I recently spent a whole eight-hour, cross-country flight reading a book about cocktail parties.
Am I that into cocktail parties? No, but (a) the jerk in front of me had leaned his seat into my lap so I couldn’t use the computer, (b) I didn’t have any other books, and (c) I had already read the airline magazine. Twice.
However, I am pleased to report that there was much to learn. Not about cooking, as I had hoped, but about party games.
Do adults really need party games?
You’d be surprised. I have seen enough parties end or early or splinter off from lack of guest participation.
Have you ever been at that dinner where it seems like everything is going fine? Everyone arrives on time . . . courses are served promptly . . . dessert hits the table at a decent hour. Boring!
Fine is not my idea of fun.
One of my favorite things at a dinner is when the conversation is going so well that I don’t want to interrupt by dropping the next course.
Mixing is Magic
The most interesting dinner conversation happens with people who don’t know each other. Or at least, don’t know each other well.
I have seen it happen time and time again. There is enough commonality to find a topic, but the different viewpoints and experiences cause conversation threads I never would have imagined emerging from this particular group.
Unfortunately, this dynamic can be completely stymied by clique-y behaviour.
People Flock to People They Know
If you have a dinner (or cocktail party) that includes a group or three or four close friends, they will invariably talk amongst themselves.
It might take time for the group to build up enough mass; perhaps they arrived separately and talk to others at the beginning. But once some important topic of recent social events comes up, they will splinter off into their own unit.
Even worse than breaking off, they will talk about things that other guests don’t know about or don’t have any interest in. And once they start, it is nearly impossible to stop them without a definitive host/hostess deux ex machina.
You Have to Mix it Up Early
I’m sure you have heard the old hostess advice about introducing people and including an interesting fact or point they have in common, but this is a lot of effort on your part.
How many hosts have time to go around introducing each and every one of their guests individually? The sheer math is something I haven’t thought about since high school, and you would interrupt perfectly good conversations in the process.
The easiest way for guests to have something in common is to give it to them. Voila! Le party game.
The Key is Not to Be Lame
Lame games will kill a party before it even starts. This is probably why they are few and far between.
How do you find an interesting, adult party game? That phrase alone makes me think of the sort of ridiculous board games you would find in Urban Outfitters. The type of games that are more appropriate for a frat party than a civilized dinner.
Games that actually involve the food and drink being served are ideal. For a successful game involving drinks, try a game of guess the bottle. My own recent passport party invention or a good old-fashioned blind taste testing is a great way to include food.