How Dinner Parties Are Changing Post-Covid

Don't call it a comeback — but folks are coming back to the dinner table. Not just their own dinner tables, either; the dinner tables of friends, families, and neighbors are suddenly being surrounded as quarantine restrictions lift.

A 2020 Bloomberg article criticized folks in their twenties and thirties for spreading the Coronavirus by partying during lockdown, even going as far as calling COVID-19 "increasingly a disease of the young, with the message to stay home for the sake of older loved ones wearing off as the pandemic wears on." Now, as we collectively step into the post-pandemic world, it looks like younger generations are leading the party trend again, but this time in a totally different direction.

Where their home cook predecessors might have consulted celebrity chef icons like Martha Stewart or Ina Garten for tips, says Eater, today's dinner party hosts are taking cues from TikTok influencers like Mya Gelber. Gelber rose to TikTok fame for a video of one of her "monthly dinner parties" depicting handwritten menus, glowing taper candles, a spread of home-cooked food, and a kitschy gingham tablecloth strewn with fresh eucalyptus leaves. Break out the wine – today's party animals are staying home and having a fine time doing it.

People are ready to celebrate just because

In a May press release, meat purveyor ButcherBox published the results of a survey that found U.S. home cooks are more ready than ever to throw a good old fashioned dinner party. 25% more Americans reported being eager to host parties in their own homes now versus pre-pandemic, and 50% of respondents said they want to host at least once a week.

Lately, there doesn't even need to be a special occasion to get together. Today's party guests say "just because we can" is reason enough for celebration. According to the press release, 46% of responders are excited to entertain guests at home, and 44% of those don't care about milestones or holidays: they just want to host dinner parties.

Even iconic rock n' roll publication Rolling Stone says if you happen to be "as collectively sick of Zoom happy hours and attempting dates through the tiny screen of your smartphone as the rest of us," it's time to host a dinner party, perhaps with a charcuterie board, a bucket of chilled wine, cloth napkins, and a floral arrangement or two. In a May 2021 article, professional event planner Michelle Rago predicted that post-pandemic dinner party hosts would be "pulling out all the stops" at their celebrations, per Real Simple, and, judging from the volume of artsy table settings on TikTok and recent studies, it looks like her prediction was right on.

Coming together AND staying home

A 2021 Wall Street Journal article by Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newman (co-authors of the 2017 book, "Brunch is Hell: How to Save the World By Throwing a Dinner Party"), outlines tips for getting rusty host-charisma back in the game. Although the book walks readers through every step of the contemporary dinner party "from guest list to subpoena," the authors' recent article (aptly titled "The Return to Dinner Parties: A Sensible, Low-Stress Guide") simply tells hosts how to get started with throwing their post-pandemic bash: set the table (which forces guests to talk to each other), invite no more than 12 guests total, and put your phones away.

Mike Salguero, ButcherBox CEO and founder, explains the reason for the shift. "While the pandemic left Americans stuck in their home, many have spent the last year honing their cooking skills or redecorating and now they want to showcase their newfound skills or improvements by hosting more dinner parties in a post-pandemic world," Salguero says, via the press release. "When we look at this study... the desire to dine at home or at the home of a friend or family is significantly higher than it was before the pandemic." It's time to enjoy being together, physically instead of virtually.