The Number-One Secret to Throwing a Great Party

Serve-yourself French cocktail bar at my Bastille Day Party

Bonjour. Wow. My Bastille Day party totally did justice to France’s joie-de-vivre spirit, if I do say so myself. I’ve been thinking a bit about what made it a success, and while I was quite proud of my food and apéritifs (which I’ll recap in another posting), the food was definitely second to…..

The People: Good heavens. As people left, they were telling me what a great time they had, and I kept thinking, “of course you had fun—I only invited fun people.” Friends, if you want to have a great party, don’t invite the dullards, even if you “owe” them an invitation. Invite the drips to do something else with you another time—never fob them off on your party friends.

But I also did something kind of random. I put an invite out to my Twitter followers, and two delightful young women I’d never met showed up. It was a risky thing to do, but I figured, how many drips would RSVP to a Bastille Day Party? The duo were so sweet—they breathed life and energy into the party.

Another thing that happened: I invited about 35 people, thinking that about half of them would be on vacation. But guess what?They mostly ALL RSVP’d “yes” and all but four actually showed up. Our condo was so packed that at one point, it felt like Holly Golightly’s party in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (Do yourself a favor and click on this link. It’s a riot.)

Street in Collioure. Small spaces have a way of inviting intimacy in everyday life.

But that was just fine. It added intimacy to the party by concentrating the laughter and ripple of lively conversations. I started thinking about how the effect was a lot like France, where the small spaces on streets, restaurants, in shops, and private homes, all work to make people cozy up in daily life. Our large spaces in the U.S. often thwart intimacy (which is fine when you’re not among your favorite people).

So. my invite-list takeaways, in a nutshell:

1. Invite fun people
2. Don’t be afraid to pack the place (as long as you follow rule #1)
3. Invite someone entirely new, as long as you have a sense of the type of person you’re inviting. That is, if it’s a francophile, you’ll be just fine.

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