As the author of The 2AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure and founder of the Influencers Dinner, the secret dining experience attended by Nobel Laureates, Olympic medalists, celebrities, comedians, Academy Award winners, famous musicians and even members of royalty, I am often asked for advice on hosting.

Photo by Gabby Phi

The fact is everyone wants their dinners to be epic and truly noteworthy experiences. We want everyone in attendance to feel privileged to be there and those who couldn’t, fight to get into the next one. For some, that may be a $1,000 per plate dinner at Noma, the renowned Danish restaurant once ranked #1 in the world.

But, if you are anything like me when I was in college, that’s completely out of your budget so I had to be more creative.

I have learned a thing or two about what makes a great dinner party, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune or be luxurious. In fact, at my dinner parties, the guests have to cook me dinner.

1. It's All About Curation

avocado, egg, tomato, sandwich, cheese, bacon
Photo by Gabby Phi

You can have the greatest food in the world, but if you are sitting with a miserable human being, that meal will be excruciatingly bad. 

The most crucial ingredients are your guests. Personally, I try to have a balanced gender ratio, but there is nothing wrong with having a girls or boys night in. I also focus on diversity. I want people to have a common bond but come from different backgrounds, it allows for interesting conversation.

2. Explore

Photo by Sarah Silbiger

A dinner party doesn’t need to happen in a living room or a dining room. Be creative. Nothing is stopping you from having a meal in a wild place place that will get people curious. I’ve heard of parties inside water towers, in the middle of the park, or even at the library. Nothing is stopping you from having a BYOC Party - bring your own chair. At diner en blanc, guests have to bring their own food, plates, lights, chairs, tables, etc and it all has to be white.

3. Use Your Constraints to Your Advantage

milk, alcohol, ice, sweet, wine, berry, cream, strawberry
Photo by Michael Ball

When I was in college, I didn't always have the money to take girls out on expensive dates. Instead, I would turn it into a game. I’d say: What if we can only spend 20 dollars the entire night, and we have to have drinks? How are we going to accomplish it?

If budget is a constraint for you, use it to your advantage. What if you sent a group of friends to the supermarket and told them that we could cook anything they we want for dinner, but the total bill had to be under $50. This constraint would force you to be very creative in the way you create your meal.

4. Have a Signature to Your Events

Photo by Jenna Hively

My events are famous for the guests not being allowed to discuss what they do or even give their last name. When guests sit to eat, they take turns guessing each person's career. This serves as a fun and intriguing game.

What is a unique signature that you could develop for your dinners that would make them stand out and make your evening more fun? Maybe every dinner is followed by board games. Possibly there is a shared playlist that the guests have to create before they attend so they are exposed to new music. Another option is to make it a potluck where everyone has to bring a food from their country or a recipe that they’ve never had before.

5. Don't Worry Too Much About the Food It Can Still Be an Extraordinary Dinner

sweet potato, kale, vegetable, broccoli
Photo by Megan Prendergast

Research by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, found that people don’t recall the duration of pleasure or pain. Instead, we disproportionately value the peaks of an experience and how they end. This means that if you can end on a positive and unique note, guests will remember that disproportionately. Instead of spending a fortune on each course serve something towards the end that stands out. You could serve a flavor tripping buffett, color changing cocktails, or finish it off with a flaming dessert.

Uncover more secrets to living a fun exciting and remarkable life in my book The 2AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure.