Whether you’re not comfortable leaving your home, have long distance friends that you don’t see often or simply want to try something new, virtual dinner parties are a fun way of getting together while staying apart. These days, the technology you need to host a virtual dinner party fits in a single hand. With your smartphone you can virtually connect with your friends and family from anywhere (with a reasonably strong internet connection that is) and almost feel like you’re hanging out in the same room. If you’ve been wanting to plan a virtual get-together, host a dinner party to see how much fun you can have without even leaving your house.
Though you won’t have to step outside to see your dinner party guests, you should still dress up and decorate a little. The more extravagant your outfit and dinner table decor, the more fun this virtual party will be. So put on your fanciest dress, make up your hair and set the table with pretty silverware, a lavish flower centerpiece that fits the party theme and some candles for the right mood. If you’re in need of some inspiration, look no further. We list a variety of creative virtual dinner party ideas that your friends will be happy to attend from the comfort of their own homes.
How To Host A Virtual Dinner Party
When hosting a virtual dinner party, there are a few things to consider in addition to your theme and set-up. Follow these steps for a perfectly prepared and foolproof evening!
Step 1: Even though no one has to physically leave their house for the party, your guests will still need at least a week’s notice so they can clear their calendar and buy all the ingredients for the meal you will be cooking together. Make sure to give your friends or family a heads up so they can plan and get excited about the night.
Step 2: When scheduling your dinner party, ask if your friends or family have a preferred video chatting app or platform that they would like to use because they are familiar with it. Try to find a common ground here and go for the easiest and most affordable option to accommodate all of your guests.
Step 3: Once you’ve settled on a platform you can send out an official invitation via email that people can add to their calendars. If you need a code to join the party for the video conferencing platform, attach it to this evite. Also make sure to send your guests a dress code, decoration tips and ideas, recipes and, if you want to go all out, a grocery shopping list. If all your guests are of age, you can also include a few cocktail, beer or wine suggestions that go well with the dish you’ll be cooking.
Step 4: When everything is scheduled and your guests know what to expect, you can make sure that you’re prepared to host this virtual dinner party! Lead by example, get dressed up, decorate your dinner table with flowers and candles, prep your dish, check your internet connection and have a charger ready! The last thing you want is for your dinner party to take a sudden end because your laptop or smartphone runs out of juice.
Now that you know the steps to hosting your own virtual party, it’s time to figure out what type of dinner party you want to throw.
Virtual Cooking Class
You and your friends love to cook and try out new recipes? Why don’t you plan a virtual cooking class together! Maybe you have a friend who’s a brilliant chef and will volunteer to share a delicious recipe with your group in real time. If you’re all on the same culinary level, ask the friends you want to cook with for recipes they’ve always wanted to try but never dared to and decide on one you all would like.
You can either all cook the same recipe or find different versions of the same dish and try out which one works the best. While you’re busy in your own kitchen, discuss cooking techniques, your favorite meals, your biggest kitchen fails and the best cooking shows via video chat with your friends. You’re likely going to learn new tricks from your party guests and stories about them that you wouldn’t have heard if it weren’t for this virtual setting.
Whether you are serving the dinner for yourself or maybe your partner, family or roommates, make sure to put just as much effort into serving the food as you put in preparing it. Set the table with your finest dishes and silverware, lay out your best napkins, put fresh flowers in a pretty vase.. It may seem a bit odd if you’re doing this just for yourself but remember — so are your friends! Simply because you’re not in the same room doesn’t mean you’re not together and there’s nothing wrong with pampering yourself!
When your dinner is ready and served, take a picture of your pretty table setting and the delicious meal you cooked. You can all post them on your social media and have a little contest who gets the most likes for their set up or create a collage that you print out as a keepsake of this special virtual dinner party.
