As I sit down to put pen to paper I have just finished planning and orchestrating the biggest party I have ever done! My son Ian graduated last week and his graduation party was on Sunday. I have been planning this party for months. This party was as much for me as it was for him. It was my way of saying thank you to all the people that have loved and supported him through his impressionable years. I used all my expertise from years of parties that I have planned and hosted and it really was a culmination of everything I have learned and I know to be true. So, I will try to tell you what I know and what I think to be true about entertaining at home.
I have been married for close to twenty five years and my husband Kent and I have been entertaining for all those years. I can still remember some of the first parties we had. One in particular stands out, as I remember someone spilling red wine on my white carpet, one little spot. I was so stressed out and worked on that spot during the party, so obsessed that my carpet had a stain. Oh my, have I come a long way since then!
Entertaining isn’t for everyone, but big or small there are certain things that I think are important. Most important on my list is: don’t strive for perfect! Perfection makes for a boring party and the strife that perfection can cause is felt by everyone at the party and anyone who is a part of the event. Don’t do it, because you squelch the essence of a good party; you squelch FUN! Secondly, don’t fret the things you can’t control. This is a tough one to attain. It is so easy to fret and fret and fret about things that you just cannot control and trust me I have been there and just recently learned a wonderful lesson. As I stated earlier, I just hosted a big party for my son’s graduation. A week before the party, I was sitting on the couch, with Ian next to me and my daughter sitting in the near- by chair doing homework. Ian asked, “Mom, what is the weather supposed to be like for my party?” I answered, “I am sorry to say it is supposed to rain and not be so nice; I have been up nights worrying about it!” There was a little silence and then he responded, “I haven’t even batted an eye.” Well, I fell into a fit of laughter! That comment from my son was the biggest reality check I have had in a long time. He hadn’t even batted an eye. I went to bed laughing and my attitude about the party was forever changed. He hadn’t even batted an eye!!! As I see so often: LOL!!! So, don’t fret the things you can’t control. Be as prepared as you can be and have a plan B if you need to but otherwise don’t fret it; it is what it is.
Be welcoming. The biggest compliment I can get is that someone felt welcome in my home. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable in my home then I have not done my job. It’s ok to have rules, trust me I have had rules all along, but the party should not be all about rules. Many times I have gathered everyone around and stated my expectations and rules and then went on to enjoy the gathering. If you want people to take off your shoes, then tell them. If you want them to hang up their towel after they swim then tell them. If the hostess is happy everyone is happy! Use the space of your home and incorporate preparation and clean up into the party. I don’t really do formal gatherings and so many of our gatherings and parties are all about the pre-preparation, preparation and sometimes clean-up. It’s about the time you all spend together, that’s what really counts and participation promotes togetherness. Togetherness is welcoming.
Make it personal. Guests love to feel a part of something. For most of my bigger parties and events I always incorporate pictures and videos. I have hosted an annual July 4th party for the last 15 years. We have games and contests and just plain fun. But the most important thing I do is fill every space I have with pictures. Old pictures, new pictures, funny pictures, and pictures of those friends that are no longer with us. PICTURES. There is nothing like pictures to make a party personal. I print large photos and mount them on foam board and attach a stake and then stake pictures around everywhere. You can’t imagine how people love to look. A video of pictures sure does the trick too. I know I keep talking about Ian’s graduation party, but I had pictures everywhere and included pictures of almost everyone in attendance. Here is what I saw: a grown man crying as he was looking through the picture book and saw so many memories with his own son, a group of young kids gathered around a TV watching a video of many memories they had been a part of, a young boy looking at a picture book, counting the pictures that he was in, as to verify his importance in my son’s life. Pictures… nothing else makes it more personal. It works and it’s important for any and all gatherings.
There is no I in TEAM. As I stated earlier my husband and I have been married a long time and we have entertained together. One of his irritating mottos is “There is no I in TEAM.” I have to admit though, that it is so true. I don’t care who you employ to be your team member, but having someone a part of your party planning and execution is important. It can be intimidating to entertain and so, support is necessary. Divide up the duties. Know your strengths and divide and conquer!!! There may be screaming and fighting initially but it gets better, trust me!
Enjoy it or don’t do it. Entertaining is very personal and it is work. Entertaining takes effort and takes time and takes passion. And if you don’t want to do it, it won’t be a good party. So, entertain because you want to.
Bottom line: ENJOY AND IF APPROPRIATE, INCLUDE WINE!