Welcome to the club that no one wanted to join: The Dinner Party. The Dinner Party is a space where people in their 20s and 30s who have experienced the loss of a parent, sibling, partner, child, or close friend meet on an ongoing basis to #realtalk about loss and life after. Are you a current Dinner Party host looking for more information? We love you and we’re so grateful that you’re doing this with us. Read on.
What do I do about flakers or the people I never hear back from?
It sucks to get excited for my next dinner and then have no one come. Don’t for an instant jump to the conclusion that this is a reflection of you as a host! Almost everyone who’s been to a Dinner Party has had a moment where they thought, "I'm just not sure I have it in me tonight..." Talking about loss and life after is hard, heavy stuff. With that said, if people are consistently flaking on your table, there’s no reason not to practice the vulnerability this community requires and share why you wanted to host and how the flaking makes you feel. You’ll also want to do whatever you can to reduce barriers to coming to the table (i.e. “even if you come with a bag of chips, we want to see you!”), make sure you’re being inclusive in terms of scheduling (i.e. using Doodle, not expecting people to come the one Saturday night you’re free), and try to share the load at the table (i.e. asking others if they want to try hosting at their homes even if you organize/facilitate the gatherings, etc.) so people feel a sense of co-ownership and contribution.
Now let’s talk about the folks you never, ever hear from. We’re hoping the membership fee will help us discern who’s committed to Dinner Party-ing and who’s not, but it’s not foolproof. If there are folks on your list who you’ve never heard from and they haven’t shown up 3-4 dinners in, we recommend sending one last email gauging their interest in being part of TDP. Something like, “Don’t want to overflow your inbox so let me know if you’re interested in joining a dinner in the future. Taking you off our list for now, but the door’s always open!” If you don’t hear from them within a week of sending your email, feel free to remove them from your email list, strikethrough their name on your table roster, and let us know if you’d like to open your table to new TDP’ers looking for a seat.
What do I do if I start hosting and then realize it's not for me, don't have time to host anymore, or am moving and can no longer host?
First and foremost, thank you for being honest with yourselves about your capacity (and/or congrats on moving!) and please don’t feel any sense of shame. Life happens and we get it. If you can no longer host your TDP table, there are two important steps to take -- the first is to contact your staff point person at TDP HQ to let them know. The second is to send an email sharing with your table that you’re stepping back and cc’ing that staff member so they can figure out next steps for the table. If you have someone in mind who’d like to take over the hosting reins, let us know and we’ll reach out. See a short sample email that you’re welcome to personalize here:
Dearest Dinner Partiers,
Unfortunately, I am stepping down from hosting our Dinner Party table. [I’m moving; I’m too busy; Life has just gotten in the way.] Thank you for a wonderful past [amount of time]! It was a pleasure meeting all of you!
I am cc’ing [name of your TDP HQ point person ] here who would like to know if anyone else would like to step in to host or if you would like to be placed in a different Dinner Party group. I hope that everyone continues to participate in TDP and has gotten as much from this as I have! Take care!
I love my table. Can I invite my friends?
We’re so glad you’re experiencing the magic of TDP! You can totally invite friends to join. However, we need every incoming Dinner Partier to fill out join a table and pay their own membership fee (or let us know they’d like the fee waived) before attending their 1st dinner. We also ask that you consider what would be best for your Dinner Partiers and think about whether you care about anonymity at the table (as many Dinner Partiers do) or feel fine about having someone at your table who knows you. If you talk about how grief is affecting your relationship with your partner, will you feel weird having your friend there? If so, you can share the link to join and recommend they attend a different table.
I need some inspration for (new) things to talk about with my table -- any conversation topics that you would suggest?
You can see a short list of recommended questions and conversation topics here! When in doubt, we recommend asking your table, “What’s something you wish people would you ask about?” You can also check out our instagram @thedinnerparty and see our “Sunday Simmer” question posts for inspiration.
What do I do if I'm worried about someone at my table? Or if someone's taking up all the space?
Phew, good questions and please know you’re not alone in asking them. The first thing we recommend doing is sharing a new community guideline at your next dinner that addresses the issue without calling the person out (i.e. “Just want to name that no loss is worse or harder than another. We’re here to learn from and honor each other’s experiences” or “Tonight, I want to ask that all of us pay attention to how we’re participating and showing up in this space. If you notice you’re talking a lot, maybe try stepping back to let others’ voices in”).
