Host a Family-Friendly Dinner Party that is Simple and Intimate: A Guide for Introverts

side view of a grill on a deck

A family-friendly dinner party is an amazing way to build community with other families. Yet, as an introvert, even thinking about hosting anything can feel overwhelming. However, it’s not impossible!

In this blog post, I am sharing with you some of the things I think about, plan for, and keep in mind so that you can experience less overwhelm and more joy during your own family-friendly dinner party!

It gets to be easy

Building community with other families can feel daunting. Having a family-friendly dinner party with one other family can make it a little less so. This type of event allows you to build community on a more intimate level, while also maintaining your sanity.

That is why one of our family goals for this year is to invite more families over for dinner – one by one. This allows us to build community and deepen friendships in a sustainable way.

Just recently, we kicked off the summer by having some dear friends over for dinner in our new home. With their 4 kids and our 7 kids, there was a lot going on. Yet, even as an introvert, I found it to be manageable by following the tips below. Not only am I excited to have them back in a few months, I’m also excited to host the next family that we are able to get on our calendar!

Pre-dinner planning

Before you send your first invitation, there are a few things that you need to think about first. That is, your initial thoughts and plans around what this family-friendly dinner party will look like. Who will you invite? What will you make? Does an area of your home need to be temporarily rearranged? How will you handle having so many kids running around? Will you have casual conversations or play games? The more you have the answers to these questions, the less frazzled and overwhelmed you will feel.

a cell phone sitting on top of a laptop computer on the left with a planner that has a pen on top of it on the right

A family-friendly dinner party needs a list of families to invite

Before you do anything else, make a running list of families who you would like to get to know better and have over for dinner. Do not feel pressured to invite everyone you know, instead, be intentional about it. Who have you already felt some sort of connection with? Is there a family who has kids who are around the same ages as your kids?

Think about all of the reasons you want to build community and what you want to achieve through building community. Then create a list that includes families that fit that criteria. Think of this list as a launching pad. You can always continue to add more families to it, but do not be afraid to be more particular about who you are inviting at first.

Create a list of easy and crowd-friendly meals to choose from

Having the same meal for each family-friendly dinner party can get boring, but trying to figure out what to change up each time can get overwhelming. Instead, create a list of easy, crowd-friendly meals. This reduces decision fatigue while still allowing you to change things up event to event.

For summer parties, think of meals that require more outdoor grilling. Burgers and hot dogs are always a hit, but you can jazz things up by including bratwurst, shish-kabobs, or even steak on your menu. Another easy summer meal that works great is some sort of pulled meat. You can choose from chicken, pork, or beef, throw it in the crockpot with some seasonings, let it cook all day, and have it ready to go by the time your guests get to your home. Lay out some buns, BBQ sauce, and any other desired fixings and you are ready to go!

If you plan on hosting into the winter, soups and stews are a great way to stretch a tasty meal. A nice slice of hearty, homemade bread really helps to round it out. Casseroles are another great winter option. Think cozy and warm as you are coming up with ideas!

A word of caution. Start by giving yourself five options to choose from for each season to start. Options are a great thing to have until you have too many of them. Too many options backfire and end up creating more decision fatigue than not.

two whole, seasoned, raw chickens sitting in a pan surrounded by carrots

Temporary room reconfiguration

Look at your space and imagine the number of people that you are planning for in that space. Does it work? Keep in mind the traffic flow. Can everyone move about relatively easily or will you be running into one another? Depending on what you come up with, you may need to do some temporary room reconfigurations.

We ended up having to do this for our last dinner party. In the family room, we moved the couches to the sides of the room and placed a table for the kids to eat at in the center. This was taken down once the kids had eaten. In the eat-in kitchen, the table takes up a large portion of the room and you need to go around it in order to get to and from the back door. We decided to take a couple of leaves out of the table and push it against the side wall to give everyone more space. The four of us adults sat on the chairs that we had placed around the kitchen and ate dinner tableless.

Regardless of what you decide to do, keep it simple. The kids’ table was easily taken down and our kitchen table was easily put back together and moved back in place. The goal is just to make sure everyone is as comfortable as possible in the space that you have available.

two chairs on a deck facing away from the camera

Make a plan for the kids

This is mostly for your own sanity. As a mom, I’m sure you know how difficult it can be to have a decent conversation with kids running around. The goal for this plan is to ensure that they are busy having fun so that you can enjoy a little more adult conversation instead of feeling like you are refereeing kids all night.

