As most savvy New York hosts know, when you throw a large cocktail party, you can expect approximately 60 percent of the invitees to attend. Of the 40 percent who don’t come, most have a scheduling conflict or illness and are truly sorry to be missing the affair. So, what if you immediately offered these people an alternative—a kind of make-up party?
That’s exactly what my friends Ned and Donna did. They held a big cocktail party one Saturday night and invited the people who sent “regrets” to a smaller party the very next Saturday.
Ned and Donna are people who do not entertain very much, so at first it sounded crazy to me that they would decide to have two parties in a row. But this nonhosting tendency on the part of this couple is in fact why the double party idea was perfect for them. Once they had managed to find the impetus to entertain, whipped their house into guest-ready shape (cleaning it from top to bottom, even rearranging the furniture) and stocked the larder with staples like soda, snacks and booze, the second, smaller party was a veritable snap for them. They even had leftover wine and supplies that the guests from the first party had brought them.
Having two parties in a row may sound exhausting, but it can be much more efficient than spreading them out. You can pay back everyone you owe an invitation in a spectacular one-two punch. Really, it’s like getting out all the painting equipment to paint a room and then deciding that, while you’re at it, you may as well paint another small room at the same time.
Also, having a second gathering is a great way for the hosts to soak up every bit of fun they can; after working hard to make a party happen, hosts can feel it is over too quickly. Most people I talk to who, for one reason or another, had dreaded hosting a party, are so energized afterward they wonder why they don’t host more often. Might as well have another party while you are in the mood!
You can also employ a similar version of this kind of party clustering when you find you have more than one dinner party you need to give. Instead of hosting one dinner one month and another one the next month, why not have a dinner party weekend? Make one big pot of something hearty and fabulous—say, oxtail stew, boston butt or chili–then hold two dinner parties one after the other.
Contrary to what one might think, the second set of guests are not getting shortchanged, because by the second dinner you are probably more relaxed (having cleaned and shopped like a madwoman before the first one), and usually the Italian pot roast you spent hours making is even better the second day.
Of course, in the case of back-to-back dinner parties, the guests must not know about each other at all. While a make-up cocktail party is like being offered a wonderful consolation prize, being part of a double dinner party weekend can seem more like a prize cut in half.
The one rule to follow when hosting consecutive parties is that you can never let the people at the second party get the idea that your first party was in any way more enjoyable than the one you are having with them right now. You want them to feel fortunate and much sought-after, as if you are going to extra trouble just for them—which, in a sense, you are.
The people who could not attend the primary event should feel flattered that you have gone out of your way to extend your hospitality to them. It’s as if you are saying, “I want to have you over so much I will even have a do-over just to get you here!” even though it is really a case of a relatively easy two-for-the-fuss-of-one for you.
Speaking of two-for-one, I somehow got to go to both of the lovely parties given by Ned and Donna. Not fair that they invited me to both? Hey, there’s got to be some perk to this whole Miss Mingle thing!
Originally published by the West Side Spirit, January 26, 2012