Even as physical restrictions begin to ease up, the safety and convenience of virtual dinner parties have made it a favored option for many. In fact, since 2020, the number of Americans who say they’ve attended a virtual gathering has jumped to 32%. Aside from the more large-scale reunions, weddings, and birthdays, one of the most enjoyable activities that have transitioned online is the dinner party. Providing the best of both worlds, virtual dinner parties let you stay in the comfort of your own home while still allowing you to bond with your nearest and dearest over delicious food.
But in a time when not everyone may be the most tech-savvy or excited to hang out online, here are some tips to ensure your party stays engaging:
Your Guide to Hosting a Virtual Dinner Party
CHOOSE A USER-FRIENDLY PLATFORM
One of the biggest hurdles for virtual dinner parties is the technology’s learning curve. While your Gen-Z nieces and nephews may think it’s a breeze, your elderly aunt and uncles may think otherwise. Thus, choose a platform that has an easy installation and user interface.
Plus, since not everyone actually uses video calls a lot, look for free platforms like Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts. A great option is Zoom since it’s easy to download, can accommodate up to 100 people on video, and can support up to 40 minutes of calls. If you’d want a longer call, you need a paid account, though this is pretty easy to come by given the proliferation of software users. If need be, send out simple step-by-step instructions so your guests have a guide.
SET A THEME FOR YOUR DINNER
Themes set the mood and get your guests in a festive mindset. It’s also a great way to create a sense of immersion that makes it easier to plan your dinner party early. For decorations, try to be mindful that not everyone has the same time or resources as you do. So opt for themes that most already have decors for, like Halloween or Valentine’s.
For your themed menu, try to choose cuisines that won’t require hard-to-find ingredients or obscure tools, like stir-fry and stew. Instead, choose a menu that can be cooked with everyday kitchen essentials like a rice cooker or an oven roaster. In particular, an Aroma rice cooker is versatile enough to cook several different meals at once through various settings. For example, they’re able to sauté food then automatically switch to simmer when broth or water is added. This makes it easier for you and your guests to prepare restaurant-quality and authentic meals without the added stress (and time).
PREPARE EASY-TO-COOK MEALS
Piggybacking off of the last tip, choose meals that aren’t expensive. While a themed menu you’ve chosen may be delicious and relatively easy to prepare—it may be too pricey. Thus, it’s better to choose dishes that are time-, skill-, and budget-friendly.
Conversely, you can create a menu with alternatives instead. This means offering about two options for every course. For example, for your main course, guests can choose between making homemade ravioli or oven-baked fish. Both dishes are tasty, but the level of investment between them is vastly different. To go the extra mile, you can even share grocery shopping tips like the ones we’ve outlined here on Eleanor’s Dish to make prep easier for everyone. By doing so, no guests will feel left out or pressured to keep up.
PLAN FUN ACTIVITIES
Sure, dinner may be the main event but that doesn’t mean you can’t make time for games. Since it can be trickier to keep people engaged remotely, virtual activities can keep them invested and interacting with each other. If you’ve got any newcomers attending, this is also a great way to break the ice. Some of the best Zoom games that you can play are a scavenger hunt, charades, or a classic quiz. Each of these games can be personalized or tweaked to align with your theme.
To illustrate, if you’re having a movie-themed dinner party, you could play a round of charades wherein guests have to act out famous films. Including activities in your party is also a fantastic way to kill time (if the cooking portion is part of your party) or to let guests breathe (if you’re having multiple courses) between dishes.
Virtual dinner parties may not be totally the same as physical ones, but they offer their own advantages. With a few clever tricks, your next virtual dinner party will offer all the same merits as a physical one and then some!