Dinner parties are a great way to gather community and stay connected during the winter months. Friends getting together, home-cooked meals, and not leaving your house: it’s a perfect event to begin with. But we’ve got a few creative ideas on how to add an extra layer of fun to the next dinner party you throw. And no, it’s not just by serving Alexian Pâté.

Bring A Friend No One Else Knows

We first stumbled across this idea via @right.eye.studios on TikTok, and we LOVE the sound of it. On your invitation, indicate that guests should bring a friend no one else in the group would know. Think coworkers, pals from volunteering, and neighbors. There will be plenty of fresh faces at the event, which will encourage mingling! Remember that nervous excitement you used to have on the first day of school? This is that, all grown up.

Easy-Mode Mystery Party

Everyone loves a mystery party, and with the release of the latest Knives Out movie, they’re more popular than ever! However, setting up a mystery requires prep work, and you’re already busy enough with cooking and hosting. Try this easy-mode mystery method instead: Encourage guests to come dressed as classic mystery characters. Between Clue, Glass Onion, and Enola Holmes, they’ll have plenty of inspiration. Then, write down a few kinda-difficult questions and place them in a small bowl. Make sure the questions are tougher than trivia, but not rocket science. Kick off the evening with one question, and have your guests try to figure out the answer in character and without Google. As the night goes on, guests can draw more questions at-will and consult the knowledge-keeper (AKA you) for hints!

Indoor Picnic

This idea comes from @hanselkai, the Tik Tok dinner party queen. If your home is too small for a large dinner table, lean into the bohemian vibes and throw a picnic party! Clear furniture from the center of your space and throw down a gingham blanket or sheet– any thrift store will have one. Add a bright bouquet for a centerpiece and arrange pillows and clean towels as seating. Serve a menu of sweet but hearty picnic fare: mini cheese plates, pâté sliders, and fruit. With this springtime setup, you can escape winter, if just for an evening.

Micro-Gallery Opening

If you’re part of an artistic friend group, this one’s for you! Send your friends a formal invitation to submit their work for display at a “local micro-gallery.” About a week before the party, gather your talented pals’ paintings, drawings, collages, sculptures, and writing. Display everything around your apartment in cheap frames and write small labels interpreting their work. On the big night, set up a few food stations serving charcuterie, hors d’œuvres, and of course, champagne. Your friends will have an incredible night of mingling, snacking, and affirming each other’s artistic achievements. Bonus points for if you set up a corner for live poetry readings!

Dinner and a Movie

This one may be obvious, but our list wouldn’t be complete without it. Invite your friend or boo over for an intimate, one-night-only restaurant opening, AKA: Your living room. Cook something simple, but go all out with the decor. Adorn your little bistro table or nightstand with a nice tablecloth, splurge on an adorable vase, break out the fancy wine glasses, and offer a handwritten menu. With some mood lighting and a Parisian soundtrack, this setup rivals a busy restaurant any day. And of course, cap the night with a movie of your date’s choice. They don’t have that at Lombardi’s!