Archive for August 10th, 2009

Who’s In Charge Here?

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Great parties look effortless, as they seem to float airily from start to finish. The hostess never breaks a sweat, yet – somehow – glasses are miraculously refilled at exactly the right moment, and used dishes disappear from the table (yet don’t stack up in the sink.)

Perhaps the most impressive feat of prestidigitation at parties is the way the various mile markers of the evening always occur at exactly the right moment. Whether it is the arrival of the main course or the toast to the guests of honor, the evening just flows.

Of course the truth is that terrific parties, like all great theatrical productions, must have a strong director at the helm. It may be the hostess herself – or the professional party planner of her choice – but you can be sure that somebody is behind that curtain, ensuring that Mr. Murphy and his Law are kept at bay.

From my vantage point as the hired music provider at these events, the two biggest impediments I see to great parties are (1.) the “too many cooks” phenomenon, and (2.) the “absentee host.”

Too many cooks (also known as “too many chiefs, and not enough Indians”) have ruined more parties than I care to remember. Competing visions have never resulted in an event which is memorable for good reasons. Where multiple strong personalities are involved (such as in committee-driven soirees), the only hope for salvaging the evening is to put one of those driven souls in charge of a single aspect (ie. the Silent Auction, or the desserts), while focusing another’s attention on something completely separate. Even then, the party will only succeed with one strong – and tactful – hand at the helm.

The Absentee Host is the one who is enjoying their own party so much, that no one is driving. Glasses don’t get refilled, and dirty dishes don’t go away. The hostess who wants a responsibility-free evening (yet also a successful event) should hire a party professional to take charge of the million and one details.

My thesis, then, is this: really great parties don’t just “happen,” and they don’t have two or more chief executives. They have one boss tasked with ultimate responsibility for the event’s success. Any less is too few. And any more is a recipe for disaster.