What makes a good party?

by Grace aka costofcollege

With holiday season in full swing, the question of what makes a good party was posed to some celebrities.  Some of their answers were predictable (the mix of guests) while others were slightly more eccentric (topless vacuum girls).

10 Celebrities on What Makes a Great Party

Another writer is unhappy that her friends seem to squeeze “90 percent of the year’s parties into two godforsaken weekends” during the holidays.  She wants fewer lame holiday parties and more parties spaced out during the rest of the year.

… Is it really so hard? Is it rocket science, buying a case of beer and a bag of pita chips? Don’t bother vacuuming. Throw a real party, in January, or June, or October. You know you want to. You love parties. You miss them. You want to throw a rager so bad it hurts. And you know just the thankless curmudgeon to invite.

Stop Throwing Terrible Holiday Parties

Are you attending many parties this holiday season?  Are you hosting a party?  Or are you spending the holidays cocooning at home or pursuing other activities?

What makes a good party?  What are some of the best and worst parties you’ve attended or hosted?

We typically host large family dinners during the holidays, and the topic of seating arrangements seems to elicit strong opinions among some people.  At dinner parties, do you prefer to be seated next to your Significant Other or do you prefer to sit next to other guests? (This assumes that tending to young children is not part of the equation.)


No post tomorrow on Christmas Day, but we can comment on how our holiday weekend is coming along.  Which gifts were winners, and which were losers?

Merry Christmas!


69 thoughts on “What makes a good party?

  1. I want to sit next to DH so that we can save each other from bad conversations and gossip about things later!

    I do like the party article. We do have some 30/40-something friends who still throw fun adult parties – they are the childless ones of course.

    DS got his game system early & it has provided hours of entertainment for all over Xmas break so far. Especially since we’ve had two really cruddy days of rainy weather this week. Not so festive!

  2. I want to sit next to DH so that we can save each other from bad conversations and gossip about things later!

    That’s why I like to sit apart from my wife. If we’re next to each other, we’re part of the same conversations so there’s nothing to talk about later. If we’re apart, we find out different things and then we have plenty to share afterwards.

    We like to have occasional parties, but we can never get people to come. It seems to be a combination of not having a ton of friends to begin with, and everyone being so busy with kids activities and such that they can’t make it. We tried to have a bbq back in September and invited about 25 people. One family said they could make it. We did have 15 people come to our annual Hannukah dinner this year, so that was nice.

  3. On the gifts, we haven’t opened any yet, but I have DS going crazy because I told him I got him a great gift that wasn’t on his list and he doesn’t know he wants, but he’ll use it all the time. It’s a top of the line external hard drive for the XBox. The internal drive can only 8 or 9 games, and you have to install them to play, you can’t play them off the DVD like you could with the 360. So whenever he gets a new game, he has to uninstall one to make room for the new one, or if he wants to play a game he hasn’t played for a while, he needs to reinstall it, and it can take an hour or two to install a game and download the updates. The new drive can hold 80 or 90 games and it’s actually faster than the internal drive so games load faster when you’re playing.

  4. We went to a couple of holiday parties, but they were very informal gatherings. I don’t mind the name tags unless I’m sent to a bad spot. That happened to us at a bday dinner an uncle in the city.
    I will be hosting my largest party ever in 2017, and the planning has already started.

    I am back in the city today due to record temps. With DD and some friends. It’s amazing to see some things through their eyes. I haven’t been to Macy’s with DD and her face completely lit up at size and gorgeous decorations. I couldn’t wait to show girls the original wooden escalators, but they didn’t get how great it was to rude a piece of history.

  5. I remember taking my kids to see Santa Claus at Macy’s in NYC. IIRC, they had a long corridor with many doors, and if you peeked you could see they had different Santas behind each of the doors. I’ve heard you can choose the language for your Santa, but maybe that’s a rumor.

    I usually like to sit next to someone not my DH. It gives me a chance to catch up and/or get to know other people. I hate it when after a party I realize I never got a chance to chat w/xyz guest that I had wanted to visit with.

