Saturday, May 28, 2011

Planning a Party - The Guest List

If you want to have a successful party and be a great hostess, careful consideration should be done when planning a party. You guest list is extremely important! When you first start planning a party, decide on how many people you want to host. Always invite more than you actually plan on having attend. I’ve read that a good rule of thumb is 50%. In other words, about half the number of people you invite to your party will actually attend. I’m not so sure I agree with this figure, however. Attendance rates to my parties are usually significantly higher. In fact, one year we had a Christmas party to which we invited 100 people, and 112 people attended! Not sure how that happened, but it was a great party! Maybe folks were just in the Christmas spirit and in the mood to attend some holiday parties.
If you’re planning a party that’s going to include a large number of guests, be careful not to leave anyone out that you meant to invite. This is easy to do when you have so much to take care of. When I’m planning a big party, I keep a running guest list in my party composition book. When I think of someone I’d like to include, I jot down the names.
When you’re coming up with names for your event, think about the atmosphere that the guests will create. Unless you’re hosting a party for a specific group of people, I strongly suggest mixing it up. In other words, if you’re a teacher, don’t just invite other educators to the party. If you do, the conversations will likely be about nothing but school, grades, curriculum, and students. If that’s what you want, fine. But if you prefer something more interesting, a mixed guest list will be better.
We’ve thrown some great parties, and I attribute much of this success to my guest lists. I always include people from all walks of life and from different socio-economic groups. I also include different ages, even if it’s an adults-only party. At a single party, I’ve had teachers, electricians, doctors, lawyers, coaches, college professors, small business owners, college students, blue collar workers, and farmers. You’d be surprised at how these groups intermingle! It gives guests a chance to get to know people they don’t usually come in contact with. Don’t forget to invite people who have invited you to their parties and events!
Once you have a guest list, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to invite people. Will you mail invitations, or will you make phone calls? Unless I’m hosting a more formal party, I make phone calls to guests. This gives them an opportunity to ask questions about what to wear, about whether kids can come, and/or about what to bring. Know the answers before making the calls. Don’t tell one guest they can bring her kids and tell another potential guest that kids aren’t invited. Some guests will offer to bring a dish to the party. When guests ask me what they can bring, I usually respond by saying something like, “We’ll have plenty of party food, so you don’t need to bring anything unless there’s a special appetizer you’d like to make.” This gives the guest an “out” if they don’t have time or just don’t want to prepare something for the party. In the South, most folks like taking a side dish or party food because they like showing off their cooking skills! Phone calls will also often give you a good idea of who’s planning on attending and who isn’t. some people will tell you up front that they have other plans for that date, while others might tell you they’ll definitely be coming.
Here’s a problem you might run into with your guest list: feuding friends. This has happened to me before. I’d have two friends that didn’t like each other or were quarreling at the time of the party. If you like both friends, how do you handle this? This is what I do: Let’s say Mike and Joe don’t like each other, but I like both of them and want to invite both to my party. In this case, I’ll probably mention to Joe that Mike is coming, and I’ll understand if he doesn’t want to attend, but that we’d love to see him. I’ll tell Mike the same thing. This puts the ball in their proverbial courts. They can decide whether or not they want to attend, without being “blindsided.”

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