Party season is upon us! Below, two of Alternative Control’s best hostesses and one of its worst share their strategies for making your soiree one to remember — or in Jessie’s case, one that you can survive:
Vanessa — For me the theme is the main ingredient in the meal. I’ll pick something like blueberries or grape soda and put it in every course. Trust me, any idea you come up with in your sick little mind already has a recipe, or something close, on the Internet. Let your mind go wild.
Lisa — I think a theme is important for any event. The more ridiculous the better. Like the time we had a tribute to Lou Albano and passed out rubber bands or when we had a Fuck Corporate America party and threw a chocolate Easter bunny on the BBQ grill. Party themes help people get creative and have some fun.
Jessie — I’m awful at themes. You know what my husband and I had for wedding favors? An open bar.
Vanessa — Guests are good friends that you know will show up. Invite 20 and 16 will come, that’s actually not a bad return. Make sure you add some characters, the guy who never shuts up, the guy who never leaves. It’s nice to have someone to talk about later, joyously of course. The guy who never shuts up and the guy who never leaves should know who they are. And I must recommend inviting a band you’ve never met before. I’ve had wonderful results.
Lisa — When putting together a guest list, I find musicians, intellectuals, and all around good and positive people make the party. Conversations are interesting and it’s exciting to see friendships develop. I steer clear of the “wonk wonks” and those who seem to be surrounded by drama.
Jessie — Vanessa should have said, “Ask a band you’ve never met before to dinner and three or four years later, they’ll be asking you to babysit their chickens!” If you give a mouse a cookie…
Seriously though, the guest list is the part I always have trouble with. I fall into the trap of, “If I invite so-and-so, then I have to invite so-and-so,” and before you know it my intimate backyard cookout has turned into a guest list of 40 people including both of my divorced parents, my grandma, a few people I don’t know, and the neighbors across the street… At which point I have to fight the urge to say, “Fuck it,” and not do anything at all. It always turns out just fine, but I get myself too worked up beforehand.
Vanessa — Timing a big meal is a pain in the ass. And not everyone will be there on time. Use your crockpot, your oven, your stove and have it all ready by the start of the party so you can enjoy yourself. Don’t do any dishes, just let them pile up in the sink. And if you have leftovers send them home with your guests.
I always tell my guests to bring what they want to drink. Everyone likes a different foofy beer and it’s impossible to please everyone. My husband will usually stock the bar with a few bottles. Usually one of them is extra special. Expensive tequila, Chartrusse, some Chinese thing that no one knows what it is. It’s nice to broaden your guests alcoholic horizons.
Lisa — I try to tie the food to the theme of the party. For example we had an Opeth CD release party where we served Swedish Meatballs and Swedish Fish. When choosing food, I pick things that can be pre-made so I can put them out quickly and enjoy the party. I serve foods that help absorb alcohol like bread or pasta so guests don’t get too drunk. Also, I usually have cream puffs on hand. You can never have enough cream puffs. And the dishes can definitely wait until the next day!
For drinks I usually have beer, wine and then a signature drink, like a mojito, a pumpkin martini (I’m still finding orange spots on the walls from that party) or a jalapeno margarita. Sometimes I feel bad making an event “bring your own beverage” but the reality is it’s too expensive to provide alcohol for everyone. Besides then everyone gets to drink what they want.
Jessie — For me, party food needs to be easy. The best solution? Make your husband cook something. If you don’t have one of those or if that’s not in the cards, small gatherings can order takeout as long as everyone knows in advance to bring cash. That worked very well at a “craft night” I hosted a few months back. When one person’s vegan, one’s lactose intolerant, another person is on a gluten-free diet, another’s going Paleo… That’s fine, but cooking all of those things in one night is waaaaay beyond my culinary expertise. Let’s order pizza, you can get a salad.
But for those intimate 40-person get-togethers, burgers and dogs are the obvious solution. Make sure to have some veggie burgers on hand, an easy side dish like chili in the crockpot, and a selection of appetizers that work with various food fads (and of course the legitimate dietary concerns). I’ve never had a guest dislike homemade guacamole with tostadas, except for Pluckman — but he doesn’t like most things. That’s okay, Pluck, more guacamole for us. Did I mention that I hate hosting parties?
Lisa — Creating atmosphere sets the mood for the party. I like lighting candles, incense and when the weather is right a fire. There is something primal yet comforting about gathering around a fire pit. Music is another important element that sets the tone for a party. I usually put my iPod on shuffle which gives us a delightful mix of metal. If I’m being sensitive to my non-metal friends I’ll put on a Pandora station.
A party isn’t complete without an activity that brings people together. Whether it’s a game of Apples to Apples, beer pong, or moshing to your favorite band, everyone will have a damn good time if there is something giving their energy an outlet.
Jessie — Craft night! Not that too many of our readers are hosting craft nights, but in case you are… It helps to plan and provide materials for something that everyone will be able to do if they don’t have their own project. One time we made super-cool button bracelets; at “Take-Out Craft Night,” I got a ton of extra studs in case anyone wanted to make an article of clothing become punk rock. Because nothing is more punk rock than craft night! It’s DIY, brah…. At another “girls’ night” at a friend’s house, one guest showed up with henna. Like Lisa says, a fun activity gets everyone involved and enjoying themselves.
Lisa — It baffles me when people don’t RSVP to a party. It only takes a few seconds to click yes or no or send an email to give the host a heads up. If it’s a public show, that’s fine because everyone is invited to a show but when it’s someone’s home…maybe people feel bad sending regrets so they just don’t respond but that sends the message, “I don’t care enough to reply”. Even worse than that are the people who reply yes and then don’t show up. Thanks jerks.
Jessie — Everything. Social anxiety. Chest pains. People at your house not going away. Your mother and father awkwardly in the same room. Everything.
What’s your secret to throwing a great party? How would you help Jessie get over her party anxiety? Share your thoughts with Alternative Control!