New rules, I count 'em: Your guide to throwing a digital dinner party

Dinner for one? It doesn’t have to be.
New rules, I count 'em: Your guide to throwing a digital dinner party

The table is set, the lighting is right and the pot is on the hob. Now you just need to log on... Michelle McGlynn has the lowdown on the new way to dine – virtually.

Dinner for one? It doesn’t have to be.

It’s been a few weeks now since the term ‘social distancing’ became part of our regular vocabulary.

We have learned a lot about what it means. We know it’s vital in the fight against Covid-19.

We know that it’s a simple thing we can do that can have a huge impact in reducing the spread of the virus.

We know that it can be difficult at times. We know it can feel quite lonely.

But we also know that ‘social distance’ really means physical distance.

We are social and creative people and so over the past while people have been coming up with all sorts of fun ways to keep in touch with family, friends, and neighbours.

Virtual dinners parties is one idea that has really taken off with everyone putting their own little spin on it.

Whether it’s for a birthday, Easter Sunday, a weekly tradition that you don’t want to lose or just because, a virtual dinner party is a wonderful way to connect and break the monotony of these long days.

Weekend food columnist Michelle Darmody has enjoyed several lately and has found it a great way to feel more connected to loved ones.

“It makes a massive difference to be able to see people when you’re talking to them,” Michelle says.

It feels like you’re in the same room with them. You feel less lonely.

Whether you go all out or keep it simple, it is one way to bring some fun into your life and give you something to look forward to at a time when you truly need it.

Not sure where to start with your soirée? We’ve put together some tips and suggestions to help you on your way.

The tech

There are so many apps to choose from – Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, Zoom, Houseparty etc.

So be sure that everyone has agreed on an app ahead of time.

It is also worth giving it a trial run so you know how it all works and to make sure it’s compatible with your device.

The choice largely comes down to your personal preference. Zoom is popular but keep in mind that the free version only allows group calls up to 40 minutes – but you can make as many calls as you like.

Houseparty offers the fun addition of being able to play games and quizzes within the app.

The guest list

This part is key. You want to have a group but too many people and things can get a bit chaotic.

“I find four to five people works the best,” says Michelle.

With lots of people, it’s difficult to keep the conversation flowing as people will end up talking over each other or staying quiet so as not to interrupt someone else.

Michelle points out that the more people on the screen, the smaller the pictures become which can take away from the connection you feel with your guests.

The attire

Many of us have been enjoying being able to stay in our pjs long after we’ve gotten out of bed or lounging in tracksuits, hoodies and other lovely comfortable clothes but it can get old very quickly.

A dinner party can be a great excuse to get a little dressed up.

It may seem silly but having a reason to put effort into your outfit or your hair can give your mood a boost.

You can go all out formal, make it a costume party or just give it a fun theme like ugly jumpers or Coachella.

The menu

There are several options when it comes to the actual food and it’s worth deciding a few days in advance.

Some people have been making cooking part of the whole experience. You can have everyone cook the same meal at the same time.

It can be one of the most enjoyable parts as you can share cooking tips and laugh over any – hopefully minor – cooking disasters.

You can have all of the guests included in the menu planning by having each person choose a course.

If the sun is shining and you have a garden, why not take the party outside and make it a BBQ?

If you and your guests aren’t exactly talented in the kitchen, you can always order your food and help to support a local business.

Many restaurants and takeaways are still operating and have introduced contactless delivery or collection options.

The drinks

A signature drink is always fun. Invent one yourself or put your own twist on a classic. Michelle and her friends pre-arranged their cocktail and had them ready to go as soon as the party started.

Don’t forget the best part – seeing who can come up with the punniest name for your drink.

The entertainment

The night doesn’t have to stop once dessert is over. After all, this restaurant has no closing time.

Keep the fun going with some games. You may not be able to play Twister but there are plenty of games that you can play while in separate places.

You can play charades, create your own quiz or join in one of the many online ‘pub quizzes’ that are running now.

At one of Michelle’s parties, they played Trivial Pursuit.

If you don’t like games, why not head on to the club. Before the party, get everyone to create a playlist on Spotify. One person can play it or you can all press play at the same time.

Turn your sitting room into your own dancefloor and enjoy a bop and some laughs with your friends.

Tips

  • A few little tips to help things go smoothly.
  • Try to keep background noise to a minimum, turn off TVs and radios.
  • Be patient. There are bound to be some teething problems and tech issues, especially the first time but don’t let it spoil the mood.
  • Remember that you don’t haveto sit too close to the screen because that means you’re also very closeto the microphone. You don’t wantto be bellowing at your guests and much, much more importantly,no one needs to hear you chewing your food.
  • It’s very important to check in with each other during this extremely difficult time so do make sure that people feel free and comfortable to share if they are struggling.
  • Similarly, it is important to give ourselves a break from the overwhelming and distressing situation we find ourselves in. So, try not to have the conversation revolve entirely around the negative.
  • Keep things light when you can. We all deserve a bit of escapism and an evening off can do wonders for your mental health.
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