So let the party begin!
It would be logical, and traditional, to start with semantic preliminaries, trying to define what a party is and create an intellectual foundation for what is to come.
Logical and BORING. But boredom is not something I want to connect with parties, so instead I will begin at the end. Before that, however, a VERY general division of the party domain (more nuances to come).
Parties can be IMPROVISED or COMPOSED, more spontaneous and aleatoric (random) or more controlled.
If you favor the spontaneous, improvised party there is not much I can contribute. Party on, throw the dice and see how it lands. These epistles are for those who want to go beyond informal, improvised partying. By the way, I call the aleatoric party hip-hap[hazard]. It can be great, or dull, but it is, literally, out of control (which is part of its attraction and charm).
Now let´s really start at the end.
Let us suppose that you are planning a party. How would you like it to end? Imagine that your guests have just left the scene of festivities, they are going home while discussing the evening. What would make you most happy, what would you like them to say about your party (while you were not listening)?
- What a wonderful dinner we had!
- I am so full that I cannot eat for a whole week…
- Who was that crazy fellow in the yellow suit?!?
- My, what interesting people! The conversation was really flying!
- I could kill for those furniture, they must have cost a fortune…
- Phew, I thought it would never end… How do I get on the Don´t invite me again-list?
- … add your own alternative
Ponder this for a minute, because your answer, your dream scenario so to say, is an important piece of the party puzzle.
So, let us get our priorities straight. If you know how you want the party to end, you know how to begin and move forward. Let the end decide your direction.
§ If you want your guests to admire your expensive furniture, buy expensive furniture.
§ If you want them to marvel at the crazy fellow in the yellow suit, invite a crazy fellow in a yellow suit.
§ If you want them to admire your wizardry in the food department, that is to make their bellies happy, then fix a really nice dinner or buffet. (This is a classic goal and aim. Unfortunately, many parties only offer this kind of food. Mr Belly is happy but there is hardly any food for thought or food for heart.)
§ If you want your guests to be happy because your party is over, just be an awful and boring host. (In all honesty we must say that some guests are no saints either. Some actually deserve to be put on the Never invite again-list.)
I am sure I don´t have to give special advice for this alternative; just do things awkwardly. Of course if THIS is your goal, your motivation for throwing a party at all will remain a mystery to me.
§ If you want your guests to be happy because of all the interesting people they met and the great conversations they had, invite fascinating people who are great conversationalists and listeners.
This, by the way, is my personal goal. I cannot really prepare a stunning dinner, often I can´t afford it. You wouldn´t look twice at my furniture. However, I have a fascinating and intriguing circle of friends. This is what I have emphasized in my life, people. My party talent definitely lies in the area of human raw material, not in vegetables or interior design.
Besides, I am a matchmaker, quite proud of the fact that people have met at my party and then married. (That they later divorced was not my fault… I think.)
Knowing what we want, our priorities, strengths and weaknesses is one aspect of the refined party life. As Socrates might have said (he supposedly liked to party)
KNOWING OUR LIMITATIONS
You might answer that you want to make your guest happy with nice food but you cannot fix a great dinner. Or, you might want to invite your friends to a wonderfully witty evening. but you know too few people.
This can be disappointing of course, but at least you now know what you want, and what you have (or not). Your self-knowledge has grown.
From here — the important ending — we can reverse and crab-like go backwards to our practical preparations. We are wiser. We know what effect we are aiming for, what feelings we want to evoke in the hearts of our guests. We might not succeed 100 % — but hey! we will succeed even less if we don´t even know what we want!
Why be formal, you may ask. What´s wrong with improvised parties? Of course the informal hip-hap party is the easiest of them all to throw.
It need not cost a lot of money, preparation, or thought. Just invite people over and party. It might turn out to be great fun — or it might not, such is the nature of aleatoric parties.
However, by and large they are not challenging or interesting enough, if you ask this party composer. A bit like a McDonald´s meal. And our friends sure deserve to be treated better than prosaic fast food.
Partyology is concerned with somewhat less random festivities. About 47.3 % less.
Naturally we don´t have to settle for just one type of party, or only one kind of attraction. There´s nothing wrong with great conversation AND food AND furniture (a beautiful space can create a festive atmosphere the moment you enter it).
And probably we throw different kinds of parties at different times. Sometimes food is the focus, sometimes music, sometimes the company. And sometimes we party just because it’s Tuesday. Every excuse is legitimate.
When we have decided more specifically how our next party is going to be, we need to move on and make further decisions about
- where exactly to hold the party
- how many guests to invite
- how important food and drink will be
- if we want some kind of program (or, God forbid, theme)
- how long into the night we want to party
All this comes later. For now we have taken care of the first important decision: how we want the party to end.
End of Epistle One.