Again, keep it simple. Start by determining where you would prefer the kids to play. Do you have a basement or a playroom? Will the weather be nice enough for them to play outside? Are you okay with them going in and out? Are there any doors you do not want them to use or rooms you do not want them to go into?

For our family-friendly dinner party, I knew that it would be the least hectic if the kids mainly played in the basement and outside. It really helps that we have a basement door to the outside. However, they also used the back door that led out to the deck from the kitchen – where us adults were hanging out. At one point, we even had kids going in and out of the front door too. After the millionth bang of the front door, my husband didn’t allow them to go in and out of the front door any more. Over all though, it worked out really well and the kids had a blast!

You may find that your initial thoughts do not go exactly as planned. Know that it is totally okay to switch something up during your dinner party. This pre-planning is not something that has to be set in stone. Rather, it is a way to help your brain have pre-planned solutions so that it does not have to think as hard on the spot which greatly reduces those feelings of overwhelm.

two boys drawing with chalk on a driveway

Invite your guests

One of the biggest hang ups to inviting your potential guests to a dinner party is thinking that every event has to be planned out right away. They do not. Start by inviting one family to dinner. Send a text or email to your friend letting her know that you would like to have her and her family over for dinner one night. Don’t forget what day or days of the week you were thinking of for this party and how soon you were hoping to get together (i.e., in the next few days, in the next couple of weeks, in the next month, etc.)

This is an example of a text I sent to my friend to set a date for our dinner party: Hi Friend, We would love to have you guys over for dinner on a Saturday night this summer! If you’re up for it, could you send me some dates in the next month or so that would work for you?

Keep it sweet, simple, and flexible. From there, you and your friend can settle on a date and then you can continue planning and preparing!

1 – 2 weeks before your family-friendly dinner party

About a week or two before your dinner party, make a shopping list of anything you need: Food, plates, cups, drinks, etc. Then decide when you will be going to the store to get what is on your list. I got most of what we would need when I placed my bi-monthly grocery shopping order about a week prior to our dinner party. Then my husband ended up getting a few last minute things the day of while he was already out.

This would also be a good time to make sure that your house is organized and items are put away properly IF that is something that is important for you to do. However, do not stress too much over this step. The goal of this dinner party is to welcome friends into your home and build community. It is not to show off a perfectly curated home. Do what is needed to create a welcoming environment, but do not get stuck in the stress of trying to make and keep it perfect.

Day of your family-friendly dinner party

Yay! You’ve made it! Today is the day!

Today you get to see the fruit of all of your preparations for your family-friendly dinner party! However, there are a few more things to do before your guests arrive.

  1. Pull out meat to thaw (Depending on what this is, you may have to do this the night before)
  2. If you are using the slow-cooker, get your meat seasoned and into it in the morning
  3. Do a final clean of your home (pick up/tidy, sweep/vacuum, wipe down bathrooms, etc.)
  4. Prep any food that can be or needs to be prepped ahead of time (cut veggies, season burgers, bake bread, etc.)
  5. Reconfigure any rooms based on your plan
  6. Talk to your kids and make sure they know the rules about where they are and are not allowed to play
  7. Enjoy this time with your friends!

Additional Reminders

  1. Remove perfect from your vocabulary: Remember, you are building community and developing friendships. Think of the friends you want to have and the friend that you want to be. Do you want perfection to come between that? Do your best in each area of your dinner party (planning, preparing, and hosting), but don’t allow it to be the cause of stress.
  2. Lean into the flow: This kind of goes along with perfectionism. You might find that the evening doesn’t go exactly as you anticipated. That is okay. Readjust and continue on. Sometimes the best of memories come from something that wasn’t planned.
  3. Don’t let your lack of space keep you from inviting: This is for you if you wistfully read this post, but feel like you don’t have enough space to properly host another family. I want to challenge you on that thought. Instead of thinking of how you cannot host another family, think about how you could host another family. Encourage your brain to think of a solution to the problem and don’t be afraid if it looks a little non-traditional. The most important thing is to make them feel welcome. The rest ends up working out.
girl drawing with chalk on a driveway and boy holding baby, but all you can see is their feet

A family-friendly dinner party is an amazing way to build community. I cannot wait for you to host your own!

I would love to hear how your dinner party went and how you used these tips to keep it simple and less overwhelming. Please share how it went in the comments!

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  1. great tips! especially the very last one – we have a SMALL dining room and whenever we host, it’s very crowded and slightly uncomfortable but NO ONE has ever complained and we’ve had wonderful times with friends in spite of that. 🙂