  6. I remember the fun holiday parties where we got to dress up – sadly (for this time of year!) we have very few friends and the ones who used to throw the big holiday bash are getting divorced, so no parties. It never occurs to me ahead of time to plan a party and then when I do have time, it is already too late and everyone has gone away, etc. I mostly wish that there were more formal parties so that I could buy more formal wear. ;)

  7. We did have 15 people come to our annual Hannukah dinner this year, so that was nice.

    Regular Hanukkah or Super Hanukkah?

  8. Large parties are the 7th circle of hell for introverted me, but I love a dinner party of 8-12 people, and we host those often, every 4 – 6 weeks. We’ve been invited to 3 big parties this season. 1 we’ll miss due to travel, one DH will miss due to work but I’ll make an appearance, and one New Year’s day during the day (and then we are hosting a small dinner that evening). Earlier in the month we also went to one party that was a sit down dinner at an amazing restaurant, small group, for an 8 course meal in a private room (the hosts paid for everything). Now THAT is my kind of party.

    Merry Christmas!!

  9. DH does best with only one other couple, at most two. He is well liked by my former in laws and the grandkids, so he is started to feel more comfortable in family gatherings. We like to have people in for dinner, and as long as they can tolerate cats, I try to schedule that as opposed to meeting in restaurants, where it is very hard for him to screen out background noise with his hearing aids.

    Lark’s small formal dinner in a private room is also my idea of a perfect evening. I will definitely consider that for my next birthday.

  10. I have to laugh at DD and his son.

    I told Junior that I got him a gift that is an electronic thingee that I don’t know what it does. (Sorry, but I did say it that way.) It’s an Amazon Echo and I truly don’t know what it does except eavesdrop on you even when it’s off. Anyway, he replied, “You don’t know what anything does!”

  11. All parties this season are family affairs. So DH and I split up to get the gossip. Lots of food, kids, and drama.

    We used to host a few parties a year. Then last year happened and then everyone we invited couldn’t come because of something or another. So we gave up. I think 2016 will be a party year. We’ll try to host a few parties between the spring and fall.

    This weekend is party time. And we’ll have parties every weekend through MLK. Holiday plus DS’ birthday.

    I’m enjoying some quiet time with DS snoozing in my arms watching White Christmas. Life is good.

  12. We are having amazingly bad weather – humid, rainy and warm for this time of year. This will continue into next week. I don’t like the gloom, so this weather has dampened my spirit.

    I saw a funny documentary “Meet the Patels” – the actor and director are from my city. It seems like they are an ethnic Totebaggy family but then the kids went off to LA to try their hand at the movies – oh the horror !

  13. My in home decorative concession to Christmas is the tablecloth I put out today and tomorrow, although it is 69 degrees out and hard to feel the season. We will grill our dinner.

  14. I can’t believe how warm and humid it actually is today. I was relieved to find that train has A/C on today because I am hot and tired. So many stores didn’t have A/c such as giant toys r us in Times Square, and it was so stuffy.
    I like this weather because it is easy to play tourist, but it was strange too see the ball in Times Square with a temp of 70 on the screen under the ball.

  15. We had 4 or 5 holiday parties this year – a few holiday open houses which are kid friendly and then my neighbor does a Yankee Swap with about 25 women with a $15 limit. I had a work party last week and DH couldn’t come with me because he was stuck at work and it was fine. I usually hate going to parties by myself but I was surprised at how much fun it still was. We’re doing NYE with friends (one other couple) who insisted on hosting because they have a new puppy. DH is sort of bummed about the whole thing because he likes to make an extravagant meal and do really nice wines and he’s worried we’re going to end up with pizza. Love this time of year but I agree, spread out the parties a bit. DH wants to start hosting an annual party but not sure when we’ll actually implement this. One of my NY resolutions last year was to make more friends and I feel like I made good headway in 2015.

  16. Merry Christmas from hot/muggy St. Pete. Where all our stuff is soaked after sitting on the tarmac in the thunderstorm yesterday. Sigh.

    I think the poll answers will clearly delineate who is an introvert or extrovert. Because even if it is people I know and like, I generally want to sit next to DH, because it is SO much less stressful. I also don’t like all the focus on holiday parties, just because they are all jammed together and I get partied out and can’t appreciate them. I think people don’t try much otherwise just because of schedules. Next year we will probably throw a big bash for our birthdays and anniversary.

