How do you throw diverse parties where people blend like PB&J?

Guest post by Dina
the dinner table
When I was growing up, my parents used to throw the most amazing parties (and they still do). They would collect all kinds of people from various parts of their lives — coworkers from my mom’s non-profit job and my dad’s small business, friends, neighbors, aging relatives — and throw these amazing bashes where everyone had delicious food, sat around playing musical instruments around bonfires, and generally had an amazing time.

As an adult, my partner and I are having a hard time replicating that vibe with our friends and colleagues. There always seems to be someone in the corner texting their friends because they have no one to talk to. How do you bring people together in a party situation, especially when these people can be as disparate as your rocker lesbian friends, your nerdy friends from the anime club in university, and your conservative Chinese coworker?

My advice: Activities, activities, activities!

Like you mentioned, musical instruments are great for the musically inclined to bond over, and a bonfire will draw all types of people to gather together. For my Nerdy 30 birthday party, I had to pull together several different groups of friends who all seemed to have fun re-visiting their childhoods by playing with Nerf guns. Offbeat Brides have often used games to bring groups of people together.

So, Homies, what other advice do you have as far as getting all types of people to engage with each other at a party?

Comments on How do you throw diverse parties where people blend like PB&J?

  1. Step 1: Invite at least three people from each diverse group so nobody feels lost.

    Step 2: Good food. Especially try having guests contribute food since its an easy conversation starter

    Step 3: Liquor as a social lubricant

    Step 4: Never let the music get silent.

    Step 5: Games. Lawn games such as bocci ball, croquet, cornhole, or stick cup if you are outdoors, easy but interesting board games if you are indoors. I recommend Guillotine or Quirkle.

    We particularly like to play a game where each person has a stack of small pieces of paper. First you write an answer to a category such as “most embarrassing moment” or “what I wanted to be when I grew up”. Everyone passes the stacks and draws what the previous person wrote. Everyone passes the stacks and writes what the previous person drew. Repeat until the stacks make it back to their owners. Share the progressions and laugh.

    Step 6: Turn music up and lights down low as people get drunker and louder (optional)

    Step 7: Repeat party a few times until these people know each other quite well.

    • Guillotine is so much fun! My husband and myself just picked it up, had a blast playing it with his parents, and then had to play it again when we got home! Fast, and quick to learn!

    • Liquor as a social lubricant is kind of dicey with my friends, since I have some friends who drink and others who are teetotallers (for various reasons).

      I think inviting at least three people from each group is a great idea!

      • Yes, definitely the suggestion for liquor has to be carefully considered! For my group of friends, having a specialty non-alcoholic mocktail keeps the non-drinkers happy and they don’t mind if others drink. But this could be a very different situation in other social circles.

  2. A variety of activities is key! But also, pay close attention to how the seating is arranged. Be careful not to leave a loan chair in the corner… having seating that facilitates interaction will help people who may not know each other have an excuse to introduce themselves.

    Also, I like to make sure that I personally introduce everyone who doesn’t already know each other with a tid bit of information about each person that I know will be of interest to the other.

    Quick play games are great, like Boggle, to give newly acquainted folks some common ground to get started.

  3. Its my “49th and still climbing” party soon. Planning for a group ranging from 19 to 79? In a Southern Hemisphere Winter!
    Answer: an inside the house treasure hunt, eg find the crocodile, chinese nodders and tin top. Only choose things that are in the open (or your carefully stashed mess could be exposed) Make teams of three (more wont work in a smallish house) give them a list and GO! First team back with locations of at least 10 out of 15 items wins. Fuelled with an Indian buffet and plenty of wine, cider and beer that should get things started. I also have a log fire that can be tended by the introverts and boardgames like Pictionary for the extroverts. Covered.

