The Truth Behind The “Perfect” Dinner Party

Not too long ago, I read an article in an issue of Bon Appetit about Mimi Thorisson, who publishes a blog called Manger. The magazine article included quite a few wonderful photographs of Mimi and her family preparing for and hosting a dinner party. (Here’s part of that article.)

It looked fabulous. In fact, it made most of my dinner parties look pretty awful.

Frankly, I wished I could host a dinner party like the one Mimi was hosting in the magazine, and I honestly doubted whether I could really pull it off.

Along with the article was, of course, a guide to making at least some of the elements work. The article suggested buying candles (with nice candlesticks) to aid with the lighting, “overdo” the flowers, serve the best possible wine and bread, and so on.

In other words, most of the suggestions involved spending money or spending absurd amounts of time.

Those are the easy answers. They’re not really the key to having this kind of beautiful dinner party.

There’s also another element going on here – and it’s something that I’m even guilty of myself sometimes on The Simple Dollar. The photos and the specific stories from the article are carefully selected to create an amazing picture, and there’s a ton of work going on (and a ton of failures) that you don’t see.

What you do see is gorgeous scenes. What you don’t see is that 99 out of 100 of the photos didn’t turn out so well.

What you do see is an amazing dinner on the table. What you didn’t see is Mimi or her husband accidentally dropping a loaf of bread or a side dish in the kitchen, ruining it.

What you do see is perfect lighting. What you don’t see is the light poles off to the side that amp up the lighting.

What you do see is beautiful people. What you don’t see is the video and photo editing that goes on behind the scenes to make them shine.

What you do see is an amazing dinner party. What you don’t see is that most of their meals are ordinary meals around the kitchen table.

All of this is on top of the work that Mimi and her family put into that dinner party. There was unquestionably a lot of thought and effort and preparation that went into that setup.

Whenever you see a video or an article or an ad or a television show that depicts a “lifestyle” that you wish that you had, keep those things in mind. It’s made to look wonderful, but it’s not products that make that magic. Usually, it’s a ton of setup work. It’s lighting. It’s often people that look better than average and are made up and digitally edited to look even better. It’s also a ton of additional planning and preparation.

Whenever you see such a thing, don’t respond by feeling bad about yourself, because that often leads to looking for a way to “rebound” from that feeling, often with a purchase. Respond instead by being impressed with the hard work of the people who made that image or that article.

That’s because, in the end, hard work is the key to making anything amazing. It’s not products. It’s not throwing money around. It’s about taking a hundred pictures to get that perfect image. It’s about spending several hours to make that perfect dish. It’s about carefully planning and taking care of the little details.

You can’t spend money to get these things – at least, not in any realistic or consistent way. You can only spend time and passion.

A product won’t make you have the life you dream about. Hard work and preparation are the paths to success.

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