While COVID-19 has meant we have had to deal with many restrictions, there has been a major growth in one thing… The dinner party.

In the past few months, I have been to more dinner parties than the amount of times Cher has done a farewell tour.

The problem is, there have only been a handful where I haven’t wanted to bang my head against the coffee table and knock myself out to be excused from the torture that is a terrible dinner party.

From irritating guests to being made to sit around the TV and watch a continuous stream of YouTube videos, a bad dinner party can leave you longing for the days Stage Four lockdown.

Perhaps we’ve just forgotten what it takes to host a good dinner party?

Let’s take it back to the beginning.

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 18th Century philosopher, Immanuel Kant, had some interesting thoughts and rules about the dinner party to make sure it’s a hit and not unbearable like a racist uncle at Christmas.

The guests

Kant says that there should be no less than the muses (three) and no more than the virtues (nine), which fits perfectly for COVID-19 safe guidelines. Any more and it would be a house party and more loaded than a bottom after Mardi Gras.

When choosing your guests, understand their temperaments and make sure they would mix well with the other guests you’ve invited.

Kant talks about the four temperaments: the sanguine (well natured, optimist), the phlegmatic (wise, unemotional), the choleric (polite, hot-tempered), and the melancholic (deep thinker, critical). Some mix well and create great diversity, some don’t.

The conversation

Kant had strict rules around conversation. He says it should be in the following structure: discussion of news of the day, conversations about deeper and important subjects, ending in humor and light-heartedness.

For the deeper and important subjects, I suggest coming up with a few topics and letting guests know that is what is being discussed, and then opening up topics for guests to choose. Think about common subjects like ‘what do you value more, intelligence or common sense?’

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 Kant was a firm believer in ‘what happens at a dinner party, stays at the dinner party’. You should foster this, and create a safe space for people to talk about whatever they like without the fear of repercussions. If you disagree with what they say, you should in turn be allowed the same safety to say so. No one should take offence and there should be no conflict that lasts too long.

The activity

I know we gays like a game, but according to Kant, games are the worst form of entertainment for a dinner party as they can prevent conversation and encourage the pursuit of self-interest. However, as long as the game isn’t the main focus, I think it’s a good idea to play something that livens up the night. Try games that are quick, funny, and are inclusive like Celebrity Heads or Pictionary. Avoid games like Spin the Bottle, Twister or Truth or Dare. This is a dinner party, not a chance to hook up.

The food

It’s important to have some. At one dinner party, I arrived with a cob loaf dip trying to be a good guest, and besides some mouldy cheese, the cob was the only food all night. Everyone must’ve been wanting to bottom that night.

When there is food at a dinner party, it often just consists of the one meal – dinner. Think about stretching out the food into: nibbly foods on arrival, entrée, main, dessert. If that seems way too hard to organise, ask your guests to bring a plate.

Other tips

No phones at the dinner table. If I’m out to dinner with friends, we all place our phones in the middle of the table and the first person to touch a phone, pays for the whole bill.

But let’s be honest. As long as your guests manage to not murder each other, there’s more than just one slice of pizza per person, and you manage to have a laugh, then your dinner party will be a hit!

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