Archive for May 19th, 2008

When Your Guests Are Happy, EVERYBODY’S Happy

Monday, May 19th, 2008

It’s great to have a vision of how your party should be – to imagine the event from start to finish, picturing the decor, food, and music. Such visions tend to give a unifying thread to the evening, and often lead directly to the party’s success.

Unless your vision clashes with that of your guests.

Bluntly put, no party ever succeeded (or ever could) when the collective will of the guests was ignored. For instance, many gatherings bring together old friends or relatives who haven’t seen each other in a long time. It’s only natural that these guests should want to visit (at least for the first part of the evening.)

With this in mind, it is almost always a mistake to let musical entertainment, a program/series of speeches, or a video presentation interfere with your guests’ desire to catch up on what has been happening in each others’ lives.

At weddings, anniversaries, and reunions, a video doesn’t need sound, especially during the cocktail or dinner hours. Let it play silently, so that your guests can talk without shouting over the audio track.

Nor does a band or deejay need much volume early in the evening. Most audiences don’t dance until after dessert. Keep the music low until then.

Another way that your guests’ vision can conflict with your own is in the selection of songs.

At a gathering where I entertained this past weekend, my boss asked the guests (who had come to Texas from most – it seemed – of the 50 states) to request their favorite songs. One suggested “New York, New York,” which prompted a barrage of good-natured song titles celebrating other parts of the country (“Chicago,” “California, Here I Come,” and even “On Wisconsin.”) I was willing and able to accomodate them, but my employer nixed the idea. These were not the types of songs the boss had envisioned.

Of course, when the person with my check said “No,” I was obligated to honor those wishes. But it would not have been my choice to solicit requests, then say – in effect – “oh, but not your songs.”

Understandably, the mood of the party changed, and not for the better. It struck me as a classic case of “Vision Wars.” To prevent the same thing from ruining your next party, I suggest leaving a little room for something spontaneous that was not part of your original plan. Time after time in my professional life, it has been just such unexpected moments that have proved most treasured by guests and hosts alike. It’s like the short side trip that makes a whole journey worthwhile.

And if it makes your guests happy, then you should be happy, too. After all – didn’t your envision a PERFECT party?