If you need some inspiration for interesting new recipes with great cooking tips, check out these websites:
Healthy Dinner Ideas: EatingWell
International Cuisine: Food Network
Soul Food: Taste of Home
Vegan Dinner Ideas: COOKIE + kate
Gourmet Dishes: Allrecipes
Delicious Soups: bon appétit
Amazing salads: Good Housekeeping
Dinner for Two: Delish
Virtual Wine Tasting
You don’t have to be a master cook to host a fabulous virtual dinner party. If you and your friends are used to going out instead of staying in, host a virtual wine tasting! Instead of cooking an elaborate dinner, you can focus on drinking delicious wines and making a few cheese boards, fancy hors d’oeuvres or sushi rolls that everyone can pull off without putting themselves in danger. Decorate your dining room with a charming tablecloth, and add a few edible flowers to your charcuterie board for a stunning effect.
For recreational sommeliers, curate a list of exquisite wines before the party that guests can choose from. Everyone can buy the wines that intrigue them most and try to create a few simple appetizers and delicious desserts that pair with their wines. You can get super sophisticated with this and discuss all the fruity, nutty and floral notes of the wines that you are tasting or simply enjoy a few really good glasses of vino.
The best part about a virtual wine tasting party? Since you won’t need a designated driver, everyone can participate. So raise your glasses and enjoy the delicious wine!
Virtual Family Dinner
Living far away from family or not being able to visit them for other reasons can be challenging and weigh on your mental health. If you’re especially close to your relatives but don’t know when you can physically get together the next time, don’t wait. Just plan a virtual family dinner together to make you feel closer again! You can brainstorm a few of your family’s favorite dishes like your grandma’s potato salad, your dad’s pork roast or a recipe that is linked to a precious childhood memory.
Put together a schedule to make sure everyone’s dinner is ready at the same time and no one’s food turns cold while waiting for the rest of the party. If you have some not so tech savvy family members joining the dinner party, maybe do a trial run and explain to them how this “virtual thing” works.
When dinner is served, try to place the smartphone or laptop so that everyone is in the frame and can see the screen. If you have a tradition of saying grace before your meal you can start by choosing someone to say a few words. For families that struggle to come up with things to talk about during dinner, you can think about a theme ahead of time and write down a few topics to discuss. This can be anything from your favorite family memories, to the best movie you’ve recently seen or a book you finished and can’t stop thinking about. This conversation setting is especially fun when you have smaller children joining the party as you can go in rounds and everyone gets their turn sharing a story. Who knows, maybe your virtual family dinner party is such a success that you make this a monthly or bi-weekly thing!
Virtual Game and Dinner Night
There are many ways in which you can pull off a virtual game and dinner night. Regardless of the game you choose for your party, you should plan a meal that can be prepared before the games begin and doesn’t require anyone to get up while playing. Casseroles like this yummy Mac and Jeezy are not difficult to prep and can be eaten right after they come out of the oven. If you want to add an extra element of competition to your game and dinner night, ask everyone to send pictures of their meals and vote who came up with the best dish. The winner can pick the game or start the first round!
There are plenty of games available online that you can play by sharing your screen while video chatting but if you prefer playing games the old school way, you can still do this virtually. Here are some classic games that you can easily play with your friends or family while video chatting:
Yahtzee: As long as all parties have five dice and a cup at hand, you can play this game with your friends. If you don’t have a Yahtzee game at home, just print a score sheet or write down your own. One round usually takes about thirty minutes for two to four players so this can be a great starter game while your dinner is finishing in the oven.
Charades or Pictionary: Since you need nothing but paper and pens for this game it’s easy to play with your friends via video chat. You can come up with a bunch of ideas to draw or play out before the game starts and write all of them down in a shared online document. During the game, players can randomly choose from these suggestions or come up with their own. You can also use a word generator online for inspiration.
Cards Against Humanity: If all your friends have this game at home, are notoriously awkward and enjoy dark humor, this is a great choice for a virtual game and dinner night! Since there are 550 to 600 cards in this game (depending on the version you own), it is unlikely that you and your friends will play the same cards in one round. Maybe you even own expansion packs that could add more fun to your game night! Since you’re probably hosting a virtual game and dinner night for adults when this is the game of your choice, share your favorite cocktail recipe with your friends so you can all enjoy the same drink while you play.
