My favorite part of a dinner is the time after the meal is finished when everyone lingers at the table. You know the moment I’m talking about. The one where some people are nibbling on the crunchy bits of macaroni and cheese that are stuck to the pan, while others are mopping the final splashes of salad dressing from their plates with the last pieces of bread. If you’re lucky, a fresh bottle of wine has just been opened and both glasses and bellies are full. I love this moment because it’s the best time for lively conversation. Close friends and family members know that I hate it when a guest jumps up and offers to wash the dishes immediately after we are done eating. Let the dishes wait! We are here together and it’s the perfect time to catch up and do a little table bonding.
What is table bonding? Well, basically, it’s when you chat about anything and everything. It’s when you learn new things about old friends and make lasting connections with new acquaintances. You could discuss serious topics like the upcoming presidential elections or the harsh reality of climate change, but I prefer to keep things on the lighter side. Table bonding is meant to bring the group closer together rather than create rifts among differing viewpoints.
Start the bonding with a fun question. Go around the table and one-by-one each guest has to answer it. The questions can be related to the city you live in: What are your top 3 favorite restaurants? What’s the best bar for a date? or shed light on the individual’s past: What was your most remarkable vacation and why? What was your first kiss like? I’m a huge fan of fantastical questions — If you had to drink one type of alcohol for the rest of your life, what would it be? or If you could go back in time and be anyone, who would you want to be? — because they require an imagination. If you’re not that clever when it comes to talking points, I recommend getting a couple of TableTopics cubes. (Yes, there’s a whole company devoted to making dinner parties more exciting!) I have a bunch of the cubes and think they are absolutely wonderful and always promote great dialogue.
A good table bonding experience is also a fabulous way to break the ice at more formal affairs such as weddings. You may be sitting with a variety of people you don’t know from all age brackets. In this setting, start with a question that ties into the wedding: Are you from the bride or groom’s side of the family? Tell us a hilarious story about them.
Get creative! You don’t have to stick to conversation-provoking questions. My sister, Trish, came up with one of the most memorable and successful table bonding experiences ever and it involved no questions. We were at a wedding and sat at a table with a group of old high school friends with new significant others. As a round of introductions were made, Trish suggested that we write a poem to read to the bride and groom later that night. We passed a sheet of paper around the table and each person contributed a line to the poem. It ended up being totally awesome and the couple enjoyed our table’s poetic tribute to their big day.
So, the next time you’re planning the menu, music, and look for a dinner party, don’t forget about creating an unforgettable bonding adventure for your friends. Cultivating animated discussion and encouraging new friendships is one of the most rewarding aspects of hostessing!