How to host a large dinner party in a small space

March 18 2015 | Guest post by Miss Moneypenny

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Last November I threw a potluck Friendsgiving, in lieu of Thanksgiving. I'm a grad student, friends with grad students, in a college town, and because so many of us can't make it home for the holiday, it's important to recognize and develop our own tribe. To recognize and develop our own rituals.

friendsgiving in a small spaceWhat made it a little tricky (and very nerve-wracking up until) is that I share a one-bedroom apartment with a platonic friend where I live in the living room. It generally works out really well — nothing a little creativity or communication can't get around. I also do pole dancing, so I have a pole that is pressure-mounted to a support beam in the ceiling. In the end, though, there's really not a lot of space. I was worried that we wouldn't fit, or that we wouldn't be comfortable, or that the pole would get in the way, etc.

Because of space constraints, I had everybody sit on the floor. I threw down blankets and borrowed coffee tables from friends, essentially turning it into an indoor picnic. I moved the pole to the middle of the room and hung Christmas lights from it. This made the space more intimate, and drew the energy down closer to the floor, which I think was really helpful.

And I also asked friends to pitch in. This is where the Quality of Tribe counts for a lot, and it really made the Friendsgiving feel like a family. We needed forks and knives and plates and the aforementioned coffee tables. Everybody was more than happy to help.

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Also when it came time for the party itself, nobody cared that we were drinking boxed wine from mismatched coffee mugs, or that none of the blankets or tablecloths matched, or anything. You just have to trust your tribe. (Also, we hit all of the dietary constraints: gluten-free, vegan, Crohns, you name it.)

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One of my favorite things about the evening, though, was that at the end, in order for everybody to be in a relaxed posture, we had to touch each other some how. At most dinner parties, there's often calculated non-contact, or very limited contact. But the space made us have to throw legs over each other, or lean on shoulders, and so on. In a culture that doesn't use nonsexual touch nearly enough, it was very nourishing for many of the people there.

  1. Sounds like a wonderful gathering, and it looks like it was really cozy. I'd love to attend a Friendsgiving with that kind of set up!

  2. I love the idea of sitting on the floor! It's practical and it creates a feeling of informality and intimacy. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  3. I think people are to nervous about getting up close and personal with each other, like the post said, non-sexual touch. I know there are people with sensory issues or similar things that might make it hard but for the majority it is just an ingrained culture thing. My partner and I have evening gatherings in our little town house probably once a month. We have one little coffee table and last time we had 7 people squashed around it on the lounge, or on cushions next to each other playing cards. We rub, shoulders, pass food and drinks around and have to literally hold your cards to your chest so nobody else can see them. If we are not around the coffee table then we are crowded in our kitchen sitting around or on our kitchen benches laughing and listening to music. It's funny as we bring new people in you see them holding themselves apart but before long they are squashed into the room squeezing between each other to reach the fridge etc. In fact, amongst our group of friends we all tend to stay together around one table or bench even when there is heaps of space to spread out!

    It's not the space that makes the gathering it's the people!

    • I appreciate the mention of sensory issues. I developed a bit of a sensory issue in my late teens. My high school friends would all lounge around in the hallway at times, heads on legs, legs on abdomens, just a pile of body parts. The thought of that now makes me very anxious. I wonder if it is just a "thing" that came up or if it has to do with the time a college friend's weird roommate put his head in my lap like it was no biggie. I sat there frozen for what felt like ages. I try to laugh it off now, but it really bothers me sometimes. I'm now in my late 20s and can only hug/be hugged without revulsion if I am significantly drunk.

      I do plan on having a number of get-togethers over the spring and summer, so maybe I can start to feel more comfortable about physical proximity without discomfort. My house is small, but not one-bedroom-apartment small. I can always escape to the deck if I need to. We shall see.

  4. I love the idea of sitting on the floor at coffee tables to eat at a dinner party! I'm not sure that I could handle that many people in a small space, but you made it work. It looks like everyone had a great time!

  5. With a little creativity, it’s possible to host a great dinner party in a smaller space. By moving furniture and putting some thought into where people will sit, it won’t even feel cramped! The secret is making sure the host or hostess has easy access to the kitchen.

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