It is commonplace to live near family members among Latinx communities. Unfortunately,  I live in a town where the extent of my family connections are my husband and stepson. No big. We have created a “family circle” by forging excellent friendships. Our friends have become our family. These bonds developed through spending time together and establishing traditions. 
Among our favorite activities is the Family Dinner Party (FDP.) It is an excellent way to create camaraderie for your social circle or even extended family. The goal of the FDP is to focus on relationships rather than refined niceties. Thus, to enjoy its benefits, re-evaluate and reset your expectations of what a social gathering requires. To start an FDP tradition with your friends and family, consider the following three tips.  
Reduce work
The purpose of this party is to enjoy your circle of friends. But, it is hard to enjoy a party if you have a stack of dishes to wash afterward. A key to making this a tradition you want to uphold is to reduce work.
There are many ways to reduce the work. I use disposable dish-ware, divide cooking responsibilities, and sometimes take the fun outside.
It sounds controversial, I know. Your inner Martha Stewart cringes at the thought of using disposable dish-ware. After all, not only is it ugly, but it does not bode well for reducing your carbon footprint. I get all those arguments; but, hear me out. Life is about the people you have in it. People coming to your FDP are or should feel like family. They are not going to judge you. They shouldn’t. Besides, you have two choices. One, you can reduce the work and enjoy your party. Or, you can enjoy the perfect house and not party. When in doubt, party. Let it go, the fun will be worth it. Just be yourself… unless yourself is a clean freak perfectionist. Do your best for that moment and let go of the rest.
Another way to reduce the work? Divide the food responsibilities. This is an excellent way to reduce the work AND help others become invested in your party. People want to share some of themselves also. By giving them the ability to bring a side, you share not only the responsibility but the accolades for a delicious meal. If you are responsible for the main dish, ask others to bring sides, drinks or accompaniments.
One of my worries early on was ending up with a hodgepodge dinner. There was no reason to worry.  My friends brought sides that worked with my entrees once I let them know what the entree would be. You can assign people to help clean up afterward. Or do something simple like order takeout. Ask everyone to contribute towards its cost and enjoy your party.
Get everyone involved
To turn this activity into a tradition for your VIPs, make them feel involved. Essential. Start by inviting a small enough group that everyone can interact. Our core group began with fourteen people. Yours should be the size that feels right for you. Part of the fun is interacting with all your guests so starting small will help with that. Once everyone is participating in the tradition, you can add more guests. A bonus tip to getting everyone involved? Consider letting everyone vote on who is added to the group in the future.
The best way to make everyone feel essential? Greet each person as they arrive and spend a little time talking to everyone that attends.   Looking for more ways to get others involved? Suggest that others host, if they seem interested. Another option? Ask everyone to take turns designating and preparing the main entree.  
Create fun
Now that you have gotten everyone together, mix it up and have fun. Include time to socialize, communicate, and even compete. Add a board game night; interactive activities ensure participation and involvement. Not into board games? No worries. Consider your circle for inspiration and choose activities that appeal to your group. Are your friends movie buffs? Watch a movie together but add an interactive discussion afterward. In the summer, plan a croquet game and a cookout for a fabulous time.
Don’t have a yard to play croquet or a home large enough to have a group over? Don’t sweat it. There are still many ways that you can enjoy create traditions. Consider taking the party to a park, as appropriate. There will be plenty of activities for all involved. When the fun ends, you clean up your picnic space and go home to a clean house. Check out your city’s parks and recreations department. Many cities have community spaces available for public use. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy the process. The family dinner party is supposedto be fun and enriching. Don’t stress out and enjoy your crew.

If it sounds like fun to you, I encourage you to try it. If you do, don’t forget to report back and share your experience.

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