We enthusiastically agree – weeks in advance – to make an appearance at a party, only to wake up on the day of the party and spend hours brainstorming believable excuses to flake. But in a world where some fun is – in fact – mandatory, why would we ever run full speed and arms flailing away from optional fun?
Some reasons I’ve entertained for flaking include: I won’t know anyone aside from the hostess, and she’ll be busy; I couldn’t find a babysitter; I had nothing to wear; I was trying to lose weight and knew the chips and queso would be too tempting; and – the best nine month excuse – pregnancy. But how annoying is it when people flake? As a hostess, I hate it, which is why I try not to bail on a party unless something does truly come up – unfortunately motherhood comes with a world of legitimate excuses, so sorry to anyone I’ve stood up in the last 2 ½ years.
For all of you hosting a party in these dog days of summer, boost the “curb appeal” of your party to discourage flakers, and pay attention to the party trifecta: atmosphere, sustenance and company to keep your guests hanging around as long as you’d like.
Yes, I know that curb appeal refers to the appearance of your home from the street, but I’m going green and recycling it. Very simply, if your party sounds exciting, guests will want to come. If there are too few details, or the available details make your party sound like a snooze-fest, it’s likely that you’ll receive a flood of text messages the day of the party with excuses ranging from, “My kid is puking,” to “My husband might be calling from Afghanistan sometime in the next 48 hours, and I don’t want to miss it.”
Whether through a formal invitation or word of mouth, keep guests in the loop. Let them know where you’ll be – indoors or out, what you’ll be eating and drinking, who will be there – including kids or no kids and what you’ll be celebrating – even if that reason is just because it’s Saturday (again). Be enthusiastic when inviting your guests; it’s contagious.
The perfect party trifecta
Atmosphere. The atmosphere of your party doesn’t have to scream, “I wasted a month’s salary on cheesy decor.” If you enjoy it, decorate to your heart’s content; just consider using what you have on hand or purchasing decorations you’ll reuse. But all the decorations in the world can’t make a successful party. Building the right atmosphere can be – gasp – free!
- Create a playlist with music you already own, or tune into a free, customizable Internet radio station. Keep the songs upbeat and recognizable. If you have kiddos in attendance, watch out for those sneaky cuss words.
- Arrange seating to encourage conversation between guests and between you and your guests. If you’re cooking and your kitchen is closed off from the rest of your house, prep ahead of time to limit your time away from the fun.
- Have activities available, but avoid the child’s birthday party-like scheduling of games – “Gather ‘round! It’s time for pin the tail on the donkey!” Games should be optional and readily available in case guests get bored.
- Make guests feel comfortable! If you tell your guests to make themselves at home, you better mean it! But constantly checking on everyone is exhausting, so if you’re a lazy hostess like I am, make sure everyone knows where to find food, drinks, games and, yes, the bathroom on their own, so that everyone feels comfortable.
Sustenance. If you want a room full of people to turn on you, just deprive them of food and drinks. Even party guests who aren’t especially hungry or thirsty tend to reach for hors d’oeuvres – more commonly called “chips and dip” at my house – and a drink just to occupy their hands and give them something to do if a conversation starts circling the drain. Food and drinks are like a security blanket at a party, and if you’ve ever tried to take an actual security blanket away from a child, you know you’re in for an apocalyptic tantrum.
So what do you give this hungry mass of people? It’s hot during the summer; do everyone a favor and don’t touch the oven. Instead, reach for seasonal fruits, veggie trays, cold dips or other finger foods. If you plan on serving a meal, fire up the grill. It’s already hot outside, so what harm could a little extra heat do?
Be sensitive to special diets – a meat buffet does not a happy vegetarian make. And remember if you’ve included kids on your guest list, they are notoriously picky and messy eaters – barbeque sauce at your own risk. And, if you think you have enough food and beverages, buy more because if you’re planning on your guests hanging around beyond mealtime, they will get hungry again before they leave.
Company. This is simple; invite those people you truly want to be there. Avoid drama by excluding people that bring it with them. People always feel more comfortable when they arrive with someone – it’s weird, but true. If you can, allow guests to bring a date or a friend if they ask; it’s just the nice thing to do.
Kids dramatically change the vibe of a party. As a mom, I can vouch that this isn’t necessarily a good thing or bad thing – it’s just a fact. Accommodate kids by having kid-friendly games, toys, food and drinks on hand. If you are throwing an adults only soiree, say so, and be blunt – don’t expect guests to pick up on subtlety.
Make your parties the ones that people look forward to versus look forward to leaving. Make sure your guests enjoy themselves, and that you have time to kick up your heels and relax, too. Isn’t that what the lazy days of summer are all about?