Simple Soirees for the Socially Starved

by Nikole Weber

Teapot? Check. Cookies? Check. One Direction table cloth? Check. Senior peace studies and sociology major Chelsea Murphy arranges tea cups and sweet treats on her dining room table in preparation for a mid-afternoon fête. She slips into a vintage-chic dress and listens to Harry Styles belt it out in anticipation of her guests’ arrival.

At four o’clock, the doorbell rings. In walk two of her best friends, in the approptiate garb for the occasion. Platters of finger food are in hand, and the sound of happy laughter echoes in the room. It’s tea time.

In the frenetic college setting where coordinating schedules seems nearly impossible, going to the infamous District Lounge on a Thursday night may be the simplest way to reunite with friends. But although house parties and bars tend to dominate the social scene, some students have taken an alternate approach to making memories – hosting dinner parties and uniquely-themed gatherings with close companions.

“Screaming across the bar at each other gets old really quickly. Dinner parties are much more intimate," said senior communication studies major, Victoria Morse, who hosts seasonal events at her home every few months. "It’s just you and your close friends sitting across the table from each other having real conversations,”

Quality time with friends was exactly what Murphy was craving when she conceptualized her 1920s The Great Gatsby themed tea party. And while birthdays and holidays are classic reasons to throw a soiree, Murphy stresses that celebrating friendship should not be restricted to special occasions.  

“Honestly, sometimes my reasoning is pure boredom,” Murphy said. “But I try to incorporate One Direction in as much as I can.”

No matter the excuse, taking a breath from the fast-paced college lifestyle to break bread with close friends for a night can offer a restorative change of scenery. And the quaint, neighborly Orange is just the place to do it.

The antique streets are lined with cozy, humble abodes leased by Chapman students. These one-story homes feature furnished kitchens and commodious living rooms, a pleasant contrast from urbanized college towns, where off-campus housing consists of either compact apartments or Greek row mansions.

So why not make use of Chapman’s exceptional location? No matter the occasion, students agree that spending quality time with their buddies nurtures relationships that have been hampered by busy schedules and collegiate obligations.

“I love having all my best friends in one place. We live such busy lives and are always running all over the place. It is hard to make time for everyone individually, so it is so special to be able to look around the room and see so many people you love in one place,” said junior strategic and corporate communication major Jacqueline Fisher.

Fisher celebrates annual Thanksgiving dinners with a tight-knit group of a dozen girls in her sorority. She noted that all group members contribute to both the organization and implementation of the “Friendsgiving” potluck.

“No one person is responsible for the whole thing. Splitting up each part makes it much more reasonable,” Fisher said. “Everyone pitching in makes it such an inclusive, united feeling. You really feel a part of the whole. You get to help create and watch it all come together as a unit."

Delegating tasks is an easy way to divvy up the work load. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance, Morse said, as arranging a dinner party should be a gratifying process rather than a straining one. College peers do not expect extravagant feasts; a casual spaghetti dinner is deemed a gourmet dinner for most.

But before tasks or dishes can be assigned, it’s important to have an accurate count of who will attend the event. David Ko, a senior public relations and advertising major, hosts an array of events including big/little reveal dinners, secret Santa gift exchanges, and weekly suppers paired with fine wine.

Ko recommended creating a Facebook event to communicate to a large group. Each person can publically RSVP, ask questions, and volunteer to bring supplies on the group feed.

Morse warned, however, that with the daily influx of Facebook notifications flooding newsfeeds each day, it is important to follow up with friends personally after sending out the online invitation.

“And if they don’t respond, text them and bug them about it,” Murphy said.

Once a final date is established and responsibilities have been distributed among the attendees, do not procrastinate.

“Prepare a lot ahead of time since that will relieve a lot of stress the night of. Get your recipes together and prep the food that you need beforehand. The less you have the do the night of, the better,” Ko said.

Planning in advance can also help with sticking to a tight budget. Remember that practicality is more important than glamor, and friends are there to bond with one another, regardless of presentation. Morse described how she and her friends kept the spending to a minimum at one of their themed dinner events. 

“We had a white elephant gift exchange, and we told people to bring the funniest thing lying around their house. If they wanted to go out and buy a gift, we made it a rule to spend no more than five or ten dollars. Same rule applied to food,” Morse said.

Another way to avoid cracking the piggy bank is to cater the theme around existing resources such as old holiday decorations. If paper plates and plastic cutlery are needed, Murphy suggested buying supplies from the dollar store. 

“You can go to a bar any night. You can go to a fraternity party any night. This is something different, so why not?” Murphy said.

It doesn’t matter if the event is far from ornamental. Having dinner with an intimate group of friends can be a comforting alternative to going out to the local bar, crammed full of sweaty bodies and booming speakers. So next weekend, trade a night of pushing your way past inebriated strangers for an evening spent with a handpicked group of friends in your own home.

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