Entertaining Made Easy: 10 Ways to Throw a Successful Party

Entertaining Made Easy: 10 Ways to Throw a Successful Party

Do Not Be Afraid to Invite a Circus

Mix as many generations, professions, neighborhoods, and incomes that you can. As a host you are suddenly serving others. Nigella Lawson of The Style Network’s Nigella Bite says: “I enjoy having a mix of old and new friends as well as adults.” Pat Towers, ‘s features director and renowned party hostess, always brings a wild card to the table. She says that when a new element is introduced into the familiar, people are stimulated and on their toes. Then we can see each other’s best qualities and remember why we love one another.

Upend the Party Formula

Ilene Rosenzweig is co-author, with fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, of the humorous decorating guide Home Swell Home, published by Atrium. Make something unexpected happen. For my boyfriend Rick’s birthday, who loves mac and cheese, I bought ten different kinds of mac and cheese from local restaurants. “We voted for the best.” Rosenzweig’s other idea on the topic: Play games. You could have a Ping Pong tournament before the dinner or a game of Two Truths and a Lie afterwards (you make three statements and everyone votes to determine which one is a lie). No china or glasses are allowed at a paper-only party. Use pages from a hot novel as placemats.

Give Your Guests Something to Do

The majority of people enjoy playing an active part at a party. This impulse can be used to your advantage. Bryan Rafanelli is an event planner from Boston. He says, “I put together a group of friends; I call them the hospitality team.” I give each person someone to get to know, and to look after. The larger the party, and the more people in the hospitality team. You might ask your friends to clear the plates or pour drinks.

The Music Matters

Hire a DJ or, says Rafanelli, just play these five albums over and over: Rafanelli suggests hiring a DJ, or playing these five albums repeatedly:

  • After Playboy Mansion by Dimitri (Paris) (“Great pop, loungey and cool”)
  • Samba Soul – (Cocktail – not a true samba)
  • Ultra-Chilled 01 (A house-like feel but sophisticated enough that you won’t get turned off if you are 55)
  • Koop’s Waltz By Koop (Remixed waltzes that sound dreadful but are actually pretty cool)
  • Verve remixed (Modern twist to jazz classics)

Embrace Wretched Excess

It’s boring to run out. It’s more fun to have more. Elizabeth Allen, a Manhattan and Boston-based event planner, says that if you cannot afford a full-service bar, then serve red and white wine and a novelty drink.

Ignore the Last Tip

Give guests no choice at all if your party is small. Amanda Hesser is a New York Times Food Writer and the Author of The Cook and the Gardener. She says that people are creatures by habit but will try something new if they’re introduced. Hesser prefers Kir Royales, which are Kir Royales with creme de cassis added to champagne. She does not serve hors-d’oeuvres. She says, “I want to make my guests hungry for dinner.”

Plan Your Bar

Katie Brown, the lifestyle expert of The Style Network suggests that you set up three self-serve bar: a Cosmopolitan, a Cosmopolitan vodka, and a wine bar. Alexandra and Eliot Angle, authors of Cocktail Parties With a Twist and event designers, like to gussy-up a novelty bar by setting a small table with a pitcher, for example, Green Tea Collins Mix, vintage glassware, garnishes, and instructions on how the cocktail is made.

Seat Your Guests Properly and Know Who They Are

Rena Sindi is a party-lover and author of Be My Guest: Theme Parties Savoir-Faire. You want to make sure everyone gets the best seats. I don’t put couples or best friends together. Preston Bailey, author of Preston Bailey’s Design for Entertaining, (Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown and Company), enjoys a dinner for 20 people at a large, long refectory. He switches seats at each course. He says, “I like having many courses.” “Instead, of three courses, I have eight.” “All that movement really gets people talking.”

How to Set Up Your Stage

Lighting is the key to make everyone look sexy and good. No overhead lighting. Serena Bass is a Manhattan event planner, and owner of New York’s Serena Bar & Lounge. She says votives are the best because you can use many of them without making your party appear like a séance. I like to use three groups of four votives for a large table and sets of four elsewhere. You don’t need to use flowers on the table. Colin Cowie (author of Dining After Dark, Clarkson Potter) likes to use large bowls filled with oranges and eggplants as centerpieces. He also uses coconuts, limes, and kiwis. Nigella Lawson also likes lemons, but she prefers to serve them alone. She points out that you can see through them and there is no smell to interfere with your food.

Cede Control

Pat Towers says that dinner is often served late at her home, which can actually be a positive thing. “I’m not very organized and I keep disappearing to the kitchen.” It forces people to interact with each other.


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