    Our real Christmas was last weekend, when my sis and her kids were in town, and it was awesome. But we did sneak a few things into the bag to wrap and sneak under the ceramic tree. It is funny being down here, because my mom keeps wanting to take us to her favorite places, and they’re all closed, which she apparently hadn’t considered. So DH has taken to answering every question with “Chinese food!”

    And tying in to yesterday’s thread, this is the first time seeing the kitchen she just redid (along with the removed carpet and refinished terrazzo floors). It’s a small galley kitchen off the front door, with two big windows but always dark and closed off. Now it has off-white cottagey cabinets, a dark green/beige/gold granite, and she took out 3/4 of the wall between the kitchen and living/dining room and added more cabinets and a wine fridge a few feet into what had been unused living area and topped it with a maple countertop with an elevated glass section to sit at at barstools And there is a dishwasher, a disposal (no more washing dishes in the plastic bucket inside the sink), and – ta-dah! – a wine fridge. It is like a different house. She is very happy. And the house isn’t nearly as oppressive as it used to be.

  17. We tend to invite over one to two couples at most and do mixed-family dinner-party sort of thing. We’ve gotten out of the habit and need to start inviting folks over again. Full formal parties or events aren’t something we see a lot of. When we do go, DH prefers to hang with me as a social buffer, but I prefer to go on my own if I can so that I can catch up with more people and so that I have stories to tell him at the end of the evening.

  18. On the survey I need the option that says I sit next to DH because he can chat up absolutely ANYONE and I can sit, relax and listen.

    Merry Christmas everyone

  19. Someone please help me respond to #2’s letter:

    Dear Santa is the movie’s abut you reel? Pleas sine to help me understand. PS there is extru apples.

    The “movies” are, primarily, “Christmas Story,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and, perhaps, some of “Christmas Vacation.”

  20. Dear No. 2.,

    “I am not seen on Christmas Eve, so grown ups likes to guess what I am doing. These movies are what grown ups image it would be like to be me. The reindeer will enjoy the apples, but may not have time to finish them. It was kind of you to think of them. I will not forget your kindness.”

  21. That’s perfect, A Parent. Done. In cursive, too, which I hate using. I just added that other movies, like Rudolph, tell a story that is mostly real, with a little imagination.

    The other adults are at the later church service. We got back kind of late from Williamsburg. For the first time, I got a tour of Bassett Hall, where John D. and Abby Rockefeller, Jr. lived for about two months every Fall and Spring in the 1930s and 1940s while they oversaw the city’s restoration that they were funding with tens of millions of dollars.

    It was done in all 1940s décor and theme, including Christmas trees with the oversized electric glass Christmas lights and tons of tinsel. It was my favorite tour of the day.


  22. Some kid told my oldest that Santa has a new reindeer named Glitzen and that was her lead question in her letter to Santa tonight. She asked Santa about it a few weeks ago but Santa deflected so now DH and I are discussing this. We are inclined to say no Glitzen. I think this may be the last year of her really believing but she still fully believes and wanted to make sure that we did not turn on the alarm tonight. Merry Christmas all!

  23. Milo, you could explain that movies in general are not real. They often try to show what a real event looked and felt like but that is usually based on an adult’s guess of what really happened.

  24. Merry Christmas all from sunny-rainy-sunny-rainy-sunny (really almost all sunny) Honolulu.

    Only 12-15 degrees warmer than back home today!

