Nothing can stop a festive dinner party — not even a global pandemic. While COVID-19 has put many in-person events on hold, virtual event technology has made it possible to gather with friends, family, coworkers, and peers from afar. David Tutera of David Tutera Planning and Design has been hosting chic virtual dinner parties since shelter-in-place orders started. He says, “Any moment we can see one another, smile, laugh, and celebrate is worth a thousand words. A virtual dinner party may seem awkward, but the reality is it allows us to connect and see one another and have some fun.”
While we are all looking forward sitting across the table from our family and friends, there are some clear silver linings to going virtual. Loved ones who may otherwise miss out on an in-person dinner party — they may live across the country or the world — can now join in on the festivities. A virtual dinner party also allows you to be incredibly inclusive, as space on a Zoom call isn’t quite as limited as the number of chairs that can fit around your dining room table.
Dinner party hosts and event professionals alike are taking on the challenge of making Zoom interactions feel just as special and personal as live events. When hosting a virtual dinner party, you can make it as simple or over-the-top as you would like, but the most important thing is to make it feel personal. We have outlined 7 simple steps to hosting a fabulous virtual dinner party that will make the evening a memorable one for everyone involved. Tutera says, “A virtual dinner and seeing your friends and family is always worth logging on.”
1. Choose a virtual dinner party platform
The very first step to hosting a virtual dinner party is selecting a technology platform that will allow you to go virtual. There are an overwhelming number of virtual event platforms available, with what seems like more emerging every day, but Zoom is an easy choice.
You can easily host a 40-minute cocktail hour using the free version of Zoom, or upgrade to a business account for unlimited time with your guests. Whether you’re hosting 5 or 50 guests, the platform makes it easy to send an invitation link, track RSVPs, and host from any electronic device.
2. Set the tone with a virtual dinner party theme
Trendy ombré, tropical garden, Moroccan summer, Southern charm — PartySlate features inspiring in-person dinner party themes that can easily translate to your next virtual event. From the cuisine you and your guests enjoy to the favors or entertainment you incorporate, a well-chosen theme can beautifully influence any type of event, especially a dinner party.
Explore dinner parties featured on PartySlate to find a theme and other unique ideas for your virtual dinner party celebration.
3. Select a stunning Zoom background image
PartySlate created 31 beautiful Zoom backgrounds for any type of virtual event — including virtual dinner parties — using images from our platform. Get lost in the New York City skyline at 620 Loft and Garden, or transport your virtual dinner party guests to the beaches of South Florida at the 1 Hotel South Beach. Zoom background images can help set the tone — and the scene — of your virtual dinner party.
Select one Zoom background for all of your guests to use for a cohesive look, or encourage each guest to choose their own Zoom background to use during the party. If you’re not sure which Zoom background to use, allow your virtual dinner party theme to guide your selection.
4. Send invitations for your virtual dinner party
Yes, Zoom populates a simple-to-use RSVP link when you create your virtual dinner party invitation. But, we recommend taking your virtual dinner party invitations one step further by popping that link into a custom design. Find an invitation company that will create a custom digital invitation design that fits your theme.
You can also mail custom paper invitations — even paper menus, too — and request RSVPs separate from a Zoom link. This adds an extra-special element to your virtual dinner party. Just be sure to ask guests for their emails when they RSVP; that way, you can simply email the Zoom link to guests ahead of your virtual dinner party.
5. Arrange for catering and cocktail deliveries
While some virtual dinner parties encourage guests to all cook the same recipe from their own homes, we love the idea of delivered meals from local catering companies. That way, everyone at your virtual dinner party can sit back, relax, and enjoy the same delicious food from a menu designed by you. Work with a caterer to hand-select menu items that are not only delicious, but will also travel well to ensure they arrive prepped and easy to serve.
And don’t forget the cocktails. Since the pandemic began, catering companies and craft cocktail brands have released festive cocktail kits that are perfect for a virtual dinner party. A craft cocktail kit can even double as an activity: send the cocktail kits in advance, then ask all guests to assemble their cocktails together on Zoom.
Not sure where to start? We compiled lists of Los Angeles caterers and New York caterers offering at-home meals that are ideal for delivery, or you can explore our full directory of caterers to find an option perfect for your virtual dinner party.
6. Incorporate creative entertainment or activities
While we love the idea of cocktail kits and guests arranging their drinks together on Zoom, we also recognize that this isn’t the ideal activity for every dinner party. Virtual event games continue to increase in popularity, but in addition, we love the idea of a custom virtual dinner party playlist. You can even hire a DJ or band to provide virtual entertainment for your guests after your meal.
The best part? Because your dinner party is virtual, you can hire a DJ or band from anywhere across the country and the world. Start your search by browsing our list of 12 top DJs and bands, who each contributed to 19 incredible party playlists that are perfect for a virtual dinner party.
7. Don’t forget to send favors in advance
Gifting is a personal and thoughtful way to bring your virtual dinner party guests together. Sending virtual party favors to your guests in advance will allow you to emphasize the theme, while also giving each guest a memorable keepsake.