The Abe Lincoln Theory Of Party Planning (Keeping Generational Wars Civil)

Posted by Dave

Weddings would seem to be the hardest parties on earth to play. Typically, the age range of the guests runs from toddlers to Senior Citizens. So what is the secret of my success at pleasing these very diverse groups? (Sorry if that sounds awfully smug, but I have survived in this business for over 30 years. I must be doing something right!)

Answer: I don’t even try to please the 8 and 80 year olds. To paraphrase Mr. Lincoln, “you can’t please all the people all the time.” It’s impossible! So, I simply please the bride. If she’s happy, everybody is happy (or should be.) And pleasing just one person is a snap!

Obviously, the same concept also applies to birthday parties, anniversaries or any other gatherings at which the enjoyment of the guest of honor is your paramount objective.

But, let’s suppose that your next party isn’t a wedding or anniversary – it’s a social event at which (1.) everybody is equal, and (2.) a 40-year age spread will be present. And let’s say the oldest guests enjoy Sinatra and Big Band, while the youngest prefer Baby Boomer hits. How can you make the evening enjoyable for everyone?

Answer: By making every song somebody’s favorite, and by adjusting the set list to the realities of Seniors and Boomers.

What do I mean? Specifically this: most Seniors are the first to arrive, the first to dance, and the very first to leave. The majority of Boomers need more time and more “social lubrication” before venturing onto the dance floor. So, at a typical 8PM ’til midnight dinner dance, I would keep the music soft and conversational (also – very important – not busy) during dinner. Let folks visit without shouting over the band. After dinner, I’d play the songs, rhythms, and volume that the oldest guests love. (I also like to play lots of tunes that have been hits more than once. “Unchained Melody” is an Al Hibler movie theme to the Greatest Generation. But Boomers also know and love it as the Righteous Brothers song from “Ghost.” In this way, the same tunes often perform double-duty.)

The later the hour, the more the repertoire will favor the Boomers. By 11:00, the only Seniors remaining are usually the “young at heart,” who are perfectly happy to share the dance floor with their grown children.

Honest Abe might call this “pleasing all the people some of the time.”

I only know that most of the people, most of the time, leave parties where I do what I’ve described above with a good feeling about the night in general and the music in particular. And that sense of satisfaction makes hosts and hostesses very happy.

That Abe Lincoln – he was quite a party planner!


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