  25. In case anyone wants to try a Christmas pudding in the Instant Pot today, I’m transcribing my new recipe, which is Eliza Acton’s 1845 pudding recipe without suet or alcohol (feel free to add the alcohol back in :) ):

    – Instant Pot or other pressure cooker
    – 1 1/2 quart Pyrex bowl
    – enough foil to cover bowl tightly

    3 cups chopped mixed dried fruit (I used cherries, cranberries, raisins and apricots)
    113 g (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) flour
    113 g (8 1/2 crackers) finely crushed graham cracker crumbs (or breadcrumbs if you don’t have crackers)
    3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
    1 tsp nutmeg
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking powder
    113 g (1/2 cup) light brown sugar
    8 oz shortening, grated (I used Earth Balance shortening sticks, which have the same melting point as suet)
    3 eggs
    1 cup orange juice (original recipe had brandy)

    1. Soak dried fruit in hot water for one hour.
    2. Put shortening in freezer for ten minutes to make it easier to grate.
    3. Grease inside of Pyrex bowl.
    4. Measure and mix dry ingredients in large bowl.
    5. Grate shortening on large holes of box grater.
    6. Add dried fruit, shortening, eggs, and orange juice and mix.
    7. Pour mixture into greased bowl.
    8. Add two cups of water to Instant Pot and put rack inside. Place bowl of pudding mixture on the rack.
    9. Set Instant Pot using the manual button for 40 minutes at high pressure. When the time is up, allow pressure to decrease naturally.

    Once it cools enough to eat, invert the bowl onto a plate to serve.

    Non-alcoholic hard sauce:
    1 stick unsalted butter, softened
    1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    1/4 tsp almond extract

    Mix ingredients in stand mixer until well combined.


  26. We have family coming in tonight. So, today was quieter though the next few days will be busy. This morning at church it was not crowded as lots of people attended on Christmas Eve.
    Kids really liked the Echo and turns out DS’s best friend got one as well. I was trying to help them set up both devices at the same time and was SO glad that both connected to the Internet. Meltdowns averted !
    Merry Christmas to all my Totebag friends, I am truly grateful to have found this community.

  27. Thanks, Sky, I’m totally going to try that Christmas pudding recipe – although I don’t have the ingredients on hand today! We are making Smoking Bishop today – as in, “We’ll discuss your affairs, Bob Cratchett, this very afternoon over a Christmas bowl of Smoking Bishop!”
    To add a steamed pudding to our already Dickens heavy Christmas would be delightful!

  28. I had gougère (in fancy cheese puff size) this morning at DILs and figured out the rest of the meal I will serve in a couple of weeks to some vegetarians. Soup, salad and the cheese puff dough formed (as is more traditional) into a ring before baking, filled with creamed assorted mushrooms. The biggest hit among the toys I brought was the el cheapo Costco kitchen set with a stand mixer, Keurig style coffee maker, and toaster. Last night I removed everything from the packaging (not trivial), inserted the batteries (also not trivial because the soft metal screws almost stripped before I could get the battery compartment covers off) , and put into a smaller box before wrapping. As for big presents, new scooters were put into immediate use in the balmy weather.

  29. The best thing about the toy kitchen is that it will probably get used for many years. I am still trying to get rid of our kitchen. DD said no because some neighbors and cousins still play with it, but I told her as we move through these tween years – this stuff is going soon. the other bonus is the hours of pretend play part vs. ipads/video games etc.

  30. Christmas is warm and muggy here, too. DS2 (13) still believes in Santa, which is wonderful and surprising. The gifts I bought everyone were a hit. We saw Star Wars as an extended family on the 24th, which was wonderful, especially since we’re all big Star Wars fans.

    Happy holidays, everyone!

  31. Regarding entertaining, we used to entertain a lot, but nobody reciprocated. I got resentful, and took a year off. Now I’m ready to entertain again.

  32. I got a WAFFLE IRON for Xmas, which is seriously the BEST present! Plus with some of our stuff in storage, I am able to fit it under the counter. Woohoo! I bought a giant tenderloin for dinner last night, super yummy although it cost a fortune (next year I will go back to Costco for the tenderloin).

  33. We had a lovely day. The kids got Furbys and they were surprisingly entertained by them all day long. They are both more annoying and hilarious than I imagined.

  34. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! I am thankful for the laughs and extremely helpful advice from those on this blog.

    We had a wonderful Christmas week with lots of family bonding & great food on both sides of the family. I very much enjoyed the new Star Wars as well – we went on Christmas as is tradition.

  35. We tried to go see a movie yesterday (as is also our tradition) but didn’t want to see Star Wars. We ended up not going – there was nothing that we wanted to watch (and I don’t think we are particularly picky people). I suspect that studios have held off releasing movies right now so they don’t live in the shadows of the Empire. Maybe we will make a new tradition of finding a bar and having a drink, that seemed to go pretty well.

