the same school, consider a reunion theme, sharing yearbooks and laughing at photos from school days.
You can also build casual dinner parties around group activities, like cooking and preparing the meal as a group, taking a long hike or nature walk together, or holding a home movie festival, selecting DVDs based on romance, comedy, horror, sci-fi or other themes.
Prep for Fun
If you’re bringing together a group of old friends, you can probably throw everyone into a room and trust them to entertain each other. If you invite people who don’t know each other as well, you may want to provide some activities to help your guests loosen up.
Sports and outdoor games can fit the bill at cookouts and beach parties, and group participation games and puzzles can serve as icebreakers for indoor casual dining.
Consider passing out pennies of recent vintage and asking guests to share what they were doing during the year listed on the penny. Or pass out a list of descriptive words and ask people to choose which person in the room best matches the description. See Resources for more specific party games and icebreaker suggestions.