Oh Mary, you shouldn’t have. You really shouldn’t have. (image courtesy MTM Enterprises/20th Century Fox)
The fictional Mary Richards was a fantastic newswoman and a good friend but she could just never seem to put a party together. We were reminded of her struggles during a late night study session (read: binge) of old Mary Tyler Moore Show episodes and put together a few lessons that other amateur hosts would do well to consider.
Rigid circumstances make for a high chance of failure.
A seated dinner is lovely, and guests appreciate a well-made meal, but when Mary made clear that there were only six servings for six guests at the only six seats at her table, we blanched. In a sitcom, an unexpected guest is a source of laughs. In life, an unexpected guest should be a reason for celebration—not dashed plans. Try to plan for a party with the expectation that changes might come. Don’t assume hard maximums or minimums, and embrace casual amusements (finger foods in the conversation pit over set places) that let you incorporate the unexpected: extra people or an unforeseen blackout.
Do it ahead of time.
It’s funny: as time runs out before the first guest arrives, you’ll likely find yourself wishing you could give any number of limbs to get a few ticks back from the clock. The lesson: use time when you have a surfeit of it, i.e., long before the guests arrive. More practically, anything that can be done in advance should be done in advance. Make appetizers and put them in serveware in the fridge, chill pitchers of pre-mixed drinks, and even make table settings (if you’re feeling ambitious).
“Places, Please” by Paperless Post
It’s your party.
Veal Prince Orloff was the dish of the 70s, and we’ll leave it to the gourmands to tell us what the meticulous showpiece of this decade is. We’ll also leave it to you, the host, to determine what your menu should be—don’t let your bossy friend Sue Ann tell you otherwise. Whether it’s dinner, drinks, or something else, the best party is one that shows off your most well-practiced magic tricks. They’ve been delighting you for so long that you may have forgotten that they’re new to your friends.