Organizing a Dinner Party takes some work and personal preparation to pull together, though we can say from experience that if you’re up to the challenge, it’s so (so) worth it. Below are a few traits we’ve found make for ideal hosts.
1. Have experienced a primary loss in their life. Ours aren’t abstract conversations or theoretical musings about the ever-after: they’re based on real experience, and the kind of expertise that comes of losing someone you love, whether a parent, a sibling or a partner. It may have been six months; it may have been six years. What’s key is that it had a significant impact on your life, and you’re not afraid to talk about it.
2. Are passionate about a different approach to life after loss. You recognize that the way we culturally avoid any mention of loss is counter-productive to living great lives. And you want to play a part in changing that.
3. Have access to space. You have private space in your home to host a dinner, or the creativity and network to find another cozy spot to bring people together - whether it’s a gallery, a park, or a friend’s backyard.
4. Open to a partner in crime. While it’s not a requirement to host in pairs, having another host by your side can lighten the load and make it more fun. If you don’t have this person in mind, we can help pair you up.
5. Love to make it nice. It’s the first Sunday of the month: You’re heading home from the farmer’s market to cook something up, making some fun party favors, or putting together a playlist before the other Dinner Partiers arrive. That sound great to you? Then you’re one of us!
6. Find it easy to make conversation. Dinner Parties are all about connecting through conversation and storytelling, so you’ll need to be comfortable chatting, prodding, questioning and laughing with other people while discussing sensitive stuff.
7. Want to #realtalk. We’ve found that sharing your own story gives others permission to share theirs. Successful Dinner Party hosts aren’t content to rely on platitudes or rehearsed stories. It requires self-awareness and the ability to reflect deeply on your own story, and the ability to encourage others to share their own.
8. Are amazing listeners. A big part of being a host is simply listening, asking follow up questions and resisting the opportunity to turn a conversation back to your own story, or attempt to “fix” something for someone else. The most important thing you can do as a host is not to share a profound insight or quick-fix, but simply to create space at the table for every participant to be heard.
9. Have the time. Sometimes Dinner Parties sound great but our plates are already chock full with finals, that new job, or a bumping social calendar. You’ll need to be able to dedicate about an hour a week to TDP preparation (sending out invites, coordinating dates), and then however much time it’ll take you the day of to tidy up, decorate, cook a dish, host the dinner, and clean up after - typically 4-6 hours.
10. Make it a priority to care for themselves. The Dinner Party is not a replacement for therapy or other forms of healing, and when you’re hosting the conversation, it’s important that you can be a participant, but also be a rock for others. As a host, you need to know what strengthens you and fills you up - whether it’s therapy, kickboxing, or other kinds of rejuvenation. Obviously, we’re all works in progress, but it’s important that Dinner Party hosts have a strong sense of self-awareness, and the tools at the ready to help you move through stress and emotional vulnerability (yours and others'). And remember: Your job doesn't end when the dishes are cleared away. After a Dinner Party, it's your responsibility to go out and do something that brings you joy.