Last weekend, we threw a party at the house.
This was not just any party – it has a long standing tradition, dating back into my college years. They were often dubbed “Slovak parties,” but they usually just ended up in extreme drinking and naked hijinx. They usually contained one or more actual Slovaks that we knew from those college years. Those were good parties, but they cannot survive into our child-rearing, nearing our forties lifestyles.
Getting to this place took practice, and the development of a special set of skills. I am proud of our efforts, and want to share our learnings here on the Daddy Life. Here they are now, the 10 guidelines for throwing a great party.
START WITH AN EMPTY DISHWASHER
This is a standard Cornett trick of the trade. When people are coming for dinner, run and empty the dishwasher. This way, a helpful guest can actually be helpful, by rinsing and depositing dishes in machine.
The guest bathroom needs sprucing up. It is likely the only one that will be used, so take a minute and wipe it down, clean off the counter, etc.
This is more of a general traffic suggestion. My kitchen quickly becomes cluttered with all the business of our life. Get rid of that stuff. Hide it in a closet, or actually put it away before the party. In my house there is a “crucial countertop.” It is the one spot where everything happens. This needs to be cleaned or cleared several times during the party. It is the place where everyone puts down their bags, and also the location where I mix the drinks, leave the appetizers, etc.
Speaking of drinks, there is nothing that pulls people into the backyard like a cooler of beer, on ice. Or an oyster shucking station in the garage. Or wine bottles and glasses on the dining room table. You have to pull people out of the kitchen, not push them out.
Another basic party beginning task. Take out the garbage. Replace the bag. Put the bottle recycling out the back door, or somewhere handy.
I am not good at this. The party gets rolling, a few families walk in the door, I am managing the kids somewhere. But this part is important. Offer everyone a drink when they arrive. Start with the ladies. I could write volumes on this part, but I am still learning a few things. One note: a good cocktail is appreciated and will often arouse the interest of the next round of guests to arrive.
ALLOW KIDS TO SPREAD OUT AND FIND THEIR OWN DIVERSIONS
This is working better for us than it used to, because our kids are getting older. The girls go to the back room to play princess or kitchen or dress up. The boys go find Jude’s toys, cars, legos. Usually a parent will follow the small ones back to make sure that everyone is alright. My kids know the drill now. We also keep a collection of toys in the living room to keep the small ones busy, but within eyesight. Remember, the goal here is for adults to find space for adult conversation.
HAVE A MOVIE WAITING FOR DURING/AFTER DINNER
The movie is a carrot, but also an excellent babysitter for the point when the kids are wearing down and the adults are getting chatty. Sometimes this happens after dinner, sometimes during. This all depends on the numbers of guests, kids, ages of kids, etc. Some dinner parties can include kids at the table, while for others we feed the kids in a first wave. Either way, the movie is a welcome break from the party activity. Bonus points for popcorn.
SERVE DINNER AT THE RIGHT MOMENT
This one is all about “know your guests.” I always ask people if their kids are hungry, if they are hungry, and try to gauge the timing accordingly. On the other end, waiting too long means that your guests are half in the bag before sitting. Also not good. There is a tide that breaks. Serve dinner right then. Also, do I have to say it? With kids involved it is good to have lots and lots of finger foods on low tables within easy reach.
CLEAN THE KITCHEN BEFORE BED
This one I have managed well just a few times, but I cannot say enough about it. Waking up to a clean and spotless kitchen does you the service of putting the party behind you, beginning your new day anew, and moving on with your life. Throwing a party can be exhausting. You deserve a day off tomorrow. So go wash those wine glasses!