Log In

Reset Password

Respectfully Yours: Phone-free dinner

Dear Jacquelyn,

I am planning on hosting a large family dinner. Our family doesn’t get together often and I really want to spend time talking and catching up. The problem is that I am concerned some family members will be distracted by their cell phones. I would like for everyone to interact and make fun, new memories. How do I ask them to put away their cell phones?

Dear Reader,

Hosting a family dinner is a great opportunity to reconnect and is so important it should be done as often as possible.

Getting everyone interacting and contributing to conversation is possible and not as hard as you think. I do have some suggestions for taking the focus away from cell phones and to more important things as family.

To prevent startling dinner guests, set the stage from the beginning. In the invitation, announce the theme will be an old-fashioned dinner.

When your guests arrive, ask them to leave their cell phone in a basket you have strategically placed at the front door. You have already let them know ahead of time this is an old-fashioned dinner party, so they shouldn’t be shocked by the request.

Encouraging conversation will take some preplanning on your part. Plan some interactive games that will get everyone talking.

For example, you can create a list of questions that you hand out to everyone. Questions about where someone was born, biggest dream, and time of day someone was born are fun ways to have everyone interact.

Another fun way to encourage conversation is to use everyone’s baby pictures as their place card. I guarantee this will start dialogue.

Lastly, I suggest you consider an interactive meal. Provide a sit-down entrée, but incorporate a salad and dessert station. This will get people moving around, talking and participating.

Today’s electronically-connected world distracts and deprives us of the opportunity to speak face to face. We need to be creative and find ways around intrusive technology.

If it takes playing some games to pry people away from their cell phones and to strengthen family bonds, mission accomplished.

Respectfully Yours,


Have a question? Email: jacquelyn@ptd.net. Jacquelyn Youst is owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, specializing in etiquette training. She is on the board of the National Civility Foundation.

All Rights Reserved &Copy; 2019 Jacquelyn Youst