Recipe For A Great Party: Who, Where, & When

Last week we looked at the Why & What of entertaining. Now let’s move on to the next part: figuring out the who, where, and when.

The “who” will influence the “where & when” and vice versa. I generally plan parties on a day when I know the most people will be available. Evening parties are pretty standard, but Sunday morning breakfasts or brunches or Saturday lunch parties can be just as much fun as a Friday night cocktail party. The “when” will also probably influence who will attend. Your couple friends who have kids are probably not going to attend a Friday night cocktail party that doesn’t begin until 9 pm. By the same token, any teenaged or college-age friends are unlikely to attend a 9 am Sunday brunch.

The where is equally important. While having a party on top of a mountain with no road access would probably thrill your outdoorsy hiking friends, your friend from the office who takes a taxi to travel two blocks is probably not going to make it.

I find that the best parties have some access to green space (particularly in the summer) and any kind of fire – whether outside in a fire pit or inside in a woodstove or simply from the candles on the dinner table – inspires a cozy feeling and fosters conversation and a convivial atmosphere.

You can have parties outside, especially small ones, very easily. Simply pick a lovely spot on a day with good weather, throw down some picnic blankets, and pull out some simple food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. A bottle of wine doesn’t hurt either. Another option is to rent or reserve a covered picnic area at a municipal or state park. These spaces will protect you from the sun and any rain and they often come equipped with picnic tables, barbecue grills, and/or fire rings. You can also just occupy any available outdoor picnic areas at any park.

You could be picnicking here, too!

The last option for outdoor eating (besides going down to a marina or pier or eating on a boat – all fantastic ideas themselves) is your own backyard. We happen to have a lovely backyard with an even lovelier screen porch, so it’s easy to throw parties at our house. But even if your “backyard” is just a little walk-out apartment balcony or a black-topped roof, you can throw a great party.

Indoor parties can be just as fun, especially during the colder times of the year. The decor of the “where” is important, too. If you’re throwing an outdoor shindig you don’t need much more than grass and/or sunshine and/or flowers and/or fire and/or stars (or any combination thereof). Indoors though? At least one thing is certain: wherever you’re throwing your party indoors, it’s gotta be clean. Nothing kills the party mood quicker than finding the couch you’re sitting on has cheetos in between the cushions or that the floor you’re standing on is sticky.

Candles and fresh flowers are nice touches, too, but not absolutely necessary. Real dishes are also lovely but again, not absolutely necessary. Got a fire place? Please for the love of god use it, but not if it hasn’t been cleaned in 500 years and you don’t know how to lay a proper fire (don’t want to burn down the house).

If you have a fireplace and it's in good shape - use it! It adds instant warmth (literal and figurative) and ambiance.

Whatever you choose to do, it’s important to have a plan. So now that you’ve decided who you want to invite, where it will be held, and when (remember – you already know the why and what), next up is the hardest part: HOW.

Tune in next week for the last, but most important ingredient in making a great party.

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