Humans are defined by their need for other people. Regardless of one’s age, relationship status, socioeconomic standing, career track, or education, we all need friends. But sometimes the same old Happy Hour at the same old haunt begins to feel a little repetitious. Even simply trying new restaurants can start to feel old (and can get expensive!). Also, as life changes, sometimes the same old routines become impossible. Marriages, children, and different schedules can make “the good old days” simply a distant memory. Creating new, fun contexts in which to spend time with people can be a wonderful way to create new rich memories.
I’ve also been struck by how many of my friends have set out to intentionally meet new people and spend time in new social contexts this year. The same principle applies – if you keep doing the same thing and spending time at the same place, you’ll continue to see the same people. If your goal is to meet new people this year, you need to change your routine.
I read a lot of entertaining blogs and am blessed to be surrounded by a lot of creative, social friends, and I’m always impressed by the fresh, fun ideas for parties and social gatherings.
So here is a collection – all in one place – of 15 creative (and fairly low-maintenance) ways to connect with other people, strengthen old friendships, and make new ones. These ideas can easily be modified to fit the needs and schedules of couples in a new city, moms trying to meet other moms, singles trying to reach outside their regular network, or social butterflies who just want more friends.
1. Host a mini-progressive dinner party. Serve appetizers and wine and then head out together to attend a play, movie, or concert. Short on picnic blankets? Use these tablecloths for the table and then use them for a picnic blanket later on in the evening.
2. Identify a day and time in the week when it is consistently easy for you to host. Mentally reserve that time and have a new person or group of people over each week. Saturday brunch not really your thing? Try Sunday lunch.
3. Host a blind dinner party. Invite 4-6 friends over for dinner (fewer could potentially be awkward and more might be too overwhelming). The caveat? Each of your guests is required to bring another friend along that no one else in the group knows. This can be a great way to meet new people and blend networks!
4. Discouraged by the cold weather? Host a chili party. Chili and cornbread are fairly easy to make and can feed a crowd. As the host or hostess, you won’t have to spend the entire evening watching the meal and will have the freedom to relax and mingle. Want to make it more interesting? Ask a few friends to bring a pot of their favorite chili. Have a taste-off!
5. Share dessert. Invite 5-7 acquaintances over and ask that everyone bring their favorite, homemade dessert. Simply provide the wine. Hosting dessert is often less intimidating than arranging an entire dinner party; also, it’s often easier for guests to commit to a couple of hours after dinner than to an entire evening. Purchase a few of these awesome tablecloths in advance to make cleanup a breeze.
6. Host a baking party. Ask everyone to bring a favorite recipe for cookies or another baked good, along with any specialty ingredients. As the host or hostess, you simply need to provide the flour, eggs, and oven.
7. Sign up for a cooking class with a friend. You’re guaranteed to learn something and you know everyone in the room is interested in the same thing!
8. Gather 2 or 3 friends who like to read. Pick a book, set a deadline, and organize a book discussion. The caveat? Again, everyone has to recruit another friend that no one else knows to participate. Here are a few titles to get you started:
- Chasing Slow (for a non-fiction)
- The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (for a funny, lighthearted fiction)
- Hillbilly Elegy (for current/political events)
9. Plan a hike, a visit to some local wineries, or an afternoon at a nearby beach and encourage friends to invite their friends and co-workers.
10. Initiate a local photography project. For instance, the goal could simply be “30 photos of our city in 30 days.” (To increase visibility, create a hashtag for the event.) Encourage friends to tell their networks about it and to publicize their project on Instagram and Twitter. At the end of the project, invite everyone who participated over for a time of wine and snacks to share the results!
11. Find a local outdoor concert or play and gather a group of people to picnic together and attend. The only rule? Everyone has to bring a dish to share.
12. Arrange a reglar BYOB backyard Happy Hour. Set a regular date (say, the third Thursday of every month) and take turns hosting. Invite friends, acquaintances, and co-workers as the opportunity arises. Soon your new tradition will be a favorite!
13. Pick an outdoor activity that you enjoy like running or biking. Set aside a regular time every week or month to participate with friends who also enjoy the activity. Create an “open-door” environment so that friends feel comfortable inviting others to participate whenever the opportunity arises. Soon you’ll have a fully-fledged running/biking/walking/jogging club!
14. Gather other local bloggers for an evening or afternoon of sharing ideas, inspiration, and disaster stories.
15. Enlist the help of two or three energetic, creative friends and have a dressy, multi-course dinner party. Invite as many friends as you can seat, and insist that everyone bring a date or a friend. Everyone has fun dressing up! (And at the end, if you used your magical tablecloths you can simply throw them into the washer for easy clean-up!)