Poker: This game doesn’t always have to be about the money. You can still play a few fun rounds of poker with your friends virtually! For a game of Texas Holdem, every player can start with five chips that are their “lives.” Every time they lose a round, they have to give up one of the chips. The player with the most chips remaining wins.
If you have regular game nights with your friends or family, try to figure out how to play your favorite games from the comfort of your own homes. Maybe doing a virtual game and dinner night will introduce you to games you never considered before and become a fun new tradition.
Virtual Mystery Party
When you are craving a more elaborate game and dinner night you can host a virtual murder mystery party for your friends! There are plenty of virtual game sets that you can acquire online and play with your party. You can either participate in the game or focus on being the host who guides the other players through the mystery (in most games the host can still guess alongside the other players who the murderer was).
Most murder mystery parties are played in several rounds which is a perfect opportunity to serve a three or even four course meal. Since you won’t actually be serving your guests dinner because they’ll be staying at home, send your friends their character descriptions and a menu for the night with the official invitation. Ask everyone to prepare the dishes before the party starts and dress up as their character. The more dedicated guests approach this kind of party, the more fun it will be for everyone involved. Don’t hold back on creating a fun backdrop, drawing a crazy mustache on your face or pretending your stuffed toy is a precious pet. Whatever makes sense with your character, embrace it and find ways to show your new personality!
On the night of the party, you can have a few appetizers while explaining the rules to the other players and have everyone read through their first round of clues. Make sure to send the clues to every player individually via email or an app of your choice so everyone only gets the clues for their own character. For the three course meal you can start with a quick but fancy salad, continue with baked garlic parmesan chicken served with a side of potatoes and beans before you end the dinner with a rich chocolate tart. This menu works out great because the dessert can be prepared the previous day and the chicken will bake in the oven while you’re playing the first round of the game. Whatever menu you put together, make sure to account for the length of the rounds and breaks in between the game so your guests have enough time to continue cooking their meals.
If you’re on a budget, you can always download a free murder mystery party game and serve a simpler dinner like pasta for the main course and ice cream for dessert.
Virtual Dinner Movie Night
Watching movies on your own is just not the same as when you’re snuggling up with your partner on the couch or have a bunch of friends over for snacks and an exciting blockbuster. Sure, there is no one to ask silly questions that no one can answer yet when you’re all by yourself but who are you going to share your thoughts and opinions with when the credits are rolling?
If you can’t be physically close to the people you’d most like to watch movies and eat dinner with, you can still pull off a virtual dinner movie night. You can make this a really cheesy movie night by having everyone order their favorite pizza! Have some dessert ready for when the movie is over that you can eat while discussing your favorite scenes with your friends.
Use an app like Netflix Party to watch a movie together while physically apart. With this app you can sync what you are watching with your friends so you’re seeing the same scenes at the same time (nothing ruins a movie like someone reacting to a scene prematurely). You can also use the chatroom to exchange your thoughts during the movie if you can’t wait until the end. If you also want to see your friends faces, you can video chat on a second device where you keep the sound muted so it doesn’t distract anyone.
Even if you’re in different time zones you can still plan a virtual dinner with your long distance friends and family! Food brings us all closer together so just enjoy your delicious dinner and amazing virtual company while your friends enjoy a breakfast or lunch. Next time you get together, you can switch things around or maybe just have dinner for breakfast!
To show your virtual dinner party guests how thankful you are that they took time out of their night to eat with you, send them a bouquet of flowers and tag them in your social media post. This can be a collage of all of your yummy meals, a screenshot of the guests toasting or a selfie while you’re dealing with the aftermath in the kitchen when the party’s over. Share your gratitude, inspire others to host their own virtual parties so they too can enjoy the company of their friends regardless of logistic difficulties — it’s the 21st century after all and connecting with people has never been easier.