The other day we were visiting friends and having a good time when my friend commented: “When we try to throw a party, we can never get it to be the party we’ve imagined! It feels boring with not enough zest to call it a party!” With this in mind, I thought about all our trial-and-error parties through the years.
Let's start with the numbers. We have tried the Big Table sit-down dinner and worked very hard only to have a flat outcome. Before I knew I was facilitating conversations and the poor guests became members of a “team-build” without signing up for it!
Afterwards we decided that we worked way too hard, also during the evening, and had no energy left to get the party going. One or both of us were in the kitchen all night.
For us, six to eight is the perfect number of guests. Or else invite 12 or more people so that they can form their own little groups and parties. Provide small social spaces for this to happen.
Trying too hard
We once created little pastry Xmas tree pies for a pre-Xmas dinner with our friends. After hours of trying, no one recognised the trees anymore and with all the manhandling the puff was played out of the pastries! The result: tired hosts and flat little cakes. No, we did not stop there. We also tried pumpkin soup dished up in a hollow pumpkin (the pumpkin cracked and the soup was spilt all over the table). The chilled sweet melon in fancy halves came out better, but half the guests could not stomach cold soup!
Keep it simple, Simon!
Do what you do best whether it is a braai, soup, bread or cake. Or do what is locally done best. We stayed over in a guest house for our first wedding anniversary and had a wonderful breakfast with freshly baked bread and muffins. When we complimented the owner she said: “Thank you, it is locally baked by our bakery in town!” Since then we decided to use our local resources to add to our tried-and-tested meals, and to keep it simple.
Forget the Jones's and be yourself
Throw your kind of party and invite accordingly. Take into consideration who you want to invite to your party. Not everyone wants to dance, not everyone wants to listen to music. We are talkers and relaxers. So we invite friends who also want to talk and relax.
Count your pennies
The creative gurus say that limits trigger creative juices. I am not a budget person, but it creates a challenge to set a budget and stick to it. All the fun of the party goes down the drain when your bank account goes red afterwards. It is also 100% okay to ask people to bring their own drinks or to contribute otherwise. If you do not want to do “bring and braai”, even a pot luck dinner where everyone brings his or her favourite dish as a surprise can be great fun!
Set the scene
Soft music, glowing candles and enough chairs are saying: We want to talk, eat and relax! Loud dance music, no chairs and plates of snacks and drinks say: Eat, drink, dance and party the night away!
Who do you invite?
Invite people that you respect and that respect you. Ask people you are connected with or people you would like to get to know better. On this point I have heard that people don’t always have the courage to invite new people because their “I’m-not-good-enough” monsters catch up with them. This is a good time to kick the monster in the butt and pick up the phone!
Message to my friends
I’m ending off with a message to our friends who sometimes doubt that people would like to come to their parties: We enjoy your place, your conversations and your food. Why? Because it starts with a hearty invitation and it nurtures us on so many levels.
Your invitation: When you invited us, you sounded as if you really wanted us at there – as if we have a very special place in your heart and life. By hearing it, I always feel special and excited to come and visit. There is energy, fun and humour in your voice when you invite us. In my mind's eye I already see a roaring fire, good slow food, local red wine and relaxing music.
Your conversations and food: The connections and the conversations vary from slow and relaxed to highly passionate. Nothing is too much trouble; from accommodating our newest diets and allergies to playing a favourite song as a special request. The food is always made with love, whether it is from the fire or the kitchen. When we return home, we have been fed on various levels with fun, food, wine and deep connection. I don’t know anyone who would not feel privileged to be invited! I am so glad that we are on your list!
Good luck with your next party!
If you want to learn more about social skills or assertiveness, please contact:
Elsa Simpson – an experienced facilitator, trainer, counsellor and coach. She conducts workshops and team-builds as well as individual processes for personal growth and development, within organisations as well as with private individuals. Contact her at
, on 021 982 7038 or 083 782 1249, or visit www.clariact.com.