Throwing a party takes practice. And it can be stressful!
The good news is that there are some things we can do to alleviate the stress and worry.
This post was inspired by my friend, Carrie.
Carrie told me she loves to cook for others but throwing a party "can be a little anxiety provoking."
Below are some of the worries many of us have experienced when launching our party plans.
Now, dinner parties are a bit different from your basic open-house type of party.
You can't really just "wing it" when throwing a dinner party. You need to know how many people you're feeding. Right?
So dinner parties require tighter control on guest lists and a little more "choreographing" as far as the flow of the evening goes. But because they are typically a smaller event having closer control isn't so difficult.
Will they come?
Ahhhh, yes. An important question.
Get your invitations out a week or two beforehand and make sure the invite is clear that you're having a small dinner party.
Your guests (assuming they have half a brain) will realize they need to let you know whether or not they'll be there.
If you don't hear from them, they probably got sidetracked. Follow up with them to get an honest accept or regret. Sometimes people don't put 2 and 2 together to understand that you need to know how many people you are shopping for.
No big deal if they can't attend -- just move on without them or invite others in their place.
Completely different story if they say they'll attend and then don't show up. Unless there was an unexpected emergency, that's just bad manners and the fault lies with them, not you.
Take note and move on.
Will they stay long enough/too long?
I love when my guests linger, but with a dinner party, I shouldn't expect them to linger too long after dessert/coffee.
If I'm hoping to extend the evening (and I usually am!), I'll stretch out the cocktail/appetizer hour and/or stretch out the time before serving dessert.
Or I can even make sure to have an activity to entertain them and keep them there (thank you Cards Against Humanity!). The last thing I want, however, is to make my guests stay out of obligation or guilt. If they are ready to go, we bid them farewell and let them know how thankful we are that they were able to attend.
I have to say, though, we've thrown parties (not sit-down dinner parties but margarita-flowing-Cinco-de-Mayo parties) where the bulk of our guests departed after only 3 hours.
You mean to tell me we purchased and cooked all that food and alcohol, cleaned and decorated the house, screamed at our daughters because they weren't doing their share, and you're leaving just when the party is supposed to get going? Now we have to clean up and deal with all the leftovers?!
Three hours of socializing was definitely not worth all the time, money and effort we put into the evening.
We love it when our guests linger because that means they are having a wonderful time! Our last "party-party" (not "dinner party") went until close to 3 in the morning. I was exhausted and my feet hurt, but it was so worth all the effort we put into that evening!
However . . . for those guests who linger longer than they should, consider yourself lucky and let them start helping you clean!
Once clean up is finished and you're sure they are safe to drive, let them know you're exhausted from all the party prep and would love to continue visiting but can't keep your eyes open.
I try to tough it out until midnight, though! I figure after midnight, I won't be out of line if I start gently nudging our guests towards the door.
Politics and Angry Guests
I'm thinking we all know which of our friends is bound to cause trouble.
The guest list is your first opportunity to mitigate the potential damage. Choose a group who will get along. Another tactic might be to invite new people. Sometimes our friends who like to ruffle feathers will be on their best behavior with people they are meeting for the first time . . .
There are many other ways to minimize the negatives, even if you must invite those people who are rusty with their party etiquette.
How about making a "game" of the off-limits topics? Give your guests 5 "penalty cards." Anytime they start on an off-limits topic, the person they are speaking with gets to confiscate one of the penalty cards. When their penalty cards are gone, they have to stand in the corner for a certain period of time. Person with the most penalty cards at the end of the evening gets a prize.
You know your guests best. Sometimes it's easier just to invite people who get along. And, as a host, you can try to steer the conversation away from dangerous areas.