Up until two years ago, I was renting. There’s not a lot of room in an apartment for a party, and there’s not a lot of people that enjoy going to parties in an apartment as small as mine was. I bought a condo and had a couple of parties with a larger crowd, but I’ve never been able to imitate the parties held by my friends who had houses. I’ve observed that the people who held the most successful parties had some things in common, and I really admire all of them for it.
1. Have a Theme
Maureen has her Mad Hatter Party annually at the end of August. It’s called the Mad Hatter Party because everyone is required to wear a hat, the goofier the better. Clay’s annual Halloween party is 50’s themed and guests are encouraged to dress accordingly, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do that. Jason is theme-mad, and most of his parties include some type of dress-up event. Although I don’t remember the circumstances, I wore an evening gown to one and a goth-artist getup to another. Themes make your invitation memorable, because guests might actually have to take a couple of steps to be ready for it, like hitting a thrift store or gag shop.
2. Cast a Wide Net
Chris’s house parties were open to anyone who had seen a flyer. If you were a friend of a friend of Clay’s, you could come to his Halloween party. Maureen’s Mad Hatter party was a given for anyone in Cartoonists Northwest. Most of the people you invite won’t go. Open invitations are the best invitations and the surest way to avoid a low show-rate.
3. Liquor is Quicker
Clay stocked plenty of beer and encouraged others to bring theirs, plus anything else they had on hand. Maureen and Kristen never fell short on wine. And at parties sponsored by the two Jason’s, liquor was just out. Help yourself. Parties are awkward for a lot of people. If you’ve followed Rule 2, a lot of people will not know each other. Alcohol loosens talk. People don’t have to like you or even know you to come over and drink your beer.
4. Provide Food
Maureen is a master at this, and the potluck offering is probably her party’s biggest attraction. Bill’s barbecued meats satisfied a roomful of finicky comic artists. Good food leaves lasting impressions on people. Sarah has been talking about my Thanksgiving turkey for a year: if you want them to come back next year, food has lasting appeal.
5. Include Events
Chris’s parties were all about his band, but they would break up performances over the evening and give people the chance to talk. Clay’s primary attraction is his drive-in movie showings, at least two features per night projected on the big screen in his backyard, followed by trailers, shorts and a break in-between. Jason has highlighted a series of parties with drag performances he has begun practicing as early as four months ahead. Marlene parcels out the night with s’mores, sing-a-longs and starting the hot tub. Sure you can leave people to just talk and drink or night. Or you could give them something to look forward to.