How to Host a Virtual Dinner Party in 2021
Between social distancing, mask-wearing and limited activities, this global pandemic has all of us in a flustered frenzy. Are you wondering how Thanksgiving and family gatherings are going to go this year? You may have out-of-state friends and family who don’t feel comfortable flying. Older relatives and those with pre-existing conditions also might not be up to being in close contact.
Fortunately, the world wide web has made remote socialization much easier. It’s a newfound and unique way that many people are using to connect with friends and family while keeping everybody safely remote and healthy.
We’ve come up with some great virtual ideas for hosting that family gathering or social event. Gather all of your long-distance friends, across-the-country (or across town) relatives, remote coworkers and employees.
Bonus: You’ll only have your own dishes to clean up afterward.
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- Plan Ahead
- Pick a Virtual Platform
- Set the Mood and Theme
- Plan the Menu
- Keep Conversation Flowing
- Make It Fun
Hosting a Virtual Dinner Party in 6 Steps
1. Plan Ahead
Just like with a traditional in-person dinner party, you’ll want to pick a time that works for your guests. You can really invite as many people as you please (after all, there’s no worry about a lack of chairs in the virtual world), but keep in mind that you’ll be conversing over a platform like Skype of Zoom. If you’ve ever had a work-related Zoom conference, you know how confusing it can get when everybody is trying to talk at once.
Guests can be invited via email, text or with a virtual service like Evite. You can even create an event on Facebook. The only problem with a Facebook event is that Great Aunt Edna might not be on Facebook (and if she is, she might not know how it works), so a good old-fashioned phone call might be best.
2. Pick a Virtual Platform
On the positive side, there are a wide variety of virtual platforms to choose from. On the negative side, there are a wide variety of virtual platforms to choose from. See what we’re getting at? You’ll want to choose one that everybody uses or can agree on.
- Zoom is free as well as quick and easy to download. It allows up to 100 people on a video call. You’ll have to keep it to 40 minutes unless you want to pay for a premium account.
- Skype is free to download and can handle up to 50 people for four hours.
- FaceTime can accommodate 32 devices, but they have to be Apple products like an iPhone or iPad.
- Google Hangouts serves up to 25 people. You can share your screen with others, but just one person at a time can do so.
3. Set the Mood and Theme
Whether you’re hosting a work or social virtual dinner party, a theme is a helpful way to set the mood and get things started. It makes the menu, décor and entertainment so much easier to plan. Possibilities include an Oscars soirée, a Halloween party, a Roaring '20s event or an end-of-the-year holiday celebration for your remote coworkers.
For a Halloween theme, use lots of candlesticks (the white ones that drip red wax are always cool) and a black tablecloth. An Oscars (or glamourous movie night) theme calls for lots of gold and silver accessories and your best china. Go really decadent and do a French pastry party. Macarons, madeleines, crêpes or a tart tatin are just a few of the sweet treats you could order from a local bakery or prepare yourself.
Remember, if you don’t have, or want to use, a fancy dining room table, don’t. With a virtual dinner party, you can set up anywhere you like. Use your living room fireplace as a backdrop, or set up on your deck or front porch. You can also keep it completely simple and use a Zoom background. It’s all up to you.
4. Plan the Menu
Use your theme to help with the menu. If you’re doing Mardi Gras, roll out the jambalaya, red beans and rice, a king cake and beignets. Don’t forget the hurricanes and a Vieux Carré or Sazerac cocktail (or two or three).
Consider an online cooking class, online mixology class or virtual wine tasting for a really unique twist on the virtual dinner party. How fun does a James Bond theme with martinis (shaken, of course) or learning homemade pasta with a chef in Italy sound?
Don’t forget to take into consideration if any of your guests have dietary restrictions or are vegan/vegetarian. Below are a few recipe ideas to get you started:
- Beignets for a fabulous Mardi Gras party
- Wine and cheese tastings for a red, white and blue cheese party
- Date night at the Italian opera with other couples
- Parisian macarons to sweeten up a French-themed party
- English scones and mint-cucumber tomato sandwiches fit for a royal tea party
- World-famous Spanish tapas night (with a chef in Spain!)
- Friendsgiving for the win
- New Year’s Eve in the virtual world
- Fish tacos and mango margaritas for Cinco de Mayo or Taco Tuesday
5. Keep Conversation Flowing
If this is a group of friends in your age group, it’ll be fairly easy to come up with conversation starters. Talk about what you’ve been doing in your new-found free-time, new music you’ve discovered or a favorite binge-worthy Netflix show.
For a family get-together, keep the conversation light and upbeat with questions and anecdotes about your jobs, how everybody’s kids are doing or your latest home projects.
Coworkers who may not have seen each other in person in a while can share their latest accomplishments or setbacks. But keep it on the positive side. This is supposed to be fun, after all!
6. Make It Fun
Now it’s time to kick up the fun factor with a theme and games. Themes like the Kentucky Derby, Mexican fiestas, the Roaring '20s, fabulous '50s or totally awesome '80s are all great ideas for a virtual dinner party.
Entertainment can include drinking, card or online board games. Trivia is actually perfect for a virtual party. You can call out the questions and let your guests provide the answers (in the form of a question, if you prefer). Put a play on your theme and do trivia questions based on sports, movies, celebrities, books or historic events and celebrity scandals. Other game ideas include online Scrabble and downloading the Jackbox or Houseparty apps to play other socially-distant (but virtually fun) group games.
Some more virtual dinner party themes:
- Murder mystery
- Hawaiian luau
- Disney divas or villains
- Summer camp (s’mores, anyone?)
- Wine and cheese tastings
- Christmas in July
- British royalty
- Friends, Seinfeld, The Office or another favorite sit-com
With a little planning and a dose of imagination and creativity, your virtual dinner party will be the talk of the cyber town or remote office.
Did we miss any themes or ideas from this list? Which one are you most excited to host first?
For even more virtual dinner party inspiration, check out other experiences happening on Cozymeal. And if you're looking for more fun ideas for virtual events, check out our guides on virtual happy hour and virtual birthday party ideas!