The title of today’s entry comes from Rick Nelson’s 1972 hit “Garden Party,” composed after he was booed at a Madison Square Garden “Oldies” show for daring to include some of his newer tunes. As a philosopher, Rick may never be in the same league as Confucius or Lao Tse, but I think his point is well taken and well worth considering: parties (the “garden” variety and otherwise) go best when the host or honorees are themselves having fun.
Accomplishing this requires a specific point of view. The music at a silver or golden anniversary should – generally – reflect the tastes of the guests of honor. The timing, food, and decor at a quinceanera or bat mitzvah ought to be in line with the preferences of early teens. And everything about a wedding and reception needs to glorify the bride.
But this doesn’t mean that – all night long – no one else has any fun. Many multi-generational events please their guests sequentially, starting out with songs the older guests enjoy, played at a volume with which they are comfortable. As the evening progresses, the chronology of the music moves forward, while the volume moves up. (Coincidentally, this occurs at about the same time the senior guests are saying their “goodnights.”)
By advocating that you “please yourself,” I certainly don’t mean doing anything which will intentionally alienate your guests. (In fact, it was this very topic that got me up on my soapbox in my last column.)
I’m only saying that, when you are paying for the party, feel free to plan one that you would personally enjoy attending. When honoring others, do the same for them. Just know, as you begin, that it is impossible to thrill every guest at every moment, all night long. You will drive yourself crazy trying, and you will always fail.
Where you will succeed, however, is when you are having the time of your life (ie. when you are pleasing yourself). When you are happy, most of your guests will have fun as well.
That Rick Nelson was a smart guy. (Ozzie and Harriet must have been so proud!)