Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Throwing a Good Party

A few days ago we discussed how to attend a swanky party, but what if you're the one throwing it? It can be a daunting task, filled with responsibilities and what-ifs. What if people get bored? What if there's not enough food? There are great ways to avoid these problems and still have a great time at your own party.

Step one when deciding to throw a party is to decide what you want your theme to be. The theme doesn't have to be specific; it can be as simple as a cocktail party, or as particular as an Oscar party. Either way, it's important to have direction when picking things out for your event so that it all comes together seamlessly. Let's say you decide to have a cocktail party themed "A Night in Paris." Now that we've decided what kind of party it will be, we have to come up with a guest list. Jot down everyone you'd like to come, then decide how many people you can accomodate (consider the size of the space). Once you have those two numbers, do what you have to do to get them to match. Once your final guest list is decided, send out your invitations. The key to the invitation is to figure out what you expect of your guests, and then make it perfectly obvious on the invite. Obviously tell them the time, place and occasion, and what kind of party it is. They will make the decisions of what to wear, bring or do in preparation for the fete. This is also a good place to put down about when you want everyone to get out. People will make arrangements around your party, so that around the time that you've had enough party, people will be ready to move on. Once the invitations are out, start collecting RSVPs and think about your decorations.

Of course we'll want to have French decorations. A cheap, easy one is blue, white and red streamers that you can wind around bannisters, support beams and the like. Don't go too heavy on these, though, or else your party will look cheap, too. White, twinkly lights are a must to set the mood, but don't put them up like Christmas lights. Wind them around light fixtures, on the ceiling, in that fake ficus in the corner of your apartment. They don't belong around the door, so don't even think about it. The food table is where the decorating really has to get good, and a centerpiece is so old-fashioned. For inexpensive but cute party supplies, Oriental Trading simply can't be beat. You can get 25 of those plastic champagne flutes for $7, so not only do you have appropriate cups, but you don't have to worry about it getting broken. There are fun toothpicks for your snacks, themed plates and napkins, and of course, the piece de resistance, glass stars in the colors of the French flag. Scatter them around the table and you've got a festive setup. As for the food itself, consider either getting pre-made food or a caterer, for a bigger affair. If you're in the kitchen the whole night, you won't have any fun, and you could end up staining your outfit, which is not at all attractive. Also, make sure you order more food than you have people. More than enough is way better than not enough, and stick with the theme. For France, a variety of cheeses, and the accompanying fruts and crackers are a good start.

So, you've got a party together, but what are your guests going to do? A little mood music helps, but pick instrumentals, so it's a nice background and doesn't take away from conversations. There is some non-offensive French accordion music that would be a great background for just such a party. The main activities of the party will be people talking to each other, your greeting speech to the guests, and the food. For a fun diversion (and to help blossoming couples make small talk), have a do-it-yourself kind of activity out that people can try that will be a conversation point. This can be anything - oriental fortunes, a piece of art, or for our theme, leave open this book of traditional French songs. They will be an interesting thing to look at, and when your friends get drunk enough, they'll start singing them, and then you'll have made yourself a memorable party! The bottom line, your party will be good as long as you have fun and keep their plates and glasses full, and it will be a source of enjoyment for everyone.