Laboring over the perfect party

Ah, Labor Day weekend. Summer's last hurrah. For many Americans, that means it's time to party.

Cookouts to mark the passing of summer have become an annual ritual. We gather around open fires and drink native beverages and tell the stories of our people. Then, as night falls, we stumble into the pool and nearly drown and 911 is called, and the tribe has a new story to recount next year.

If you're planning a party for Labor Day weekend, it's not too late to make it the social event of the season. You can turn your home into a showplace for socializing, a place where your guests will feel welcome and well-fed and entertained.

The key is proper preparation. You want your party to appear fun and effortless, and that means working your butt off ahead of time. Make lists. Stockpile food and ice. Clear away clutter and make sure your house is spotless.

No one will notice -- they'll be too busy falling drunkenly into the pool -- but you'll feel better about yourself and your home and that will make you a better host, one who's relaxed and ready for any eventuality.

But where to begin? Social events are delicate creatures that must be nourished with the right mix of people, food, drink and chlorine. Here are some suggestions:


--You can never have too much ice.

--The same goes for beer.

--Prepare just the right amount of food. You want to have enough so that nobody goes away hungry, but you also don't want them to stay all night. And you don't want a lot of stuff left over. Leftovers can be deadly, particularly potato salad.

--Your tasty dishes can be arranged elegantly on platters and the whole table can be decorated with fresh flowers and aromatic candles. If you take this Martha Stewart approach, you will find that your guests fall into three categories: 1) Those who appreciate how much effort you put into the food and who wouldn't dream of messing up the arrangement by actually eating any of it. 2) Those who recognize how much effort went into it and who hate you for it. 3) Those (mostly guys) who don't notice the effort and wade into the food up to their elbows.

--Go get more ice.

--Spend the days before the party making your house clean and tidy. When you're finished, your home will be sparkling and inviting. Unfortunately, you will be too exhausted to enjoy your own party. And your guests will wreck the place, so you can start all over again.

--More beer.

--If your party is outdoors, make sure there's enough shade available. This may require renting a canopy or large tent. Nothing like the aroma of mildewing canvas to give the proper "air" to a gathering.

--Lively conversation is the key to a successful party. Plan ahead so you'll have spontaneous, non-controversial topics that will keep conversation flowing and drunken fistfights to a minimum. Topics to avoid: Politics, religion, divorce, Microsoft, how much effort went into the food, your guests' sexual habits.

--Did we mention ice?

--Should drunken fistfights erupt, the competent host acts as referee, calming angry guests and getting everyone fresh drinks. If they insist on brawling, the host might try shocking them out of their aggressive mode by pushing them into the pool. Refreshingly cold water can be a welcome distraction when things get out of hand. If that doesn't work, the host should dial 911 from his cellular phone while sprinting away to safety.

--One final tip: Guests like to feel they're helping to make the party a success, so give them things to do. For example, should you run out of ice, send a guest to a convenience store for more. This will help the guest feel like part of the effort. In fact, you might find errands for all your guests. Once they're gone, you'll have your clean house and all that food to yourself.

And that's the way to finish off a summer.


Janet Rudolph said...

I'll be right over. I'm bringing ice.

Life without Clots said...

Oops...Left the ice in the shopping cart.

Susan Daugherty said...

That was pretty funny to read AFTER my Labor "Day" party that went from Friday night through Monday night!
Yes, we did have to make a run for just one thing...ice!
All the work was worth it and I never want to do it again. Too much "Labor" in Labor Day!

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