Friday, August 1, 2008

I like hosting parties. I like mixing drinks, ensuring nary a glass runs dry, monitoring the comfort and enjoyment of all. I like creating party-specific playlists, music mixes that might satisfy each person on the guest list. I like setting the scene and choosing a signature beverage. I like greeting and introducing friends who haven't met yet. That kind of thing.

Someone asked me yesterday if I'm able to have fun at my own parties: I think I can, but I definitely go into Party Planner Mode, and it becomes almost a business, the overseeing of an event such as this. If I could get away with a clipboard, I likely would. Perhaps it's a dormant desire to be Jennifer Lopez, I'm not sure, but, for me, this is fun.

I got to thinking: I know I'm a good customer - Never needing too much help in the fitting room, always a good tipper at the end of a meal - and people tell me I'm a good host. But am I a good guest? What moves someone to the top of the invite list? And what moves them off of it altogether? Let's investigate.

1) Show up at the proper time. Where possible, I think people should arrive remotely near the start time indicated on the invitation. Sometimes the party has a plan, a storyline, if you will, and it's important that the host has some control over that. Also, a party that happens in waves never really gets its legs - If 10 people arrive late as 10 others are leaving, the natural energy shifts. This can be detrimental and disappointing to the host and to the overall success of the party.

2) Don't come empty-handed. I couldn't imagine going to someone's house without something. While a bottle of wine is absolutely great, I'm thinking it's time to expand my own horizons by bringing something more exciting. Maybe you know the host well, and they mentioned a distinct and frustrating lack-of-melon-baller situation. That would be thoughtful. Never expect the host to serve what you have brought. If you're anxious for them to enjoy that spankin' fresh Beaujolais with you, bring two. For advanced users: If you know the host well, always give them a quick call before you arrive to ensure they don't need anything. Sometimes whiskey goes down faster than first anticipated and the signature drink could be at-stake. Friends don't let friends run dry.

3) Survey the room. Decide where you fit in. Don't insinuate yourself into a group that appears overly familiar or invested in their conversation - If they are a group who met in high school, you might not want to get stuck in a reunion-chat. Boring and awkward for everyone. Allow your host to introduce you to a pair or a group that might work - If your host has done his work, he'll already have a place in-mind for someone like you.

4) What kind of party is this? Figure out where you are. If there aren't teenage girls drinking Labatt 50 on the stairs, you're not at a frat party. If there aren't Greek symbols on the door, you're not at a frat party. Do not treat any party like a frat party unless it is, indeed, a frat party. If you get your first drink from the host, assume all subsequent drinks will arrive in your hands that way. Unless you're a close, intimate friend of the host, it is in bad taste to get drunk and start playing bartender. I think the term I'm looking for is douchebag.

4) Be a polite conversationalist. It's hard to explain basic social skills, so if they don't come naturally, perhaps look into a class at The Learning Annex. Don't talk about yourself too much (Yes, I recognize the irony in this; blogging itself so deeply narcissistic.) Allow others to inquire rather than imposing yourself upon a relative-stranger. Speak at a normal volume. Don't discuss hot button issues - No host or bystander wants to see a Rosie-Elizabeth-debacle erupt in the dining room. Avoid the obvious: religion, politics, and circumcision. If a conversation with another guest is stalling, use any number of great excuses to move on. Do not beat a dead horse or cling to the hope of making this work. Move on. The party depends on it.

5) Know when to leave. If your host is extinguishing candles or donning a sleep mask, you've overstayed.

A party is only as good as its guests, so if I haven't taken the fun out of it, please do enjoy attending your next function. And the fall season is just around the corner, so why not try the delicious Ginger Snap Martini pictured below.

(My signature holiday beverage, December 2007)


  1. Good advice. I'm sure I've violated a few of these in my day.

  2. Thomas of Washington DCAugust 1, 2008 at 1:47 PM

    Love, love, love.

    Gotta try that ginger snap martini!!!

  3. friends don't let friends run dry!
    bah! so true.

  4. While I agree with the balance of your advice, I must question #1.

    I was invited to a party in my early 20s ... one of the first of the "grown up" sort where the host provides stemware, that sort of thing. The invitation said "8:00pm." Knowing that nobody shows up when the invitation says, we decided to show up at 8:30 instead.

    The hostess answered the door in a skirt and bra (and no, it wasn't THAT kind of party). She was visibly annoyed, and told us to go buy mix and not come back until 9:30 at the very earliest.

    I asked her later, and she explained that 8pm really means 10pm. One to grow on.

  5. Well, obviously she was an asshole.

  6. Ha ha ... no, she's lovely, really, but she definitely grew up with a different set of social rules.

  7. I want to publicly apologize for showing up empty handed to a party in your backyard Summer 2006.

    i refuse to make excuses during an apology. so that's it ... I'm sorry I did it. I felt awful and from time to time I think about.


  8. Greetings! My name is Michelle and I wandered into your blog space via a friend on LJ. However I need to say that you are amazing and that I agree with you 100%.

    At the risk of sounding like my mother (a proud member of the cocktail party generation), it is refreshing to see that some people still have good manners. (And, no, I am not over 40!) Seriously, though, many people take parties far too lightly and it is important to remember how difficult it is on the host.

    As to being late, I am a firm believer in communication there. Yes, there are times when one KNOWS that they will be late. For example, my husband is a classical musician and sometimes has a gig. So I let the host know and, essentially, ask permission: "I'm sorry, Andrew is playing with X and we cannot be there at 8:00PM. COuld we still stop by later in the evening?"

    And arriving empty handed is simply rude. The same is true for houseguests. Always, ALWAYS bring a hostess (host) gift!

  9. Hah!
    Thanks Michelle!
    I think your suggestion about calling is great - Let the host let you know when would be too late to bother! That happened at the very party that inspired this entry! (I said: "If you'll be later than midnight, I wouldn't bother trekking all this way!")

    Thanks for reading!!

  10. I'm all for letting people get their own drinks but I'm a big fan of #5... I hate having to suggest that people get a move on out!

    If the invite said the party goes until 12, and it's 1, and everyone else is gone... hello??