How Millennials Reinvented the Dinner Party
Not your grandmother's dinner party
Millennials didn’t kill dinner parties. While a certain old-school, white-tableclothed brand of home entertaining may be a thing of the past, today’s young adults still host dinner parties — they just don’t call them that.
According to Vox’s Nisha Chittal, today’s dinner party hosts have pioneered a new era of home entertaining fit for a post-recession world. While the majority of debt-burdened millennials living in cramped apartments have neither the space nor the disposable income to throw lavish, candlelit dinner parties complete with individual china table settings and cloth napkins, young people still gather together to enjoy meals with friends.
“I think the millennial dinner party now equates to casual but well thought out: good group of like-minded friends; easy-going cooking; BYO approach; on-point music on the record player in the background,” Alisha Miranda, a 33-year-old in Philadelphia, told Vox. “Most importantly, it’s about low-key chill vibes.”
While the elaborate dinner parties our mothers and grandmothers hosted in suburban dining rooms largely developed as a display of wealth and social status, today’s laid-back millennial get-togethers reflect different priorities. Chittal cites a 2012 study that found millennials hold friendship as the one of the most important signifiers of success in life, coming in second only to health. The revised approach to home entertaining popular among younger generations today seems to have evolved largely in response to those shifting priorities.
“My friends and I don’t really have the time — in planning or in hosting — to make our gatherings more formal. And honestly, it just doesn’t sound as fun,” Nikki Rappaport, a 32-year-old in DC, told Vox. Rappaport calls such formalities “a hassle,” adding that the point of having friends over is “to have some quality time together, make some good food, try new things like a new cocktail or recipe, create a fun night together, and not be so stressful.”
In many ways, this understanding of what Chittal calls “the new dinner party mindset” reflects a direct subversion of the status-focused philosophy underlying fancy dinner parties of yore.
“It doesn’t have to be a thing that causes you anxiety or stress,” Alison Roman, author of Dining In, told Vox. “It should be a thing that promotes wellbeing, and love and joy, and a state of relaxation.”
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