If this doesn’t work and you think the person at your table could be in a place to hear some gentle feedback, we recommend talking to the person and letting them know their impact. You probably don’t want to say, “Hey Sarah, you’re really annoying everyone in the group,” but you might want to gently mention that you’ve noticed certain people are talking more than others and would Sarah help you make sure that other people can get in on the conversation? If it reaches the point where it’s happening over and over, you’ve tried intervening in small ways, and nothing’s changing, reach out to your TDP staff point person. We have a range of interventions from re-populating your table with new, cool people to connecting you with our one of our on-call mental health professionals to discuss next steps, but we can decide what’s best together on a case-by-case basis.
If you’re worried about someone’s mental health at the table, we almost always recommend gently saying something after the dinner where you’re concerned. “I noticed ___ and I care about you and wanted to say something,” almost never turns people off or away. If you feel more comfortable doing this in writing, you’re welcome to. If your table is located in a TDP hub city, we have a list of recommended therapeutic resources that you’re welcome to share with your Dinner Partier and you don’t have to shy away from sharing what you think you can handle as a volunteer host vs. a more “professional space.”
With all of this said, if someone shares something extreme, like threatening to harm themselves or others, we ask that you reach out to your TDP staff point person as soon as possible and we’ll follow up and make sure that person gets connected to the support they need.
One of my Dinner Partiers wants to bring their partner or a friend for support. Is that allowed?
If your Dinner Partier’s partner or friend has also experienced significant loss, then they can go through the fill out join a table and pay their membership fee (or let us know they’d like the fee waived) before attending their 1st dinner. However, if a Dinner Partier wants to bring someone along as their own personal support system, you can gently let them know that we really try to save seats for folks who have experienced a direct, personal loss themselves. This is both because of high demand for seats at a TDP table and because we’ve heard from Dinner Partiers in years past that it felt awkward having someone there who hadn’t experienced loss themselves. That being said, once you’re onboarded as a host, this is your table, and we want to empower you to make the decisions that work best for you so you’re always welcome to try it out. Another idea: some hosts hold an annual “partner/friend dinner” where partners and friends are invited to join the table, which is a nice way to include those who are grief-adjacent and important support systems in our lives.
Can I host my own table and participate at another?
If this feels good and right for you, you absolutely can, but we don’t recommend this as a sustainable practice (re: time, energy, and really, truly being able to support the table your host) for most. We try to have host gatherings and Happy Hours, Camp TDP, and other offerings as we can for hosts to get to take the host hat off and just be. And if you think you really need to just Dinner Party right now, you’re not alone. Check out this video from host Christina in Atlanta about how she transitioned from being a host to a Dinner Partier.
Do I have to pay membership?
As a host who’s volunteering your time to support your table, we don’t require you to pay the $35/year fee to join The Dinner Party. However, if you’d like to sponsor another Dinner Partier, you’re welcome to donate $35 here.
Do I have to host at my home?
To be totally honest, this answer has shifted and evolved over time. Our preference is that you host in your home to ensure privacy and so that your Dinner Party group can have a consistent and controlled meeting location that feels cozy and un-sterile. However, we also understand that loss often brings about life transitions -- living at home, living with roommates who aren’t great about this whole loss thing, etc. In this case, there are two options. 1. We can try to pair you with someone else who has a space and the two of you can be co-hosts! 2. You’re welcome to suggest a cozy and pre-scouted coffee shop or bar to at least have an initial meet and greet and get the ball rolling for your group. If the latter, you may want to eventually find a “home” for your group, whether yours or that of a Dinner Partier, but different things work for different groups.
Should I follow up with people hwo don't respond to my initial email or don't show up to the first dinner?
It’s super, super, super rare that everyone will respond to your initial email and be able to make it to the first scheduled dinner. Sometimes people reach out to us, only to realize they’re not ready for this. Other times, people are busy with their jobs, traveling, or they just miss the initial email in their inbox. You’re welcome to shoot folks an email after the first dinner saying “We missed you! Hope you’re able to join the next one” so you know their absence was noticed, but beyond that, we recommend that you let people come when they’re ready. With that said, after 3-4 dinners if there are folks on your list who you’ve still never heard from, we recommend sending one last email gauging their interest in being part of TDP. Something like, “Don’t want to overflow your inbox so let me know if you’re interested in joining a dinner in the future. Taking you off our list for now, but the door’s always open!” If you don’t hear from them within a week of sending your email, feel free to remove them from your email list, strikethrough their name on your table roster, and let us know if you’d like to open your table to new TDP’ers looking for a seat.