  36. I have to agree with the Vox columnists that Episode VII is meant to reboot the original plucky story, and so this film is somewhat of a remake of the original Star Wars for this generation and will serve as a platform for exciting new stories in the next two installments. One can hope. It is a fine entertainment in its own right and I would not discourage anyone from attending. Let’s just say that James Earl Jones on the voice and a bodybuilder in the suit present a very different sort of arch-villain than Lena Dunham’s boyfriend from Girls, complete with whiny tantrums and identity crisis.

  37. We had our party on the first weekend in December, which was still very problematic in terms of scheduling. Last year I said we were going to have a January party instead because of the scheduling, but then it never happened — January is too much about ramping back up at work and school and the holiday appetizers etc. have disappeared from the stores and it’s just not so conducive to party planning — so I figured we were better off throwing an imperfectly-scheduled party than not throwing a party at all. We do have people over at other times during the year but the holiday party is the one where we really try to invite everyone and make a big evening of it.

  38. We have family in town and though the five day or so visits are fun, they are exhausting. We also try to fit a lot in and end up very tired. I am glad to have a few days to recover next week. I will take the kids to see Star Wars if we don’t manage to see it with the relatives.

  39. My parents left today after a very nice visit. They are aging, and with various minor health issues, I can see that traveling is taking a toll. (They were delayed 3 hours getting out today). I suspect this will be one of their last visits to see us, and that from now on we will exclusively go to them. It is so nice to really enjoy them as people, separate from their role as parents, and to see my kids interact with them on a new level as they mature. As much as I enjoyed the visit, it is nice to have some down time. This unseasonably warm weather has something growing that is killing my allergies.

    I just finished the last of my continuing education requirements that I had been procrastinating on, so plan to see several movies. I’m not that interested in Star Wars (even though everyone I know has really enjoyed it), but want to see The Big Short, Joy, and Concussion, and am hoping to read a couple of books, get a lot of exercise in, drink lots of wine, and get together with a couple of girlfriends, in no particular order.

  40. DH and I were in the Midwest with his family. We wound up having an 18-hour fight that might be a record for me, since i usually can’t stay awake for 18 hours straight. During that time I reckon we spent about $600 on United Airlines change fees back and forth and ultimately came home on different flights. Merry Christmas. In my entire life I don’t remember a Christmas that was actually pleasant and I think maybe next year I’m going to Hawaii by myself. Ho ho ho.

  41. Merry Christmas everyone. Just back from the ski trip that was the family present to ourselves. It wasn’t as great as last year’s trip, and I’m hobbling around with an injury that is not healing anywhere near as quickly as I expected, although that may be due in part to the healing process slowing down as I age.

    But I did get in one glorious stretch of about 4 hours with good weather and very good snow, and the rest of my family got in a very good day on the day I didn’t ski because of my injury.

    The actual Christmas day was also topped off by a great meal with good friends.

  42. It’s a Saturnalia miracle. On the car ride back to RI I finished Ready Player One. It took me a year, but I did it. Now what to read (or not read) next…

    Baby Rhode is happily sleeping in his own crib and we are looking at the mountain if you’d Santa brought. Dear Santa, I would like a larger house. Thank you.

  43. rhode, I was just thinking about that mountain of toys on Christmas Day. It used to take me days to put away everything after the holidays, but we came home with one shopping bag this year. I like the gift cards and smaller (but more expensive) gifts that come home with an older kid.
    The two board games that DD received are fun; Sequence and 5 Second Rule.

  44. It has been only two days but the Echo has been a big hit with my kids. They talk to it, like it is one of their friends. So far all the questions they have asked it have come with a reasonable response which makes it all the more life like.

  45. “We wound up having an 18-hour fight ”

    I first read that as an 18-hour FLIGHT because of the bad weather I’ve been reading about, but either an 18-hour fight or flight sounds equally unpleasant. In any case, I hope you all have made up by now.

