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Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 12:01 am

Party 9-1-1!

How do you know if a party is going well or horribly wrong? Entertaining expert Susan Spungen tells you how to right a sinking ship and how to stop worrying and enjoy your fiesta

Choosing a menu where most dishes can be prepared ahead of time, such as sliced meats and cheeses, crudites and baked goods.

 

Along with the holidays come many parties, but unfortunately, parties don’t always go the way you hope they will. We asked Susan Spungen, founding food editor at Martha Stewart Living and author of What’s a Hostess to Do? (Artisan, 2013) to count down the top five things that will most likely go wrong at your party and what you can do to fix them. And since we all want to know if our party is a success, there are five signs that your party was a hit.

What went wrong?

  • I’m not ready! “The biggest thing that can go wrong is that you plan to do too much and run out of time,” Spungen says. “You start with an overly ambitious wish list of what you want to have at your party.” Fix: Spungen says that cooking takes time, so keep the party simple so you have enough time to do what you want to do.
  • Too much to cook! “Again, simplify what you are cooking,” Spungen says. “Less can be more. A few beautiful, well-conceived and well-prepared dishes will go over big. Choose a menu with dishes that can be prepared ahead of time, leaving only the simplest tasks, like heating a dish, cooking pasta or rice, or dressing a salad for last minute.”
  • Not enough people showed up! “It’s hard to have a good party if not enough people show up and some people might leave if there aren’t enough guests,” Spungen says. Fix: Overinvite. “If not enough people show up, have a last-minute impromptu party,” she says. “There are always neighbors sitting around waiting to be invited to something.”
  • We’re running out of food and drink! “When you’re out of things to eat and drink, people start to leave, so you don’t want that to happen,” Spungen says. Fix: “Have staples in your kitchen so you can whip up something simple or, if you’re desperate, you can always order takeout, such as pizza.”
  • My guests aren’t mingling! “If your guests aren’t mingling the way you want them to, it’s up to you as a hostess to start conversations. Fix: “Find people who have something in common and give them a conversation starter and then leave,” she says. “The role of the hostess is to get people together.” If they don’t know each other, it’s your responsibility to try to get them to learn more about one another.


Food editor and author Susan Spungen
It’s a success!
Here are five signs that your party is a success:

  • Everyone is having a good time and nobody is noticing anything else. “Your guests are laughing, drinking, eating and enjoying themselves,” Spungen says. “Most of the time, that happens even if you do mess up. Usually everything turns out OK anyway. The single most important thing is that people are having fun.”
  • You had a good turnout. “Right before you think, ‘What if nobody comes?’ your guests show up,” Spungen says. “People will always drop off and [you] would rather have it too crowded than to not have enough people. About 15 percent of the guest list typically doesn’t show up.”
  • Guests ask you for a recipe. “Often people ask how you made the food, or they Instagram photos of the food at the party,” Spungen says. “That’s a good sign!”
  • Guests send thank you notes the next day. “When you get emails the next day, people can’t wait to tell you that they had a really good time and they want to keep that good feeling going,” she says.
  • Guests want to know when the next party is. “They want to come back to the party because they liked the energy,” Spungen says. “If they had a lot of fun, they’ll ask if they can bring a friend to share the good times.”

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