Is there anything better than getting together with a group of friends for an evening of food, music, and shooting the breeze? Well, maybe, but social occasions with good friends are definitely one of life’s pleasures.
I suppose it’s easy to get caught up in the planning part of hosting a dinner party, worrying about what glasses to use, wine to serve, and whether the kitchen looks clean enough. But if we stop to think about our true intentions, organizing a get-together becomes much easier. To me, hosting friends is all about celebrating our connection with one another, and with our lives. This means that parties are opportunities for contemplating our 5 senses, trying out new ways to stimulate them, and sharing with our loved ones. Food, music, design, warmth, and nature all come into play when creating an enjoyable evening that leaves everyone feeling connected and inspired.
Small gatherings are also a chance to practice mindfulness, whether it’s to do with using eco-friendly products, your choice of food, or creating a warm atmosphere. I like my parties to be relaxed and fairly eclectic, but there’s no right or wrong when it comes to hosting style. Whatever feels best for you is what matters. When I’m planning to have people over, here are some ideas that get me excited to inspire my senses and those of my friends.
Fusion food with a sense of culture
There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
– George Bernard Shaw
Evenings with friends are perfect occasions to stimulate everyone’s taste buds by bringing together cuisine from different cultures. This doesn’t need to be fancy, or hard on your body. There are so many dishes from around the world that are incredibly simple and healthy!
One example is Burmese tea-leaf salad — delicious, full of veggies, and simple to whip up.
Or, cook some traditional food that is personal to you. Maybe a grandmother’s recipe or a dish you learned while away at college. It is known throughout time that food is an amazing way for us to connect with others. Sharing part of your own culture or history can introduce your friends to a new aspect of yourself, and of the world. Making home-made pad Thai is my favorite way to introduce my friends to my South East Asia lifestyle, with personalized chopsticks that they get to keep.
Mixing and matching also works: consider a spread of fresh avocado slices wrapped in Nori (seaweed), drizzled with lemon, salt, and pepper. Easy and funky, these finger nibbles also look amazing when served on a plain white, minimalist dish.
Eco-friendly accessories that serve a purpose
I personally love the eco-friendly EkoMiko candles and Soma water filter for their abilities to mindfully meet our needs for lighting and hydration. Candles are perfect for creating a sense of softness, giving off warmth and generating a calm, gentle atmosphere. Best of all, these candles are environmentally sustainable:
“Sustainable EkoMiko candles are eco-friendly right down to their core. Every last component from the fair-trade wax to the natural wood wicks to the reclaimed glass vessel to the soy-based ink on the seeded box is environmentally conscious. Everything right down to the packaging embraces the recycling ethos: even better, the candle wax that remains once the long-lasting wick finally burns out can be used as a luxurious body lotion with an intoxicating aroma. It’s a true eco-friendly lighting innovation!”
The body lotion is what intrigues me the most. What a neat way to use all the material, right down to the wax. By choosing eco-friendly products, we ensure that all our actions are align with our values.
At any dinner party, we need to be sure to serve lots of water, since it’s one of the best ways to keep our friends feeling healthy and energized throughout the night. Soma’s co-founder, Mike del Ponte, was originally inspired to make the all-natural Soma water filter when he was hosting a party of his own, and realized that he didn’t feel right using his unseemly Brita filter to serve his guests. The Soma water filter provides us with a beautiful, eco-friendly way to respect the magic inherent in water and keep ourselves hydrated.
Fresh picked flowers to connect with nature
Fresh flowers are tried-and-true for a reason: they give our space an instant burst of color, smell, and connection with nature. Whether we cull from our garden, or go to a local flower market to get some in-season petal passion, having flowers on hand will create a welcoming atmosphere. Be sure to keep them in filtered water, since this will help them flourish brighter and last longer.
A gift as a reminder and note of appreciation
When you attended birthday parties as a kid, did you ever receive a treat bag on your way out the door? This used to be my favorite part of the party – the anticipation of what was going to be inside the bag always excited me. Candy, plastic necklaces, or Kinder Surprises seemed to be popular choices of the parents in my neighborhood.
A parting gift is still a timeless way to send your friends off with reminder of the night, and to show your appreciation of their presence.
The trick of the treat is to make it personal. The cheaper, the better, I think. If you have time to make homemade cards for each guest, that’s perfect! Perhaps include some crushed dried flowers, or home-made potpourri bags. Anything that you’ve made yourself will mean so much more than something store bought.
I’m also a huge fan of picking up small items when I’m traveling, to give away to friends upon return. For example, beautiful scarves in South East Asia are quite inexpensive, and when I give them to friends, I’m also sharing my experience with them. You don’t need to go overseas though; a quick venture around your hometown can turn up neat items, too, if you think outside the box.
Music, mindfulness, and inspiration
Those are just a few of the many small ways in which we can make our social gatherings more personal and mindful. Having a mix of music that pulls from different parts of the world can be a fun way to introduce yourself, and your friends, to new sounds. I sometimes kick things off with a bit of Fela Kuti, and then move onto South American beats for dancing, and wind down with some classical Erik Satie. Film soundtracks can also be great for creating ambiance. If you feel a little musically lost, explore the Guardian’s New Band of the Day series, or music sites like Pitchfork, to get in touch with what’s happening. When I don’t have time to put together a fantastic playlist on my own, I head over to culturally creative Freuden von Freuden (German for ‘friends of friends’) to sneak a peak at their incredible mixtapes.
Having a party is a great chance to add to your music collection; in fact, hosting a dinner party is really a fantastic way to get re-inspired about the things in our home lives that we generally overlook. Encourage yourself to try out that new dish you’ve been thinking about, and be a conscious consumer of household products you’ve been eyeing. Or use the opportunity to poke around on sustainable design site Inhabitat for even more eco-friendly, aesthetically pleasing ideas.
When we host a social event for friends, we can use it as a way to inspire our 5 senses, connect with nature and each other, and make mindful choices as consumers. It really is just another way to practice mindfulness and connection. By looking at parties this way, we can feel good about the planning process, rather than feeling stressed out about it. It’s simply another opportunity to learn, explore, and get inspired.
How will you inspire your friends at your next gathering?
“’Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.’”
― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web