A Communal Table

The Communal Table: 5 Tips for Creating the Perfect Atmosphere

In a world where information is available instantaneously and people are always on their cell phones, the art of sitting down to a meal and conversation is often forgotten. After all, when was the last time you ate without your omnipresent smartphone in hand? But, if you want to really connect with your friends and family members, setting the tone at a dinner party might be the perfect way to unplug and unwind. By creating a communal table that encourages conversation and sharing, connecting at your next dinner party will mean more than free WiFi. Here are some tips on how to create a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere.

1. Invite and Accept Kitchen Help

Before you ever make it to the table, your friends will probably all ask the same question: “Is there anything I can do to help?” You might usually decline their offer because you want the night to go perfectly, but accepting help is one of the best ways to encourage conversation and make everyone feel included before you sit down to your meal. Your shier friends may appreciate the chance to do some last-minute prep, set food on the table, or pour drinks instead of endure pre-dinner small talk with the guests they don’t know yet. When you do eventually sit down to eat, the meal will feel like a team effort.

2. Set a Communal Table

In order to establish a communal vibe, you should focus on how your guests connect with one another, rather than worrying about setting up fancy dinnerware and huge centerpieces. After all, formal place settings can feel stiff and leave guests feeling like they need to be on their best behavior.

Instead, you can set a laid-back table by following the easiest formula ever: Use white linens and white dishes, and then use one or two accent colors to make the space really pop. For fall, cranberry-colored candles or a few simple mason jars with orange and yellow leaves can add color while still feeling casual enough for guests to relax.

Communal Table

Place some family-style dishes in the middle of a communal table for a casual, memorable meal.

Photo Source: Pexels/Anastasia Zhenina

3. Give Everyone a Spot

Using place cards might seem too formal for a casual, communal table, but it’s just the opposite: Letting guests know where they should sit—and putting some forethought into the seating arrangements—can help get rid of some of the jitters that accompany a dinner party.

Think about where guests might be the most comfortable and plan out seating accordingly. For example, you might want to put parents and children near the ends of the table so that they can easily move around, or make sure that introverted guests are seated near someone who makes conversation easily. Then, use simple cards to show guests where they should go when it’s time to be seated.

4. Pass and Share

Skip the fancy plating in the kitchen and instead serve family-style dishes that can be passed around the table. Foods like lasagna, pot roast, a platter of roasted chicken, or pasta dishes are great conversation starters at a communal table. Guests can chat as food is passed back and forth, making the meal feel more intimate than if plates were served to the guest by the host.

A Person Reaching for Grilled Chicken on a Plate

A delicious, communal meal can truly bring people together.

Photo Source: Pexels/Jeshoots.com

5. Encourage Conversation

There’s nothing worse than a silent dinner party, and communal tables can feel especially awkward if no one is talking. Make sure the conversation flows by having some topics prepped for when there’s a lull. Skip the hot-button issues (no politics or religion, please) and go for conversation starters that connect guests in their similarities. Mention how two guests work in similar industries or talk about favorite pastimes that you might share. Or, try some conversation starters that get guests thinking, like “What would you do if you won the lottery?” or “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?” By having some topics planned, you won’t have to worry about keeping the conversation going around your family-style table.

The communal table isn’t just a trend in dinner parties, but a great way to connect your guests and enjoy a laid-back evening. Everything from the decor to your menu can make a dinner party feel more cozy. If you plan properly, your friends could end the night feeling like family.

Featured Photo Source: Pexels/Kaboompics.com

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