dinner parties, gno, girlfriend get togethersI try to greet my friends with a drink in my hand, a warm smile on my face, and great music in the background, because that’s what gets a dinner party off to a fun start.
~Ina Garten

Family dinners are wonderful. They are a time to catch up on the day, bond as a family, and all kinds of other good stuff. But there are times when girlfriend dinners are an oasis of friendship, camaraderie, and fun. While going out with the girls is great, gathering at a friends house is warm and cozy and unrushed and…you get the point.

Guest blogger KRISTINE SCHOONMAKER share tips and tales of her girlfriend dinner club. Who would you include in a dinner club? How often would you (do you) get together? What is the best dinner club dish? We’d love to know your secret recipes for great dinner gatherings, girlfriend!

Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, corporate climber, entrepreneur, artist, or teacher… married, single, looking for Mr. Right or not, you need a place to get away from it all to do something just for you. Connecting with other fabulous women over dinner and drinks is exactly what you need! But with busy schedules and people to coordinate, how will you ever find the time?  Who do you invite? How do you make it easy and how will you keep it going?

I had these same questions when my girlfriends and I started our dinner club four years ago. However, if the five of us, with our insane schedules and commitments, can pull this off, with a practically perfect track record, you can too.

Here are six essential ingredients to starting a delectable dinner club and keeping it going.

1.     Ideal Pairings. Like any well-planned meal, the pairings you choose make the difference between a night you can’t wait to relive or one that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. So choose wisely! Select 4-5 women who:

  • Have diverse interests but share a common thread to create an immediate bond
  • Share similar values
  • Share a similar time in your lives so everyone is interested and engaged
  • Are committed women that will make this a priority
gno, girlfriend get together, dinner parties

Photo By: Brent Culbertson for Bold Dish

This size group is intimate enough so everyone can join in the conversation and works beautifully for sharing in the food and drink duties. There’s nothing like accountability to keep people from bailing last minute!

2.     Location, Location, Location! For your dinner club, home is where the heart is. It’s a comfortable atmosphere where you can come as you are, even if that means your pajamas. It’s more intimate than a restaurant, you won’t have to worry about how long you stay or who’s around, and you’ll save money by staying in. You can even make dinner together and score some new culinary moves if that’s your thing. Adding a simple hostess rotation will keep things fun and fresh, and you’ll only have the burden of cleaning once in a blue moon.

3.     Timing That’s Everything. Monthly get-togethers are great to keep you connected but not overscheduled. Pick a consistent day and time to meet so you have one less thing to coordinate. We love Mondays at 6:30p.m because it gives you something fun and positive to start your week and there’s plenty of time over the weekend for any prep needed. Then, schedule one month at a time at the end of each dinner.  You’ll be able to plan other things around it and you’ll have flexibility when you need it for holidays and other commitments, which a “last Monday of the month” schedule won’t do. This truly makes scheduling a no-brainer: No back and forth emails, poor turnout due to conflicts, or rescheduling. All that’s necessary is to have up-to-date calendars at each dinner.

4. Themes. Need I say more? There’s nothing like a simple theme to tie the food together and stir up the anticipation. It could be an ingredient, a word, a movie, or a fun conversation topic. The sky’s the limit. Having one person keep a running list of ideas will make picking your next theme each month a breeze. Then, all you’ll need to coordinate is who’s bringing which course.

gno, girlfriend get together, dinner parties

Photo By: Brent Culbertson for Bold Dish

5.     Food for Thought. A safe, positive, and productive space is what keeps people coming back for more, but even great friends with the best intentions, can miss the mark. Creating a dinner club “code” at your first event is a great way to get on the same page. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Make sure what’s said at dinner stays at dinner
  • Show up, especially when you don’t feel like it, for yourself and your girlfriends
  • Be unconditionally supportive of every woman, even if her own priorities, beliefs, and dreams differ from yours
  • Embrace curiosity, let go of having to know it all, and try on different perspectives
  • Stay in the moment, listen to each other, and be present
  • Own and celebrate who each of you are, “warts” and all

6.     Family Buy-In. Now if this sounds great but you’re wondering how it’s going to fly with your family, rest easy. Four little things will make this a snap. First, give plenty of notice and remind them regularly and often. We all know not everyone is great with dates. Second, tell them WHY you need this night out so they understand the ROI for you, and them. Third, make sure they have something for them too, agree to respect each other’s time and coordinate schedules so that you all get what you need. Finally, even if they don’t totally get it, THANK them for being so supportive of your time with the girls each month.  If all else fails, bringing them yummy leftovers works every time.

Gently combine these six ingredients and in just a month or two you’ll wonder why you waited so long to start a dinner club!

KRISTINE SCHOONMAKER, founder of Bold Dish, Inc., is dedicated to helping women create meaningful lives and invaluable friendships.  Her eZine Bold Dish On the Go and signature “dinner parties in a box” marry life coaching and party planning to give you everything you need to have more fun, meaningful get-togethers with your girlfriends. If you’re ready to boldly create the life you’re craving, learn more and get your FREE subscription at www.bolddish.com.

Let’s make 2013 a special year – filled with friends and gratitude. Sounds like the winning combination for a wonderful new year!

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