  4. Games! Some of my favorite party games are cornhole, Apples-to-Apples, & Curses. All of these are store-bought games, so if you’d rather do something more DIY, there’s a game we call ‘Who Am I?’. Get some sticky lables or nametags from an office supply stores, and on each one of them, write the name of any famous person (real or fictional, living or dead). Without looking, everyone picks a tag and slaps it to their forehead. They can’t see what’s written on their own, but everyone else can. Each guest takes a turn asking the group a yes/no question about their person. Keep going until everyone guesses theirs. This was a big hit at our Halloween party last year.
    Murder Mystery role-playing games are awesome too! They can get pricey, and there are some limitations, but I’ve thrown 2 murder mystery parties and they were a hit.

  5. This post speaks to me. I get so anxious when preparing to have people over. I’m working on a system like making everyone take their shoes off (defenses are low!), get big pillows to sit on, make different spots for people to gather, etc…I also like theme/costume parties because it really does facilitate conversation.

  6. it helps that I have a pool, so we throw parties in the summer. Hot weather and the relief of water seems to bring people together.

    Without a pool, I’d suggest parties at other waterfronts, like the closest lake or river.

  7. As a teenager I remember going to a big birthday party dinner around 1 HUGE table in an indian restaurant for one of my mum’s friends 50th. They had so many people from different groups of friends that in between each course they got people to pick up their glass and move round the table so different people could talk. For example after the starter all the women stood up and moved round 3 empty seats, or everyone wearing glasses moved back 4 seats etc etc. Kept conversations fresh and made their friends meet new people

    • Along this line, for Easter one year my cousins made us move each course. The dishes had your assignment on them as you picked them up in the buffet. So the bottom of my salad plate might say I had to sit in the dining room, my soup bowl in the kitchen, my dining plate the living room and my dessert plate the veranda. It made the fact that there were too many of us for one room less awkward and we had to mingle. The one exception was my 90 year old grandfather, but since everybody else moved, he still had different people each course (including dessert, when somehow it was all his 20-something grandkids and great-grandkids).

  8. The magic “unifying” party game we recently discovered is called “Cards Against Humanity”.

    It’s exactly like apples to apples, but it’s filthy, inappropriate and hilarious. Granted, if you have mega-conservative friends you may not want to bust it out, but we’ve found it brings people together quickly–because nothing says “new friends” like jokes about genitals.

  9. Well, i’m only in my twenties but just hosted another party wich mingles my friends from university, my boyfriends friends, some of our gamer friends, …
    what we usually do is get them all together, don’t get them any seatings and just try to let them mingle on theirself. if someone is on their own, we send another friend to them or go talk to them ourselves. most of the time we also play magic: the gathering with the persons who want to, and there is at least one moment in the evening where we play werewolves (i’m not sure if it exists in english, but in dutch it’s called weerwolven van wakkerdam, which loosely translates into werewolves of awake village or something like that) it’s a really nice group game, and it gets everybody laughing in no time :). good luck with the parties 😀

    • Oh, we were taught Werewolf by some Dutch friends and it is a very entertaining game for a bog group of people. I would think it’s a great party ice breaker, too.

  10. Our core group seems to think that games are generally too lame (I disagree), so that’s not the answer with us. Making people move around is a good idea. Guests can easily get stuck in one place talking to the same person all day unless they have to move. If you’rehaving ample seating, try splitting it into smaller clusters so that it’s discouraging for large and possibly intimidating groups to sit together. If you’re serving food, put little bits in different areas so that guests have to walk around to get what they want. Whatever you’re planning, the idea is to get everyone to useas much of your space as possible. People are more likely to run into guests they dont know and start up a conversation.

  11. I guess it depends on the mixture. And you have got to have something to get everybody talking. (When I throw parties, I make penies-shaped chocolates. Everybody loves them, and they always start the fun.)

  12. I think part of the problem is a generational divide. Today, we can more easily wall ourselves off to the community that you are physically surrounded with and just learn to socialize with those who are of a like mind. It leaves us less able to socialize in a diverse group.

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