    Everyone in my family except me has seen the new Star Wars movie either 2 or 3 times, with plans to go again. (I only saw it once.) So I’m not surprised to hear it’s breaking box office records. We’ve been enjoying Emo Kylo Ren’s Twitter feed. Sample: “mom please check your texts
    i had a fit of extreme power and rage where i mistakenly force-crushed my retainer”

    We have no kids in our family holiday celebrations, and I see the pros and cons of that. But I like hearing about your kids’ experiences as well as those of my RL friends.

  46. … and even though I didn’t have “kids” at our holiday dinner, some immature guest apparently played with a candle at the table and caused wax drips on my table runner. So I stuck the runner in the freezer and Googled how to remove wax from tablecloths. Apparently, first scraping and then ironing it between paper bags may do it.

    I seated all couples together, which I learned the hard way is the preference in our family. :D

  47. COC, iron between paper bags, moving the bags until you stop getting wax spots on the bag, then rub with your favorite laundry treatment (I use Fels Naptha soap), and wash on hot (assuming the linens are cotton or linen). This always works for me when laundering my church’s linens. Good luck!

  48. I saw Star Wars. Yuck. It copied an old story and pasted new characters in the spots. I did enjoy Flix Brewhouse for food and overall viewing experience.

  49. A parent, the one in Carmel? We stopped in there! Didn’t see the movie though.

  50. DW and I saw the final Mockingjay. I mostly enjoyed it, but I’m satisfied that it’s the last of the series.

  51. One thing I was able to accomplish this weekend was preparing for a Salvation Army pickup today. I am giving away all of my mom’s furniture that is not in actual use (well, almost all – the upholstery, last redone 55 years ago, on two fabulous chairs has disintegrated to a degree that they are too shabby to be accepted, and one DD still claims she will have them redone some day). I also have started on the removal of old files, kids textbooks, and other junk. I have to space the actual disposal out over the coming weeks because we have a common dumpster/recycle for the complex. One advantage of this stage of life is the eff you factor – other people’s expectations don’t control your daily life.

  52. RMS,
    Yes. I am reviewing my memory of the people I saw to see if any images strike me as Colorado, Mennonite philosophy Ph.D.

  53. we saw the new star wars movie again on the 26th, I love it, huge fan of the original movies. there are many similarities with a new hope, but I enjoyed it and look forward to learning more about Poe, Rey and Finn

  54. “Now what to read (or not read) next…”
    Rhode- I am finishing up the 5th Wave book and I have the next book on hold. I think you would like it (and the movie version comes out next month)

  55. Yeah, I look remarkably like an overweight 55-year-old middle class woman. There are probably two or three others in the greater Indianapolis area.

  56. Wine – we just saw a commercial for that movie last night… DH asked if the 5th wave was rebellion. It looks interesting, like Divergent meeting a few other “aliens take over the planet” movies…

    I might read the Divergent series. I found that whatever I took out of the library I read because of the deadline.

  57. I survived the Christmas week – hosting one relative, visiting others. We went to see Pirates of Penzance on Saturday, and the Frank Stella retrospective at the Whitney on Sunday. We ate far too much food and still have stuff left. The cat is relieved that all the guests have now left. He does not like strange people in the house. The kids were given Magic The Gathering cards by everyone, and their room now looks like a Wizards of the Coast warehouse.

  58. Rhode, the mountain of toys peaks early – age 2 or 3 – and then the desirable toys get ever smaller. K’nex and Legos take a lot less space than Little People :)

    Meme, good for you – our neighbors ran into trouble because not even the charities wanted their late mother’s 1940s furniture. We took some of it, but a lot of solid hardwood furniture went to the junk heap.

  59. “our neighbors ran into trouble because not even the charities wanted their late mother’s 1940s furniture. We took some of it, but a lot of solid hardwood furniture went to the junk heap.”

    One of the things I like best about some of the HGTV and DIY Network shows is that they’re making people aware of the possibilities of reusing and repurposing this sort of old furniture.

  60. Saw The Big Short today and really enjoyed it. Joy is next on my list, so glad to hear that you liked it.

    Days off are glorious. Stella and pretzels for my dinner, while binge watching Hart of Dixie. Letting everyone fend for themselves.

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